10 calisthenics exercises using resistance bands to boost your workout
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 Rubber Banditz - you can find out more about the bands themselves and where to buy them in my resistance bands buyers guide here.
Beginner Band Assisted 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.
Once you've got the fundamentals you can also use the bands to help you with more challenging grips 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; 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 press-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 Band Assisted 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. Raise your feet together into the air so that your whole weight is on your shoulders with your toes pointing upwards. From here, 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.
5. Back Levers
Back levers are one of the more well-known Calisthenics exercises at the intermediate mark, but many people can take a lot of time to get a perfect form, horizontal back lever. Loop the bands over the bar and put your feet through them to help get the perfectly 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 Back Lever use the band to help you get a perfectly horizontal front lever.
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 Band Assisted Exercises
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 chin 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" exercise 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!