by Richard A. Winett, Ph.D., Heilig Meyers Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Virginia Tech

  1. Start your introduction to resistance band training by first reading some of our articles on resistance training. The same principles apply but now the implement is resistance bands and not free weights or machines. And, resistance bands can be an effective implement with the added benefits of low cost, convenience, and the ability to resistance train virtually anywhere at any time.
  2. If you have had any health incident or have any chronic disease or disability, consult with your doctor(s) perhaps showing your doctor(s) this document to be cleared for resistance band training.
  3. A compatible suggestion is to start with the most simple and inexpensive bands that you can buy through Amazon. I do not have any affiliation with Therabands, but I do suggest you buy the most simple Therabands package which is a group of three or four different colored bands that have different resistance levels. To start off, you do not need handles or any other addition. In fact, not having handles on the bands makes it very simple to adjust where you grip a band for each exercise to get the most benefit as far as an effective range of motion and tension.
  4. A key in effectively using bands as suggested above is to always in any exercise maintain a degree of tension in the band for all parts of the movement. You can do that quite easily by where you place your hands on the bands.
  5. It also is possible for some exercises as you adjust to resistance and tension in an exercise to use 2 bands together (one laid over the other) to create an ideal resistance and tension.
  6. For your first several exercise training sessions, do not go to full effort. Full effort is defined as doing the last repetition that you can in a set (a group of repetitions) while maintaining good form and a focus on the muscle group(s) you are working with an exercise.
  7. Keep a simple training log of your workouts. A written log is most simple. Write down your workout before you begin, listing the exercises and the band(s) you will use. After each exercise just write down the number of repetitions you did. After the workout, write down any notes for yourself – about how you did, what to do in the next workout such as better form on an exercise. Again, do this right after the workout rather than later and then possibly forgetting the important points.
  8. In this basic and brief protocol, we will focus on these exercises: squat, deadlift, overhead press, row, and chest press.
  9. Take about 1-2 minutes between exercises.
  10. Squat: Place one or two bands on the floor in front of you, laid out flat on the ground. Squat down so your legs are parallel to the floor, or as close as you comfortably can, and grip the bands on both sides so there is some tension even in this low position. Now take about 2-3 seconds to rise up so you are standing up straight, and 2-3 seconds to go into your squat position, and repeat for 10-15 repetitions. Remember in your first several workouts do not go to full effort on this exercise or the others. Just focus on your form and focusing on the muscle groups being trained.
  11. Deadlift: Start in a similar position to the squat except now lean over so that your upper body is at about a right angle to the floor. Grip the bands as you did for the squat. Now rise up and at the same time and under control and in coordination come up from your squat position plus straighten your back so you are standing up straight. Again, do each part of the movement, up and down, in 2-3 seconds and repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
  12. Overhead Press: This exercise is most easily done while seated on a chair. You will be actually sitting on the one or two bands you will be using. While seated on the bands, grip each band with your hands, one hand on either side, and bring the bands up to shoulder level so that there is some tension at that point. Now push (press) the bands overhead allowing 2-3 seconds for both up and down movements and do 10-15 repetitions focusing on your shoulders. This exercise also works your triceps, the muscle in the back of your arms.
  13. Row: Stand on the bands as you did for the deadlift and squat. Bend over as you did for the deadlift and grip the bands as you did for the deadlift. Stay in that position and pull the bands up so that the bands in this top position are about in the middle of your upper-body. Focus with your movement on the muscles in your upper back as if those muscles and not your arms are doing a lot of the pulling. Again, do each part of the movement, up and down, in 2-3 seconds and repeat for 10-15 repetitions. This exercise also works your biceps, the muscle in the front of your arms.
  14. Chest Press: Stand up straight. Put one or two bands around your upper back. Grip the bands at chest level but a couple of inches away from the middle of your chest, outside of your upper body. There should be some tension in the bands at this point. Now push (press) the bands forward straight out so that your arms become straight at this position taking about 2-3 seconds for both parts of each repetition and repeat for 10-15 repetitions. This exercise also works your triceps, the muscle in the back of your arms.
  15. This is one round or circuit of the exercises. Rest a minute or two and perform a second round in the same way you did the first round.
  16. Again, take at least several workouts to learn and grow accustomed to this routine.
  17. Gradually, after this point, you can progress by getting more tension from a band which can depend on hand placement or moving up to a band with more resistance.
  18. Perform this routine two – three times per week but not on consecutive days. Have a planned time you will train so it is a part of your routine. If you feel sore from a prior workout and have a workout scheduled for that day, take an extra day for recovery – but wait a day or two after that workout for your next workout. Again, you do not want to train on consecutive days.
  19. If you also perform aerobic exercise, you can take a brief rest and perform it after your resistance band training or perform aerobic training on a different day.
  20. Outside of your training, keep up your other physical activity such as walking.
  21. There are many other exercises you can do with bands and you can find them on different web sites. But, keep in mind most of the benefits you can get can come from this simple routine. And, it is the consistency of your workouts and how well your repetitions are done and not how elaborate they are that is most important.
  22. Your training log and notes to yourself are an important part of this training. In fact, always before a workout, look at your prior workout to see what you did and notes that you made. This process can keep you on track and help you to train safely and effectively.