Heavy resistance bands are not only nice to have. You can use them in a variety of challenging exercises to grow and strengthen your muscles too.
One thing to note is that even some of the heaviest resistance bands “only” go up to 200 pounds (90.7 kg).
More experienced lifters can still build muscle with bands but these people may need to use multiple loops at the same time.
1. Resistance band deadlifts
Take the following step to do a resistance band deadlift:
- Loop one end of the heavy resistance band under your feet which stand about shoulder-width apart.
- Reach down and hold the heavy resistance bands where you will experience tension quickly after raising your hands.
- Slowly stretch your legs and tilt your upper body back until you stand up straight with the resistance bands in your hands. Keep your spine straight throughout this movement.
- Return to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion by tilting your upper body forward and folding your knees in one smooth motion.
The deadlift is a great example that you can lift heavy with resistance bands.
This version with heavy resistance bands will likely focus slightly more on your quadriceps than the barbell version. However, you still really work the strong glute, hamstring, and erector spinae muscles a lot.
Additionally, your trapezius and forearm grip muscles can have a hard time too.
2. Resistance band back squats
Take the following steps to do a resistance band back squat:
- Put your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and point them somewhat outward. Loop the heavy resistance band under your feet at a point where the following steps become challenging but not impossible.
- Lower your body as far as comfortable by folding your legs in a controlled motion.
- Pick up the free end of the resistance bands and loop it behind your shoulders. Keep your spine straight and the resistance bands in place with your hands.
- Slowly raise your body by stretching your legs.
- Fold your legs as far as comfortable in a controlled motion.
Because your legs have such strong muscles, exercises that focus on this area are great uses for heavy resistance bands.
Resistance band back squats focus more on your quadriceps (front thighs). Besides that, they also work your erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings a decent amount.
3. Bent-over resistance band rows
Take the following steps to do a resistance band row:
- Stand up straight with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Loop one end of the resistance bands below your feet.
- Bend your knees slightly and tilt your upper body forward to grab the heavy resistance band at a point where the following steps are hard but not too hard. Keep your spine straight throughout the exercise.
- Tilt your upper body back until it is about horizontal or slightly higher. Let your arms and shoulder blades hang down for now.
- Slowly raise your hands as far as comfortable by pulling your shoulder blades back and folding your arms. You preferably want to raise your hands to at least chest height.
- Lower your hands back into the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
Bent-over resistance band rows mainly work your trapezius (upper back), latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), biceps, and forearm grip muscles.
Additionally, your erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings will have to work to some extent to keep your body in position.
Since the upper back muscles involved are so strong, more experienced lifters will need relatively heavy resistance bands for this exercise.
Your resistance bands should likely not be as heavy for bent-over rows as deadlifts because the muscles involved are weaker.
However, this movement will definitely still require a lot more resistance than something like a bicep curl.
4. Resistance band bench presses
To do this next heavy resistance band exercise you preferably have a sturdy flat weight bench. You could make something work by lying down on the floor but this will not be as effective, safe, and comfortable.
Take the following step to do a resistance band bench press:
- Loop the resistance band under the bench.
- Lie down on your back on the bench, pull your shoulder blades back and down, and hold one end of the resistance band in each hand. At this point, you want your hands at about chest height, your upper arms at angles of 45 degrees or less to your sides, and some tension on the bands.
- Slowly push your hands up until they are slightly less than stretched.
- Lower your hands in a controlled motion until they are back in the position of step 2.
Resistance band bench presses work your chest, tricep, and front deltoid (shoulder) muscles. This is another relatively lift where most people will need more than your standard 30 lbs (13.6 kg) resistance bands.
One downside of the resistance band version of this exercise is that it can be annoying to get the bands to chest height with some tension.
Your muscles may experience a smaller range of motion under tension because of this.
5. Seated resistance band rows
Take the following steps to do a seated resistance band row:
- Sit on the ground with your legs slightly less than stretched and one end of the heavy resistance band looped around the bottom of your feet.
- Tilt your upper body forward to grab the band at a point where you experience tension in the next step.
- Tilt your upper body back until it is about vertical. Keep your spine straight during this part and the rest of the movement. Let your arms and shoulder blades follow the tensions of the resistance band for now.
- Move your hands as far to your body as comfortable by pulling your shoulder blades back and folding your arms.
- Slowly return your hands and shoulder blades to the position in step 3.
As you can expect, the main muscles seated resistance band rows work are similar to the bent-over version. This means your trapezius, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and forearm grip muscles.
One difference that could make this heavy resistance band exercise the better version for you is that seated resistance band rows require less work from your erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings.
This could allow you to focus more on working the main muscles of the exercise. You do want to keep in mind this also means you don’t train endurance in these areas to the same extent.
6. Resistance band good mornings
Take the following steps to do a resistance band good morning:
- Put your feet about shoulder width apart and loop one end of the resistance bands below them.
- Lower your body as far as comfortable by folding your knees.
- Loop the free end of the resistance band around your upper back.
- Raise your body by stretching your legs until you stand up straight with your knees bent slightly. Keep your spine straight throughout the exercise.
- Slowly tilt your upper body forward as far as comfortable or until it is about horizontal.
- Tilt your upper body back in a controlled motion until you are back in the position of step 4.
The steps to get in position are similar to resistance band back squats but after that, you don’t really fold your knees.
This makes it so resistance band good mornings focus on your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae instead.
One benefit of this heavy resistance band exercise over deadlifts is that you don’t have to worry about your forearm grip muscles fatiguing.
This can be an issue with heavy lifts like deadlifts.
7. Resistance band leg extensions
To do resistance band leg extensions you want something sturdy to sit on with enough room to move your lower legs. Something like a sturdy chair can work.
Once you have that, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Anchor the heavy resistance band behind the back chair legs, sit down on the chair, and loop the free end of the band around one or two of your feet. Put your hands or something like a towel below your upper legs so your feet can easily move. Let your legs follow the resistance of the bands for now.
- Slowly stretch your legs.
- Fold your legs back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
Exactly how heavy your resistance bands should be for this exercise will vary from person to person.
However, because resistance band leg extensions mainly involve the relatively strong quadriceps, you can consider them to be a relatively challenging lift.
Keep in mind that if you start with isolation exercises like leg extensions you don’t want to forget training the hamstring muscles on the opposite side of your thighs to avoid muscle imbalances.