How to Do Push-Ups Using Resistance Bands

Adding resistance to the classic body weight exercise, the push-up, seems almost impossible. You could put a weight plate or dumbbell on your back, but that's rather unwieldy and doesn't distribute the weight evenly.

In comes the resistance band. This strip of latex stretches and contracts like a rubber band to make your push-up efforts harder each time you rise back up to the top position. The easiest part of a push-up -- the last few inches when you return to a high plank -- becomes as hard as the lowest portion, during which you hover just above the floor. You'll emphasize the eccentric, or muscle-building, phase of the exercise when you add the band; a stronger chest is achieved by challenging your muscles throughout the entire range of motion.

The band also introduces instability to the push-up, which causes your muscles to respond differently than they might without the band.

How to Do a Resistance Band Push-Up

Use a tube-like band with handles or a strip of resistance band without handles to perform the resisted push-up.

  1. Wrap the band behind your upper back and hold a handle or end in each hand. If the band is too long, choke up until it's taut.

  2. Get into a push-up position, keeping the band in position -- at the top of the push-up position, you should feel no slack. Place your hands a little wider than your shoulders as they pin the band down. Brace your abdominal muscles.

  3. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and and rise back up to perform the push-up. You'll feel the most effects of the band as you return to the top position. Work up to three sets of 12 repetitions.

    Do it right: As with any good push-up, prevent your hips from hiking up or sagging downward. Keep your entire body straight as a board as you press up and down.

Increase the Intensity

  • Resistance bands come in multiple levels of tension. They're usually color-coded, but which level each color indicates varies by brand. Start with the lightest intensity and work your way up. When you can easily perform three sets of 12 with a particular level, it's time to go up.

  • Effectiveness

  • The resistance band push-up can be as effective as a bench press in terms of building chest muscle, showed a 2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Using electromyography, researchers had participants perform either the bench press or resistance band push-up with the same load for a six-repetition max. After five weeks of training, both the resistance band push-up group and the bench press group made similar gains in strength when compared to a control group.

  • About the Author

    Andrea Cespedes has been in the fitness industry for more than 20 years. A personal trainer, run coach, group fitness instructor and master yoga teacher, she also holds certifications in holistic and fitness nutrition.