Workout of the Week: Upper Body Resistance Bands

In today’s article, we’ll be following along with Jessi Kate as she walks you through an upper body resistance band workout. This workout will effectively target just about every muscle group in the upper body, and even a little lower body as well. 

If you find yourself rushed, or you’re having trouble deciding how to split up your muscle groups, then this is perfect. The workout requires very little time, and takes out the having to decide part, since you’re hitting everything. The only part of your workout that should fatigue you is the actual working out, not the decisions. 

Biceps Curl

  • 4 sets of 12-20 repetitions
  • Primary muscles worked: Biceps 

The biceps curl might not be the most impressively esoteric exercise out there, but it is the foundation for anyone who wants to look good in t-shirts. Whether your goal is to have magical orbs resting under the skin or you simply want defined arms, you gotta throw in some curls. 

How to:

  • Loop the bottom of the resistance band under your feet
  • Grip the top loop of the band with a supinated grip, about shoulder width apart
  • Keeping your arms from moving forward or backward, and only bending at the elbow, curl the band until it’s level with your chest.
  • Your arms will naturally sway forward a little at this point of the movement and that’s fine. Continue curling until the band is level with your clavicle.
  • Hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds
  • Slowly lower the band.
  • Repeat for desired repetitions

Modification: Lighter resistance band, narrower grip, or hammer grip

Squat Press

  • 4 sets of 12-20 repetitions
  • Primary muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings, deltoids

The overhead press and the traditional squat are staples in every exerciser’s routine, for both overall muscle development and athletic performance. Combining them into a single movement is an effective way to improve coordination, as well as increase heart rate to keep those fat stores burning at a greater rate. 

How to:

  • Plant your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, and loop the resistance band underneath. Grip the top of the band about shoulder width apart, like you would a traditional barbell press. 
  • Keeping your hands and the top of the band level with your clavicle — similar to how you’d perform a front squat — slowly squat down
  • Pressing through the feet, explode upward
  • Perform an overhead press upward with the band
  • Slowly lower the band back to clavicle level.
  • This is one rep. Repeat for desired amount of reps

Modifications: No band, separate movements into two different exercises (for more isolation)

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Triceps Overhead Extension

  • 4 sets of 12-20 repetitions
  • Primary muscles worked: triceps

The triceps make up ⅔ of your upper arm. So, if your aim is to attain bigger overall arms, then neglecting the triceps is an incredibly silly decision — one people make all too often. And if you’re a female who wants sexy, defined arms, hitting the triceps is even more important, since women tend to store fat in their arms more often than men do, and it’s usually around the triceps that this happens. Not saying you can effectively spot-reduce fat, but building up muscle in that area definitely makes a difference in the aesthetics of the upper arm.

Anatomically, the triceps are made up of three ‘heads;’ the long head, the medial head, and the lateral head. Most people spend their time on exercises such as triceps pressdowns or skull crushers, because that’s what they know, but those exercises aren’t that effective for hitting the largest head of the triceps muscle — the long head. The overhead extension is hands down one of the greatest triceps exercises in that it optimally targets the long head, adding shape and definition to a part of the arm that’s all too often neglected.

How to:

  • Loop the resistance band under your feet, and grip the top loop with a pronated position, same way you would if you were swinging a hammer overhead. In the starting position your elbows will be at about a 90 degree angle, and your upper arm will be perpendicular to your head — a little further behind your head works too.
  • Making sure not to use any momentum, pull the resistance band while straightening out your arms overhead and contracting the triceps
  • Don’t let your arms come forward across your head. The end of the movement should end with the band no further forward than your crown.
  • Slowly lower the band, feeling the stretch as you do.
  • This is one rep. Repeat for desired repetitions

Modifications: No band, lighter band, use an overhand grip 

Upright Row

  • 4 sets of 12-20 repetitions
  • Primary muscles worked: Deltoids, traps

An effective way to target the traps as well as the deltoids, specifically the anterior (or front) deltoid, the upright row gets a bad reputation because of how frequently lifters perform it incorrectly. This typically occurs due to most people’s largest muscle group — ego. They put weight before form, which can lead to wrist pain, as well as rotator cuff issues. However, when done properly, the upright row is a fantastic way to build that glorious v-taper we all want. Also adds definition, which is obviously cool. 

How to:

  • Loop the resistance band under your feet, and grip the top with an overhand grip, a little narrower than shoulder width distance apart.
  • Maintaining good posture (shoulders rolled back and down), gradually row the resistance band up to your clavicle. 
  • Keep your elbows higher than your wrists at all times. This is a row, not a reverse curl 
  • Slowly lower the band.
  • This is one rep. Repeat

Modifications: Lighter band, slightly bent over wide grip rows to your chest, or resistance band shrug static holds

Resistance band push-ups

  • 4 sets of 12-20 repetitions
  • Primary muscles worked: Chest, delts, triceps

There’s nothing I can say about the pushup that hasn’t been said an infinite amount of times before. Adding the resistance band is an easy and effective way to increase the difficulty of this tried-and-true exercise. 

How to:

  • Situate the resistance band so that one looped end is in your right hand and the other is in your left. The band should rest across your upper back. From here, get into your typical push-up position — hands shoulder width apart, core tight, etc.
  • In the plank-pushup position, slowly lower your body toward the floor
  • Keeping your core tight and spine in line, push through your hands until you are back into the starting point, stopping just short of lockout
  • This is one rep. Repeat.

Modifications: No resistance band, or push-ups from your knees

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Upper Body Workout:

ExerciseSets & RepsRest Time
Biceps Curls4 x 12-2030-45 seconds
Squat to Press4 x 12-2030-45 seconds
Overhead Triceps Extensions4 x 12-2030-45 seconds
Upright Row4 x 12-2030-45 seconds
Push-ups4 x 12-2030-45 seconds

Looking for a workout for legs? Check our this dumbbell leg workout.

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