4 Dumbbell Exercises You Should Try Adding Bands To

Give your squats a happy ending.

Resistance bands are a fantastic training accessory tool. They are portable, lightweight, inexpensive, and you can train in multiple planes of motion. Plus, because the further the band stretches the greater the resistance, it strengthens the muscle at the end of the motion, which is often where the weight feels the lightest. (Not anymore.)

This is why adding resistance bands to dumbbell exercises is a match made in heaven.

resistance band exercises
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The Strength Curve

The strength curve is the muscular force generated at each point throughout an exercise’s range of motion. Because of joint angles and, well, gravity, the resistance is not constant.

For example, during a dumbbell bench press, more force is needed during the first third of the movement than lockout, where the weight almost feels lighter.

The resistance band opposes this strength curve. When the band is not stretched less force is required to get it moving but when you are locking out, more force is needed.

So, when adding bands to dumbbell exercises, you are adding more resistance (and tension) during the concentric part and this will help improve your lockout strength.

Plus, if your gym is not open and you do not have access to heavy dumbbells, then adding resistance bands is a great way to add resistance and variety to your training without the cost of purchasing dumbbells.

If your gym is open, adding bands to dumbbells makes for a nice change of pace while helping improve the lockout strength of the squat, deadlift, and bench. And taking a break from the barbell while keeping your intensity high (with the bands) gives your joints a welcome break.

[Related: The Best Resistance Band Accessories for Powerlifting]

1. Band Resisted RDL

Perform this accessory move on upper body or squat days or use it as a replacement for your regular hamstring exercise. If you’re having trouble keeping your lats tight during your deadlift, this will help.

Note: Loop the band around each dumbbell and keep the band underneath the middle of your foot for safety purposes.

Programming Suggestions

Try this burnout set at the end of your training. Do a set of band RDL’s and then take the band off and go straight into a set of dumbbell RDL’s. Then pick up the band (which should be still underneath your feet) and do as many reps as possible (AMRAP) of the RDLs with good form and without pain. 

You are welcome.

1A. Band Resisted RDL  8-12 reps

1B. Dumbbell RDL 12-15 reps

1C.  Band RDL AMRAP

2. Band Elevated Goblet Split Squat

 Just when you thought Bulgarian split squats couldn’t suck anymore, enter the banded elevated split squat. 

The band behind the knee encourages terminal knee extension or TKE (co-contraction of the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles) for increased quad/glute involvement, along with the benefits of increasing the range of motion. Giving your legs a double whammy.

Programming Suggestions

There are various ways to hold the weight, either by your side, goblet, front rack or overhead. Keep in mind the further away the dumbbell is from your legs, the more difficult it is.

Place the band just below your kneecap before you pick up the dumbbells and elevate your back foot on the bench. 

Pair this exercise with an elevated hip extension for a glute pump or hammer your upper back with a single arm row. For example,

1A.  Band Elevated Goblet Split Squat 8-12 reps on each side

1B.  Elevated Hip Extension 12-15 reps

[Related: Our 5 Favorite Body Part Resistance Band Workouts]

3. Banded Dumbbell Row 

The band keeps the tension high throughout this entire exercise, which gives your lats, shoulders, and biceps the extra attention they deserve. And you’re adding resistance without adding to much extra stress, because bands don’t tax you the same way heavy dumbbells and barbells do.

Programming Suggestions

Loop the bands on either end of your mid foot and over the top of the dumbbell handle. You will have to adjust the band and the angle of the dumbbell to suit your needs.

Pair this with a less intense exercise like a band pull apart or a band lateral walk. For example,

1A.  Band Dumbbell Row 8-12 reps of both sides

1B. Band Lateral Walk 15 reps on both sides.

[Related: How to Use Resistance Bands to Increase Your 1RM]

4. Banded Goblet squat

You already know goblet squats are fantastic and resistance bands take it to the next level.

The goblet position with the dumbbell, combined with the band, gives your anterior core and quads all they can handle. The pulling down of the band forces your core to engage (so your torso doesn’t fold in half) and the extra tension at the top of the movement will have your quads begging for mercy.

Don’t blame me if you are walking funny the next day.

Programming Suggestion

Loop the band around the handle and pull it up to the side  closest to where you’re gripping the handle. Place the band underneath your mid foot and wrestle the dumbbell up to the goblet position.

Pair this with a core exercise because you cannot get enough core work because summer is just around the corner. For example,

1A.  Banded Goblet Squat 12-15 reps

1B.  RKC Front Plank 5-10 breathes

Wrapping Up

Adding bands to dumbbells is a great option if you don’t have access to heavier dumbbells, and it’s recommended for those who like a challenge and more variety in their accessory work. Although the set-up is time-consuming and awkward, you’ll like the results.

Featured image via Goolia Photography/Shutterstock

Shane McLean

Shane McLean

Shane McLean is a Certified Personal Trainer who’s worked with a wide variety of clients, from the general population client all the way to ex-Navy seals and college athletes.

Shane is a big believer in seeing exercise as a gift for the body and never a punishment — exercise should be as enjoyable as possible and never just a “work” out.

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