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How to Use Resistance Bands

February 1, 2018 by HealthyFamiliesBC

How to use resistance bands

No matter your size or physical activity level, everyone has similar muscles.

For example, a person doing a normal, daily activity like squatting down to get a laundry basket is doing a movement very similar to an Olympic Power Lifter squatting several times their body weight. Both people have the same muscles, but the difference is in how well their muscles have been trained with resistance training.

Resistance training (also called strength training) a few times per week is recommended for all healthy adults, regardless of age. Read Canada’s physical activity guidelines here.

Resistance training is any activity that challenges your muscles and bones by lifting, pulling, or pushing against heavier weight than you are used to. This can be activities like lifting weights, doing push-ups, or heavy labour like moving bags of mulch. Another tool you can use for muscle strengthening is an elastic resistance band. 

Resistance Bands vs. Regular Weights

Working with resistance bands differ from using your body weight or dumbbells. When using a dumbbell, the weight is always the same – if you are lifting a 20 lb weight, you will be lifting 20 lbs through your entire movement. With resistance bands, since they are elastic, the more you stretch it the harder it gets. So at the start of your movement the resistance may be low but at the end of the movement it will be higher.

The downside of resistance bands is that it is hard to know the weight you are actually lifting, pulling or pushing. For advanced users, resistance bands may not provide enough resistance, especially if you are trying to target major muscles groups like your legs or chest.

The upside is that resistance bands are inexpensive, don’t take up much room to store, are portable so you can travel with them, and are simple to use.

Are all resistance bands the same difficulty level?

You can get bands that have lower or higher resistance. If you are just starting out, choose a lower resistance. As your muscles get stronger overtime, move up to a higher resistance. Usually there is a color code for resistance. This will vary from brand to brand, so ask the manufacturer to determine which ones have the lightest or greatest resistance.


When using a resistance band, keep in mind that it is an elastic. Any elastic will snap if severely overstretched or if looped around sharp or ragged edges. It is worthwhile inspecting your resistance band before starting your workout to make sure it is in good shape.

When using resistance bands, like any other exercises, put priority on good movement and form first. Exhale during the hard part of the movement (when you are pulling against the elastic) and inhale during the easy part (when the elastic is shortening).

Here are a few exercises you can try at home:

Elastic band squat. This exercise will help strengthen your thigh and butt muscles.

  • Place the middle section of the elastic under both feet and hold on to the ends with your hands. Stand in a half squat with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and feet pointing slightly outwards. There should be some tension in the band. Push upwards against the resistance of the elastic by standing up.
  • Keep your shoulders back, chin tucked in and core muscles engaged. Your back should maintain its natural curve.
  • Squat back down by bending your knees and sticking your butt out (as if you were sitting in a chair). Make sure your knees do not buckle inward, remain above your feet, and do not go past your toes. 
  • Repeat motion 10-12 times and take a break. I recommend doing 1-2 sets.

Elastic band row. This exercise will help strengthen your shoulder and back muscles.

  • Loop the resistance band around a sturdy post that will not move at the same height as your bellybutton. 
  • Hold each end of the elastic in your hands and take a step back until the elastic is taut (start position).
  • Pull the elastic towards you as if rowing a boat. Your elbows should scrape the side of your torso as you pull the elastic.
  • Keep your shoulders back, chin tucked in, and core muscles engaged.
  • Slowly straighten out your arms, releasing the tension in the elastic, returning to the start position. 
  • Repeat motion 10-12 times and take a break. I recommend doing 1-2 sets.

If you’d like help designing a program using resistance bands, give the Qualified Exercise Professional at Healthlink BC a call by dialing 8-1-1. 

Related blogs
Workout Smart: Muscle and Strength
Workout Smart: Core Strength
Top Ways to Be Active While on a Sunny Vacation

Recommended resources
American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using Rubber Band Resistance Exercise



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