It’s time the age old myth of ‘to build muscle, just pick up the heaviest weight possible’ method of bodybuilding.
Simply put, that’s not a necessarily bad way to look at bodybuilding. Generally, with correct progressive overload (which is usually done just by mindlessly adding weight) will grow muscle over time.
But- the times have changed. Science has evolved! And mindlessly adding weight is just not the best way to build muscle anymore. Nowadays different programs take advantage of different rep ranges, resistances, muscle tension, etcetera.
Rich Piana was one of the first to say, ‘you don’t grow muscle by aimlessly lifting, you grow muscle by breaking down that muscle completely and beating it up in new ways it has never been done before’.
So, in the new day and age of modern bodybuilding, can resistance bands build muscle?
Yes, resistance bands are actually a great way to build muscle, specifically the resistance bands target both forms of fast and slow twitch muscle, but forces them under INCREDIBLE muscle tension that the muscle is not used too. Since the muscle will be so overloaded with the never-ending muscle tension that comes with resistance bands (and does NOT come with standard barbell weight training) the muscle is FORCED to grow and adapt. This can also lead to many ‘stabilizer’ or smaller muscles near the targeted muscle site to grow.
However, resistance bands are NOT a replacement for a standard weight training program. But, when used in combination, can not only serve to grow more muscle- but also improve muscle recovery and prevent injury.
#1 – How Do Resistance Bands Build Muscle?
As I mentioned earlier, Rich Piana noted that you needed to be tearing down your muscle in new ways it has never been done before. But, I didn’t mention that Arnold Schwarzenegger said the same thing!
Arnold Schwarzenegger and His Famous ‘SHOCK THE MUSCLE’ Idea To Grow Muscle Rapidly
Arnold Schwarzenegger is known even in his program, Arnold’s Blueprint to Mass, to highlight this famous ‘shock the muscle’ idea to grow muscle rapidly.
The idea is that you need to ‘confuse the muscle’ or ‘shock the muscle’ in Arnold’s words- and while it may sound confusing (haha get it?) once you understand the idea, it will shock (sorry for the puns) your training routine to the core.
So what does this even mean- confusing the muscle?
Well, the idea is simple. When you do a repeated program week after week, your body gets used to it after a long time- and it just isn’t efficient at building muscle anymore. This ends up in you getting screwed over because when you’re spending time at the gym, it’s actually not doing anything.
Thankfully, this effect usually only happens roughly 12-14 weeks after you’ve started a weight lifting program. (This is why most programs only last 8-12 weeks!)
But, because your body adapts to the repeated stimuli of you consistently working out, Arnold developed the idea of ‘shocking the muscle’ to force the body to break this adaptation.
Shocking The Muscle Explained In-Depth to FORCE Huge Muscle Growth
Generally, your body is somewhat used to your workout routine. And implementing the shocking technique forces your body out of this adaptation and works your muscles in a new way forcing muscle growth.
So Tommy, how exactly do you do the muscle shock technique to get this huge muscle growth?
Well, it’s actually incredibly simple! You need to basically do something very extreme during your workout that is somewhat random.
Here’s an example of what Arnold likes to do:
Arnold likes to do what I call, ‘the bench-killer’- it involves you benching normally at first. However, on your last set, you do as many reps as you can, then once you fail (you need a spotter) you remove some weight from the bar (5-10 lbs) and then immediately do that set right there with no rest until you fail again. Then, you repeat this again, over and over until you get back to the bar.
Needless to say, this is just a brutal way to absolutely destroy your chest, you will for sure feel this one the next morning.
But- you’ll also feel incredible muscle growth.
#2 – How To Use The Resistance Bands to ‘Shock The Muscles’ And Force Muscle Growth
Now that we know what the muscle shocking technique is, let’s talk about how we can use it force muscle growth.
Just to clarify- just because something isn’t a heavy dumbbell doesn’t mean it cannot grow muscle.
Rich Piana was one of the first bodybuilders to make this big statement essentially saying, ‘You don’t grow muscle by just repeatedly slamming heavy weight, but you grow more muscle by forcing the muscle to work as hard as you can’.
He’s essentially saying that if you’re slamming weights over and over mindlessly, you’re not going to see as good of results as if you take your time and force your muscle to work slowly and tactfully.
This is actually very true, as your muscle is used to this standard method of weightlifting.
So, lifting ‘smarter’ and not ‘harder’ is the key to actually growing an incredible amount of muscle and developing that ‘shredded beach-body’ we are all dreaming of.
Step 1 – Use Resistance Bands To Naturally Force The Muscle Under Constant Tension! (Unlike Dumbbells/Barbells)
When you use dumbbells/barbells there is a point where the tension point ends. This is usually at the top of a bench press rep, or the bottom of your bicep curl.
Advanced bodybuilders know this, and will typically avoid doing this or minimize the time at ‘rest’. But, most bodybuilders or powerlifters will do this naturally, even myself.
However, resistance bands don’t let you do this. This means you naturally force your muscle under constant tension throughout the entire set, not just the rep. This massively forces muscle growth as it’s stimulus your muscle just isn’t used to.
That’s not to mention how much muscle this puts on if you just add this to your lifting routine naturally.
Putting your muscle under tension like this with things like cables or not giving your muscles any rest is a guaranteed way to put on a ton of size, fast.
Plus, you will feel this. Personally, if I work out and I don’t feel sore at all the next day, I feel like I did something wrong (even if this isn’t true). When you incorporate exercises like this, you will almost always feel sore, and always know you’re growing muscle and working hard in the gym.
Step 2 – Use Your Resistance Bands to Do Heavy Burnout Sets
Resistance bands are great to do heavy burnout sets with. Here’s the thing- resistance bands are a lot safer than dumbbells/barbells, and that means people are more comfortable with doing burnout sets and going a further range of motion.
Why? It’s actually a really simple concept. If you go too far with a dumbbell or barbell in your hand, you might literally die or severely injure yourself.
With resistance bands, you just let go, or it slides out of your fingers. Regardless, you won’t have a 300 lb thing laying on your chest suffocating you to death.
Now- you’re going to use these resistance bands to assist you in pushing you past your limits. Remember, when you fail a bench, you need a spotter or risk injury. It’s hard to get injured with resistance bands, and in some positions, it’s just impossible.
This allows you to go a lot further with your sets and reps. Because of this, you can break down your muscles like never before.
I recommend doing a burn out set similar to Rich Piana’s Feeder workouts, for they are proven to put size on.
This would include something like:
- 100 reps of resistance band curls. (Moderate-High weight, try as hard as you can)
- 100 reps of resistance band pectoral flys. (Moderate-High weight, try hard)
- 100 reps of resistance band back rows. (Moderate-high weight, try hard)
- 100 reps of resistance band tricep extensions. (Moderate-high weight, try hard)
I hope that list gave you some guidance on how to incorporate the resistance bands in your work out to do heavy burnout sets.
Simply put, take an exercise that targets the muscle groups you want to work on, and do around 100 reps without stopping (if you’re able to).
Step 3 – Increase Your Range of Motion with Resistance Bands To Grow Muscle
While increasing the range of motion may not seem like an obvious way to grow muscle, it certainly is.
Furthermore, due to the way you can set resistance bands up, you can almost always get an increased range of motion.
Most people don’t realize it, but when you use standard barbells for lifting, it completely negates significant parts of your muscle that make you look big. This is actually why so many programs have a great mix of barbell/dumbbell exercises- to maximize that range of motion.
For example, in Arnold’s Blueprint to Mass, you can find that he has you do standard barbell curls, but then also do incline dumbbell curls that makes the range of motion way bigger.
The longer the weight has to travel, the more muscles you activate, and the harder those muscles work, this is sure to put on gains.
So, utilize the resistance bands to make your range of motion incredibly big and maximize the work put on your muscles. I recommend doing this by finding the absolute furthest position you can activate that muscle group at and setting that as the lock point.
Personally, when I use my resistance bands to do cable flyes/pectoral flyes, I can go way further than I normally can with dumbbells and obviously barbells. Plus, I get a wayy better burn.
Step 4 – Use Resistance Bands To Obliterate Your Muscles On The Eccentric Motion
This is a trick I learned from Charles Glass, the godfather of bodybuilding.
In his videos, Charles Glass likes to play with the muscles a bit by maximizing the time during the eccentric movement.
Most advanced bodybuilders agree that this is where most people mess up. They spend all their energy during the ‘concentric’ movement (or CONTRACTION movement, ie: curl of a barbell/push of a bench press) and not enough energy during the ‘eccentric’ movement (the RELEASE movement, ie: slowly lowering the barbell after you curled it, or lowering the bench press barbell).
The problem is, when most people are lifting, all they care about is the ‘PUSH’ phase. You know? Pushing the 300 lb barbell off of your chest, or curling a few hundred pounds. Cool, nothing wrong with that. But the problem is, when it comes to bringing the bench down, or releasing the curl, most people completely relax their muscle.
This means their muscles aren’t activated at all for nearly half of the set! Most people completely just give out on their biceps when curling and let the weight slam back down.
This is where bodybuilders like Charles Glass focus on the release point.
Resistance Bands Are The Best Tool To Absolutely Annihilate Your Muscles From Start-To-End of The Rep
Here’s the thing, while the barbells and dumbbells have a point where there is no contraction, resistance bands DON’T.
This means from the beginning-to-end of your rep you will have incredible tension on your muscles. I already explained this earlier, so I’ll save you the spiel.
The difference I’m explaining here is how you can use the resistance bands at your ‘lock-in/lock-out’ point to actually DESTROY your muscles.
So when you reach the top of the rep, where you are squeezing the hardest, just hold it there. With a set of dumbbells or barbells, you might find it getting easier.
Resistance bands? No way. They will tear you to shreds if you try to hold the muscle there- and that’s exactly what you want. Forcing the muscle to work under this constant pressure.
I’m a big fan of the pectoral fly hold, where when your hands touch each other at the end of a pectoral fly rep, you hold it for 1-2 seconds, then slowly release. After rep 6-7, you will feel the immense burn.
Don’t Completely Ignore The Free Weights, However
While resistance bands can build muscle, it’s a bad idea to just ignore the free weights.
There’s a good reason people have been using free weights like dumbbells and barbells for so long. They do a GREAT job at building muscle.
And honestly, alone- resistance bands can build muscle- but not the same amount free weights can.
But, when you use them together and in combination, you can see muscle growth never seen before and push your muscles to new extremes.
Can Resistance Bands Build Biceps?
Many people ask, can resistance bands build biceps? The answer is simple:
Yes! Resistance bands can build biceps and are in fact, one of the best tools for doing it. Think about picking somebody up and carrying them somewhere else for a long time, it really burns your biceps, right? You can apply the same thing with the resistance bands here. This is because the resistance bands put the muscle under constant tension throughout the whole rep and provide an increased range of motion.
#3 – So, Can Resistance Bands Build Muscle?
Yes, resistance bands can build muscle- and do a great job at doing so. Long gone are the days of believing that you need dumbbells and barbells to build muscle.
Understanding that resistance bands and dumbbells/barbells used together can significantly boost your muscle growth is a key to putting on mass fast and efficently.