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Training Tips for Women

6 Band-Assisted Exercises to Help You Master Challenging Movements

Band-assisted exercises can be extremely effective tools in your arsenal of movements. Here are six moves with the potential to bring your workouts to the next level.

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It’s easy to get into the habit of thinking about workouts in a fairly simple, black-and-white way: Increase the amount of reps performed, or increase the weight lifted, and you’ll make gains. This may be true, but there are plenty of factors that go into making progress, even when you’re following tried-and-true methods. 

Things like body type and training history can play heavily into whether any given exercise is effective for a particular lifter. Depending on a person’s build — limb length, mass, and so on — it may not be the simplest task to even get into position for a given exercise. Trying to add reps or weight to the picture can make this bad situation worse and put you in potential injury territory. Even with bodyweight exercises, it’s a bigger task for a powerlifter to throw their own weight around versus, say, a gymnast. 

When it comes to bodyweight workouts, it’s not always easy to just knock out more reps. But practice makes perfect, and it can be daunting to think of adding more push-ups to your workouts when doing five is a challenge. 

Enter resistance bands.

Many people look at bands an accessory — whether it’s anchoring them to a door to perform rows in substitution for heftier weights, using them to activate tissue as part of a warmup or using them as a way to provide assistance to movements like chin-ups. They aren’t often considered a real staple in making gains and increasing the efficacy of a workout, but they most certainly can be.  

Why Bands?

It all has to do with the resistance profile of bands versus other weights. The resistance profile is the way the intensity of the weight or resistance changes over the course of a rep. Since bands stretch and get tighter as you pull on them, band exercises are more challenging through the end ranges the movements you use them for — where the band is the most stretched — compared to the beginning phases. 

More importantly, this can work in the reverse, assisting with a movement that you otherwise can’t complete. And since the band gets tighter as it stretches, it ends up mostly helping at the parts of an exercise where you need it most (Think: the bottom of a pull-up if you have a band wrapped around your leg or foot).  

When selecting bands, keep in mind that loop bands are the most universal; they can be tied around any sturdy object and can be used in the greatest number of lifts, compared with bands that have endpoints.  Most bands are sold individually, so buying a variety of resistance levels or a multi-pack with the full spectrum a brand offers is a good idea to ensure you have what you need for your workouts. 

The 5 Best Band-Assisted Exercises

If certain bodyweight staple exercises are just out of reach, or if you can usually knock out 50 push-ups but are fatigued from a hardcore upper-body workout, taking a little off of your bodyweight can be the difference between a successful and technically sound set, and one that’s the direct opposite.  

These 5 assisted exercises can help you rep out more of some challenging moves. 

Exercise 1: Band-Assisted Push-Up

Using the band to assist push-ups eliminates the need to perform them from your knees or on an elevated surface and instead allows them to be performed from the toes, flat on the ground. This can build confidence toward unassisted push-ups and is a better way to gauge progress — simply use a progressively skinnier band for less assistance as you’re able. 

Set the band up on two level, elevated and stable spots, like the end of a squat station. Position the band under your ribcage to encourage proper technique. The band tension in this spot can provide a cue to keep your core elevated and engaged, not sagging, throughout. 

Exercise 2: Band-Assisted Pull-Up

 

Looping a band around the top of a pull-up station or squat cage and placing one foot inside the loop creates a system that can help “sling” the body up to the top of the lift. This especially helps the bottom portion of the lift, the spot where most lifters have trouble. 

The band is the most stretched at the full hanging position, so there will be more assistance through this phase, making it easier for you to set your shoulders and pull with your lats. Using a box or step to plant the free leg on, in order to help in the mounting/dismounting can be useful here.

Exercise 3: Band-Assisted Reverse Nordic Curl

We bet you haven’t seen this one before. 

The reverse Nordic is a lesser known but super effective quad movement that allows them to contract from a lengthened position. You’d be hard-pressed to find many quad exercises that do this. The problem is, most people don’t have the strength to get very “low” when performing this, let alone while keeping good form where the body remains in one line, with no folding at the hip. 

Attaching a band to a sturdy item in front of you allows for a much greater range of motion and makes it possible for lifters of all strength (or fatigue) levels to do this more effectively. 

Exercise 4: Band-Assisted Pistol Squat

Pistol squats are notoriously tough, and many times that has to do with a lifter’s build. Using a band assistance to create a “safety net” across a squat cage and sitting back into it can make this exercise possible when it once wasn’t. 

Keep in mind that the higher up the safety net is set, the more of the lift the bands will assist. In other words, if you’re not great at pistols at all, it may be a smart choice to set the bands up closer to hamstring or glute level, whereas you may be more inclined to set the bands up closer to knee level if you’re already fairly good at these. 

Exercise 5: Band-Assisted Rollout

 

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Using a band to take some of the load off your core makes it possible to perform rollouts from the toes. For bigger, heavier lifters or folks with longer limbs, this modification is a no-brainer. To do them, place the band around the top of a pull-up station, then around your ribcage. This mild assistance can make for a very full shoulder flexion for a great anti-extension challenge for the abdominals. It’s a world of difference from doing rollouts from the knees, too. The band thickness used, as you probably guessed, should depend on skill and strength level, especially relative to your size and weight.

Exercise 6: Band-Assisted L-Sit

We’ll admit, this one is reserved for the more intermediate trainees. Even though it provides assistance to the classic move, it’s still one hell of a challenge and requires a strong core, hips and quads. To do them, sit on the floor, then wrap the loop band around your back and under your arms. Wrap the other side of the band around the balls of your feet as your straighten out your legs and get into the L-sit position. Keeping your knees together, legs locked out and toes pointed, press your body off the ground. 

It’s important to brace hard through your entire body and aim to lift your feet as high as possible. If you can do this for 15 seconds or more, you’re a rockstar. 

Putting It All Together: 2 Workouts 

We aren’t leaving you hanging. These workouts will cater to the beginner and the advanced trainee respectively, mimicking scenarios that you may encounter.

Depending on your skill level, feel free to give these a try, using the guidelines outlined above. 

Beginner Band-Assisted Workout 

  • A1) Band-Assisted Push-Up — 10 reps 
  • A2) Band-Assisted Reverse Nordic Curl — 10 reps

Perform as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds. 

  • B1) Band-Assisted Pull-Up — 8 reps
  • B2) Dumbbell Goblet Squat — 10 reps 

Perform as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds. 

  • C1) Band-Assisted Ab Wheel Rollout — 6 reps
  • C2) Band-Assisted Pistol Squat — 6 reps/leg 

Perform as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds. 

Advanced Band-Assisted Workout 

  • A1) Dumbbell Incline Bench Press — 15 reps
  • A2) Band-Assisted Push-Up — Max reps 

Perform as a compound set for 4 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds. 

  • B1) BB Walking Lunge — 24 Strides 
  • B2) Band-Assisted Pistol Squat — 8 reps per leg

Perform as a compound set for 4 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds. 

  • C1) Band-Assisted Ab Wheel Rollout — 8 reps
  • C2) Band-Assisted L-Sit — 15 seconds

Perform as a compound set for 3 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds. 

  • D) Band-Assisted Pull-Ups — 5 reps — Every Minute on the Minute* for 8 minutes. 

*Every Minute on the Minute training means a set of 5 reps will be performed at the top of each minute of a running clock. That should leave around 45 seconds of that minute to serve as rest time before the beginning of your next set. As mentioned, this is to be performed for 8 minutes straight, making a grand total of 40 pull-ups to complete the workout.