Superbands: Gain Strength With Resistance Band Exercises

Superbands are heavy-duty resistance bands designed to maximize strength gains.

resistance band exercises
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You may have seen superbands popping up at CrossFit boxes or near the pull-up bars at your gym. These long, looped resistance bands provide a surprising thickness and heavy-duty resistance that ultimately separates them from the comparatively wimpy tubing you commonly think of when you hear the term "resistance bands." But superbands aren't relegated to grandmas or people recovering from injuries. No, they're designed for athletes and serious gym-goers looking for new ways to gain strength through resistance training.

Benefits of Resistance Band Exercises

Whether you're using superbands or old-school resistance tubing, the benefits of performing resistance band exercises are largely the same.

Transport

Bands are lightweight and easy to transport. Just roll a few up and throw them in a suitcase or gym bag and you'll have resistance training equipment available wherever you go.

Effectiveness

A band's resistance increases as it continues to stretch, with the greatest resistance at the apex of each exercise. When you lift a dumbbell, you know you're lifting a set amount of weight through a full range of motion. What you may not realize is that at the apex of each movement, you get a little break. Take, for instance, a shoulder press. As you lift the dumbbells, pressing them overhead, you're working against gravity to push the weight up. When your elbows extend fully, your well-aligned bones help support the weight before you reverse the movement and work with gravity to lower the weights (in a controlled manner) back to your shoulders.

When performing a resistance band shoulder press, the resistance level is relatively light at the beginning of the movement. It gradually increases as you press the band up, reaching its peak resistance when your elbows are fully extended. To maintain form, your stabilizing muscles have to remain engaged at the top of the movement, helping increase joint stabilization, which, over time, can reduce the chance of injury.

Mobility

Bands can be moved in directions and patterns that weights can't be moved. Gravity is an inherent factor you can't ignore when lifting weights. When you perform a barbell squat, you load up the weight before using gravity to act on that weight to make the squat more challenging. As such, certain movement patterns and exercises are hard, if not impossible, to perform with standard weights. For instance, you're going to have a hard time performing a heavy dumbbell or barbell chest press while standing upright. Gravity will pull the weight of the barbell or dumbbell toward the floor as you extend your elbows in front of your chest, and you simply won't be able to lift as much weight (or work the desired muscle groups) because the physics of the exercise change.

Resistance bands are different. Because even heavy-duty resistance bands are lightweight, as long as one side of the band is anchored, you can easily perform a standing chest press, extending the band to create resistance, rather than relying on gravity to act on a predetermined weight. This means the movement patterns and exercises you can perform with resistance bands are practically endless.

Versatility

Bands can be used during power and mobility training. Resistance bands aren't just good for strength training. Bands can also add resistance to anaerobic power exercises, such as sprinting and jumping, and agility exercises, like side slides and grapevines. Again, the possibilities are practically endless.

Heavy Duty Resistance Bands, or "Superbands"

CrossFit popularized the concept of superbands, introducing them to boxes as a way for athletes to perform assisted pull-ups. But quickly, the uses for heavy bands expanded and the market exploded. When purchasing superbands, consider the following:

  • Colors and weights aren't standardized across brands. Every brand has a different color-coding system to identify different resistance levels. And from brand-to-brand, resistance levels vary between bands. When making a purchase, pay attention to what the color-coding and resistance levels are for the bands you're purchasing.
  • You should purchase several different bands. Because different muscle groups tend to be stronger than others (for instance, your quads are typically stronger than your biceps), having several different bands on hand is helpful for full-body training. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to purchase a light, medium, and heavy band to enjoy a well-rounded routine.
  • The long loops can be anchored to vertical or horizontal posts to work more similarly to cable systems. Simply wrap the band over a horizontal post (like a pull-up bar) or around a vertical post (like a sturdy street sign or jungle gym post), then pull one side through the other side until it's secure.

6 Resistance Band Exercises for a Full-Body Workout

If you're ready to give superband training a try, consider the following exercises for a full-body workout routine.

Squat Press

To perform a squat press, stand with your feet on the resistance band, securing it in place. Position your feet roughly shoulder-distance apart, toes angled slightly outward. Grip the top of the resistance band in both hands, bending your elbows and "racking" your palms at your shoulders, your palms facing forward. The vertical portions of the band should be positioned to the outside of your body, almost as if it's boxing you in. Press your hips back and lower your glutes toward the floor as you bend your knees. When your hips drop just below parallel with your quads, press through your heels and drive your hips forward to return to standing. As you do, press your arms straight up over your head, extending your elbows fully. Bend your elbows and lower the band back to shoulder-height. This is a single repetition.

Perform two to five sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Banded Pushup

Kneel on the ground and wrap a superband behind your back, gripping one side of the looped band in each hand, with your palms "hooked" inside each loop so the band can't get away from you. As such, you should have two lengths of band flat across your upper back, right where your scapula are located. Get on your hands and knees in a pushup position, your palms under your shoulders, your knees lifted, and your body forming a straight line from heel to head. The band should feel tight in this position. If not, adjust the band in your hands as needed. From here, bend your elbows, lowering your chest toward the floor. Just before your chest touches down, reverse the movement and press yourself back to the starting position, pushing against the band's resistance.

Perform two to five sets of six to 10 repetitions.

Assisted Pullup

If you're unable to perform a traditional pull-up without assistance, superbands can make it possible. Securely attach your superband to a pull-up bar. Place one knee inside the stretched resistance band as you reach up to grip the pull-up bar with both hands. If you're unable to reach, use a step or box to get in position. When hanging from the bar, the band should be stretched, your knee inside the provided loop. Use the large muscles of your back to start pulling yourself toward the bar as you bend your elbows; as you do, the band will provide extra support to help you perform the exercise. When your chin clears the bar, carefully reverse the movement and extend your elbows.

Perform two to five sets of six to 10 repetitions.

Banded Deadlift

To do a banded deadlift, lie a heavy band flat on the floor, positioned horizontally in front of you. Stand on top of the band with your feet hip-distance apart, so the band is secured to the floor. Engage your core and keep your back straight and shoulders back. Press your hips back, allowing your knees to bend and your torso to hinge forward until you can reach down and grasp the looped ends of the band in each hand, pulling them taut just outside your shins. This is the starting position. Press your hips strongly forward, using your hamstrings and glutes to "pull" your torso to standing as the bands stretch. Reverse the movement, pressing your hips back, bending your knees, and hinging forward from the hips to return to the starting position.

Perform two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Lateral Band Walks

Take a long, looped band and loop it over itself once or twice until it creates a smaller circle. Step both feet inside the circle, and position the band around your shins, just above your ankles. Adjust it for comfort, making sure the band's loops lie flat against your skin. Position your feet roughly hip-distance apart, so the bands are taut but not tight. Bend your knees and hips slightly. Take a step laterally to the left with your left foot, just far enough to stretch the bands and create resistance. Plant your left foot, then step your right foot laterally to the left, planting it so your feet are again hip-distance apart. Continue stepping to the left for a full set of repetitions before changing directions to step to the right.

Perform two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions in either direction.

Band-Resisted Sprint

Securely attach a superband to a sturdy vertical post, positioning it at roughly hip-height. Step into the band and face away from the post with your feet staggered and hip-distance apart, your knees slightly bent. Adjust the band and your position so the band is taut, but not tight, and so the band lies flat across the front of your hips. Bend your elbows, one arm reaching forward and the other back, as if you're about to take off from a starting line. When you're ready, begin running forward against the band's resistance, pumping your arms as fast as you can as you drive your knees forward. Run forward until the band is tight, then run in place against the band's resistance.

Perform three to five sets of 20- to 30-second sprints.

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