When you’re in the gym and you’re struggling with an exercise then the easiest thing to do is to simply lower the weight; drop the resistance by taking a plate off the bar or lowering the machine resistance setting. With Calisthenics however you’re working with body weight so “dropping the weight” isn’t an option (I’m sure I’m not the only one looking at my body and wishing it was!).
There is another option: Resistance Bands.
Resistance Bands are an easy way to assist you when working out or trying out a new technique by supporting some of your weight. In this post, I’m going to show you 10 of my favourite Calisthenics exercises to try with resistance bands.
Note: For the following techniques I’ve been using a Light and a Robust band from Rubberbanditz. These bands rated #1 on the resistance bands buyers guide, but if you wish to read about some of the other options available then you can read the resistance bands buyers guide here.
Table of Contents
Beginner Resistance Band Exercises
The basic pull-up should be a foundation technique which everybody should be drilling as part of their workouts.
If you find pull-ups hard because you’re new to them or you’re carrying quite a lot of weight, then try using a resistance band to support your weight and help you out. Our guide to achieving your first pull-up explains this in further detail.
Once you’ve got the fundamentals you can also use the bands to help you with more challenging pull-up variations such as wide grip pull-ups.
The dip is another foundation technique you should be putting a lot of effort into as part of your core workout.
Simply loop a band over the bars and use the band as a ‘seat’ to hold some of your weight when performing a dip. Make sure you work hard on your form here; make sure you lower yourself down until your elbows are at a right angle, with your upper arms parallel to the floor.
I’m hesitant to say this one’s a little too easy for the list, but there are always people out there who can’t do a press-up! There are also others (like myself) who like to try more advanced push-ups, so try using a band to help you with some of the really advanced versions.
For this, you want to attach the band to something above you (I used rings) and then position yourself inside the band so that it the band is underneath your armpits and supporting your chest.
Intermediate Resistance Band Exercises
4. Dragon Flags
For those of you who have never attempted a Dragon Flag, it’s quite a fun exercise to do when working on your abs.
Lie on the ground with your hands above your head holding on to a low bar or stable object. From here, raise your feet together into the air so that your whole weight is on your shoulders with your toes pointing upwards. This is your starting position.
Next, slowly lower your feet down to the floor but try your hardest to keep your whole body as flat as possible throughout the exercise. Done right your body should act like a hinge, with your abs keeping your body tight whilst your whole body lowers to the ground.
The resistance band can be used to help take some of the load, allowing you to concentrate on keeping your core tight and your body straight.
5. Back Levers
Back levers are one of the more well-known intermediate calisthenics skills. Many people can take a lot of time to get a perfect form, horizontal, back lever though, so make use of a resistance band to help with your progression.
To do this, simply loop the band over the bar and put your feet through it to help get the perfect horizontal position.
This may be easier said than done, so my two tips for you would be:
- If possible loop the bar around a different bar to the one you are holding on to (as seen in the photo), that way the resistance is closer to the lower half of your body
- Start by getting your feet over the bar first so you are hanging off it by your legs. From here you can re-adjust your grip and you can take a moment to see where the band is hanging so you can place your feet into it easier
6. Front Levers
Similar to the Back Lever, you can use a resistance band to help you get a perfectly horizontal front lever.
Start with a thick band that allows you to get into a horizontal position without pushing yourself to the max, then try out bands that offer less resistance until you find a resistance that is challenging, but still allows you to keep good form.
7. Iron Cross
The iron cross is a pretty slick looking technique on the rings, but in reality, it is much harder than it looks.
Loop a band between each thumb and forefinger and then hold it tightly over the rings. Boost yourself up (a Muscle-Up works best if you can do one) and then stand on the band so that as you lower into the technique your head, hands and feet should be shaped like a diamond.
In the photos above the Iron Cross is not at full extension; I found the Robust band was too supportive as it wouldn’t let my weight drop the whole way, but the Light band wasn’t supportive enough… I’ll have to buy a 3rd band!
Advanced Resistance Band Exercises
You also need to make sure you are using a bar which is suitable for performing muscle-ups on.
Try a heavier band first to get to grips with the actual movement, and then move onto a lighter band to focus on building your strength and form for this technique.
9. One-Handed Pull-Ups
Bands are a great piece of kit to help out with your one-handed pull-ups because they let you easily vary how much assistance you need.
Even better, because you only need a small amount of band to hold onto, you can either loop it over the bar once or double it up by folding the whole band over the bar to give yourself extra variations in assistance.
If you have a pull-up bar at home then this technique is great for adding a bit of variety into your home workout.
10. Human Flag
The Human Flag is a complicated but impressive calisthenics technique which requires plenty of practice.
A dedicated post could be written to this, but since we’re talking “Advanced” resistance band exercises, I couldn’t help but throw it in.
Loop the band at about head height on a bar (or wall rungs if you have access to them), and then hook one foot through the other end of the band. From here when you swing up and into the Human Flag the band should be able to support some of your weight to help you get a feel for this technique and hold your Human Flags for much longer.
An alternative variation to hooking the foot through is to start by putting one leg through the band so the resistance band loops between your legs like a harness. Some people prefer this method, but just a word of warning to the men out there… Take a moment to get the band position correct, you’ll be cursing me if you don’t!
What About Other Exercises With Resistance Bands?
The possibilities for using resistance bands are endless which is why we want to share with you a link to further exercises.
If you’re looking for more inspiration and exercises to try out, then check out our complete list of calisthenics exercises.
Feel free to use the resistance bands however you like; whether that’s to make the exercises harder, or to aid you in your progressions… it’s up to you!
Founder of www.calisthenics-101.co.uk. Training calisthenics since 2012.
Currently working on: 30 second one-arm handstand, muscle-up 360, straddle planche.