How to Use Resistance Bands and How Many Calories Do You Burn?

Bands can take you from beginner to bodybuilder.

Bands can take you from beginner to bodybuilder.

Resistance band training provides many health benefits, but calorie burning really isn't one of them. Weight training for 30 minutes generally would burn a maximum of 150 calories for a 125-pound woman. Because band training tends to be less continuous, it would probably burn considerably less than that. However, resistance band training does provide all the benefits of weight training -- increased lean body mass, improved bone and joint health, the ability to perform everyday tasks more easily, and, of course, a more svelte body for your bikini or sleek dress. Bands have the added advantage of being inexpensive and easily transportable.

General Instructions

Choose the proper resistance as you would with weights, that is, a resistance at which you can do eight repetitions but not more than 12 easily. Bands, as opposed to tubes, are generally very inexpensive and can be purchased in different lengths and resistance. Therefore, you can purchase several at a time and use different ones with different exercises or progress to more resistance.

Increase or decrease resistance by shortening or lengthening the bands. This cuts down on the number of bands you need to own. In addition to resistance strength, a shorter pulling distance will also provide more resistance. Adjust the length of bands by changing the distance between your hands, wrapping more or less of the band around your palms or, when anchoring them with your feet, placing your feet closer together or farther apart.

Start at the tension point. Depending on the muscles and moving joint, the first 10 to 30 degrees of the motion will provide no resistance. For this reason, when working with bands, you should always start at the point where you already feel a slight resistance.

Upper Body

Strengthen your pecs by flipping the band behind your back, just under your shoulder blades. Your elbows should be directly out to your sides, bent at 90 degrees and in a position so that your fists are in front of you chest. Exhale as you fully extend your arms out in front of you against the resistance of the band. Return to the starting position, making sure that your elbows do not come back beyond your shoulders. Do at least two sets of eight to 12 reps.

Secure one end of the band under one foot to do lateral raises for the deltoids of the shoulder. Adjust the band so that you feel a slight tension when you start to pull the arm on the same side away from your body. Maintain your head, neck, back and pelvis in alignment and your knees soft as you raise your extended arm out to the side, bringing it shoulder-height. Return to the starting position and try to do two sets of eight to 12 reps on each side.

Place your hand, holding one end of the band, behind you so that the back of your hand rests against the small of your back. Place the hand holding the other end of the band at the base of your skull with your palm facing in. Making sure to keep both elbows pointing out to the sides, work your triceps by extending the upper arm until it is straight overhead, but your elbows are not locked. Return to the starting position. Exhale on the extension and inhale on the return, trying to do at least two sets of eight to 12 reps with each arm.

Train your biceps by placing both feet on the band so that both sides are equal, and you feel tension when your arms are down at your sides with your elbows slightly bent. Wrap the bands around your hands and keep your elbows tucked into your sides, your back straight and your knees slightly bent as you flex your elbows and bring your fists in toward your shoulders. Exhale while coming up and inhale when returning to the starting position. Try to do at least two sets of eight to 12 reps.

Lower Body and Abs

Work your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves with a band squat. Your feet will be about shoulder-width apart. Adjust the length of the band so there is a slight tension when your arms are fully extended. Bend at the knees and hips until your thighs are parallel, or almost parallel, to the ground. Shift your hips back slightly so that your knees do not overshoot your toes, but keep your head, neck, back and pelvis aligned. Inhale as you go down and exhale as you go up. Try to do at least two sets of eight to 12 reps.

Tie the band around your ankles to work the hip adductors and abductors. Stand with your hand on a sturdy chair for support with your knees slightly bent, and your toes pointing forward. Slightly flex the foot of the outside leg and lift it directly out to the side, as high as you can, against the resistance of the band. Return only to the point where you still feel a slight tension. Then work the adductors by crossing the inside leg in front of the outside leg with the foot flexed and the knee only slightly bent. Do at least two sets of eight to 12 reps for each exercise on each leg.

Lie on your back with your hips and knees flexed at 90 degrees. You can place your feet against a wall or bench for support if you like. Holding one end of the band in each hand, place it on your thighs just below your knees. Your arms should be fully extended. Tighten your abdominals while lifting your head and shoulders off the floor and bringing your knees in against the resistance of the band. At the same time, your hands will be pushing the ends of the band in the opposite direction. Do as many as you can, rest and try to do at least one more set.


  • For best effect, the return movement should always be slow and controlled. Work against the resistance of the band and don't allow it to snap back.
  • Bands provide a wide range of workouts from physical therapy to beginner to advanced.
  • Take bands along on trips so you can work out in your room. Practice before hand to get the most out of your workout.


  • When doing standing exercises, it is very important to keep the abdominals contracted and the back and pelvis aligned to avoid back strain.
  • Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.

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About the Author

Nancy Cross is a certified paralegal who has worked as an employee benefits specialist and counseled employees on retirement preparation, including financial and estate planning. In addition to writing and editing, she runs a small business with her husband and is a certified personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).

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