Resistance bands: 3 great ways to build upper body strength.

Resistance bands are not impressive-looking exercise tools, but they definitely can pull their weight. During a recent gym training session, my workout routine began with several sets of bicep curls. But before I could reach for the dumbbell rack, my personal trainer dropped a resistance band at my feet.

Really? This thin, lightweight, flimsy-looking thing is going to help strengthen my arms?

I was skeptical, but after a few sets of speed curls where I did 20 reps as fast as possible, my arms burned and twitched like nothing I usually felt with traditional grip-and-curl dumbbells.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells. But mixing it up with different equipment and challenging my muscles in a new way added a jolt to my sometimes-mundane exercise ritual.

By the session’s end, I was a resistance band groupie.

What types of resistance bands are available?

There are several types of resistance bands. The most common type is a single length of stretchy material. Another kind is a closed loop that resembles a giant rubber band. A third type is a thin rubber tube with handles.

One significant advantage of resistance bands compared with weights is that they provide variable levels of resistance. This is particularly helpful in instances when you’re stuck between weights that are either too light or too heavy. You increase resistance in different ways, depending on the type of band you’re using:

  • When using lengths of stretchy material, you can change resistance by adjusting your hand position to shorten or increase the length. Colors also may be used to show different levels of resistance from easiest to hardest.
  • The rubber band types are color coordinated based on the thickness and level of resistance they offer. Yellow is often the lightest and easiest to use, followed by red, green, blue, and black. (This may vary depending on the brand.)
  • The tube with handles is often used for standing exercises. You adjust the resistance by how close or far apart you place your feet when standing on the tube. Tubes come in different thicknesses to provide less resistance or more resistance.

Bands provide many benefits

Bands are easy to store and use if you follow provided directions, watch videos of band workouts, or learn a band workout from a class or personal trainer.

They can prepare your muscles for the many types of movements you make throughout the day, such as when you stretch, bend, lift, or simply rise from a chair. In addition, training with bands improves muscle power, which helps you avoid falls and risk of injury.

Bands are especially helpful if you have trouble gripping or holding dumbbells, or need greater control when doing exercises, such as if you’re recovering from an injury or dealing with joint pain.

Three great resistance band moves for upper body strength

Ready to join the band? Here are three resistance band moves that can help build your chest, back, shoulders, and arms. For these, use the basic stretchy material band, which is readily found online.

Chest punches

Starting position: Place the exercise band around your back and under your armpits. Hold an end in each hand by your shoulders.

Movement: With control, punch your right arm out in front of you on a slight diagonal across your body. Repeat with left arm. That’s one rep.

Muscles worked: Chest

Reps: 8 to 12

Two-hand pull-down

Starting position: Hold a band over your head with your hands about 12 to 16 inches apart.

Movement: Bend your elbows and pull your hands down, stretching the band, to about chest level. Slowly raise your arms back overhead to the starting position.

Muscles worked: Back, shoulders

Reps: 8 to 12

Biceps curl

Starting position: Place the middle of the band under one foot with the opposite foot slightly behind it to help you balance. Hold an end of the band in each hand with your arms down at your sides, palms facing forward.

Movement: Bend your elbows and raise your hands toward your shoulders. Keep your upper arms stationary and your elbows close to your body. Slowly lower to the starting position.

Muscles worked: Front of upper arms

Reps: 8 to 12

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

 “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25

 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” – Luke 12:25

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11

 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

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