Find out how combining resistance bands with your weights workout will get you bigger and stronger faster.

There is a lot of debate about resistance bands versus free weights. What these people fail to realize is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. In fact, combining resistance bands with free weights in the same workout is one of the smartest things you can do to maximize your strength and muscle gains. 

In this article, we spell out why and how you should combine band and free weights in your workouts. 

Why Combine Bands and Free Weights

Resistance bands provide what is called linear variable resistance. In other words, the further they are stretched, the harder they get. This causes us to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. In contrast, free weights are more prone to stimulate slow twitch muscle fibers, especially when sets are performed in the moderate 9-12 rep range. 

A number of studies have shown that the combination of resistance bands and free weights produce greater gains in terms of power, strength and muscle gain than workouts that use either bands or free weights alone. In fact, one study showed that participants who combined bands with free weight training were able to gain twice as much strength on the bench press, three times as much strength on the squat and double their gains in muscle mass. 

How to Combine Bands with Free Weights

Most sets of resistance bands come with  a pair of ankle cuffs designed to allow you to attach bands to your lower body. These cuffs are also great for attaching the bands to a barbell. 

Band Bench Press



Load up an Olympic bar on a bench press platform with 20% less than the weight that you would normally use for 8-12 reps. Then place the resistance band cuffs on each end of the bar just past the last weight plate. Now attach the band to one of the cuffs. Then run the band underneath the bench and up to the other side of the bar. Attach it to the cuff on that side. Check that the resistance on both sides of the band is equal.

Now lie on the bench and prepare to do your set. Lower the bar in a slow and controlled manner. Then, from the bottom position, explode back up to the start position position.

Band Squat



To set up for band squats, put the cuffs on the ends of the barbell the same as you did for the bench press. This time, however, you will use two resistance bands, one on each side of the bar. Attach one end of the band to the squat bar just outside the last plate. Then run the band under the bottom of the squat rack. Now run the other end of the band back to the cuff and attach it. Repeat this process on the other side of the bar. Again, check that there is even resistance on both sides of the bands. 

Now get under the bar and perform your set of squats. Again, focus on a slow controlled descent and an explosive ascent. 

Band Deadlift















To set up for the deadlift, load your bar and then put the ankle cuffs around the ends of the barbell. Now attach one end of the band to one side and run it along the floor to the other end to connect it to the other end of the bar. When you stand in front of the bar, put your feet on the bands with quite a wide stance. You want to be standing in the middle of the band so that it is evenly balanced on both sides. Then continue to perform the deadlift as you normally would. 

Band Shoulder Press










Perform your barbell shoulder press with bands in a power rack. The set up is similar to that for the band squat, with one band per side. This move takes a bit of getting used to due to the extra resistance that it provides. You should lighten the free weight resistance that you are using until you get comfortable with the movement. 

Band Barbell Curls





You will need to be in a power rack in order to perform band barbell curls. However, you will not be using the cuffs but will instead wrap the band directly around the bar. The reason for this change is that in the bottom portion of the curl there would be too much slack if you were using the cuffs. 

Wrap separate bands arounds each side of the barbell, running them through the bottom of the power rack. Using bands for barbell curls is particularly effective. This is because the increased tension from bands as you progress through the curl kicks in just as the biceps get activated. 

The Workout

When you perform your working sets with the resistance band - free weight combination, you should lower the weight on the bar by 20%. The extra 20% will be made up by the resistance bands. On succeeding sets use a heavier band.

Here is how you should structure your workout . . .

  • Band Squat - 4 x 15 / 12 / 10 / 10
  • Band Deadlift - 4 x 15 / 12 / 10 / 8
  • Band Bench Press - 4 x 15 / 12 / 10 / 10
  • Band Shoulder Press - 3 x 15 / 12 / 10 / 10
  • Band Barbell Curls - 3 x 15 / 12 / 10 / 10

Jettison Training

Another effective way of combining free weights and resistance bands to increase the intensity and time under tension of an exercise is to perform what are called Jettison sets. These are a form of drop set that allows you to keep going after you reach momentary muscle failure. 

Let’s use the example of the Band barbell curl to show how Jettison training works. You will need a training partner to do Jettison sets most effectively.

Set up your barbell curls with bands as described above. Remember to reduce the weight on the bar by 20% in order to compensate for the band resistance. Now start curling. Do not think about completing a certain number of reps. Instead, keep going until you reach muscular failure. This is the point whether you can no longer perform a rep with good form. 

At this point have your training partner detach the bands from the bar. This will drop 20% off the resistance, allowing you to pump out a further 6-8 reps. When you again reach the point of muscular failure, drop the bar and grab the bands. Finish off by repping out until you can’t do any more repetitions without cheating. 


Taking your resistance bands with you to the gym will provide you with the tools you need to maximize your workout gains. Give this workout a try and find out for yourself just how effective the band-free weight combination can be.. 

Once you’ve given this workout a try, we’d love to hear your feedback. Comment below to share your experience. Be sure to keep checking our Facebook page for future videos, articles and training programs.

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