Most people would never think to use resistance bands for push ups.
The push up, surely, is the perfect exercise on its own – a superbly functional calisthenics movement you can do anytime, anywhere without the need for any equipment.
Any you’d be right to think that. Push ups are an incredible upper body strength exercise. They will build your chest muscles, shoulders and triceps, but also involve many of your core abdominal muscles.
So why use resistance bands for push ups?
Despite the undeniable awesomeness of push ups, they do have a limitation. If you want to build a bigger chest and get as strong as possible, push ups simply won’t cut it.
Beginners new to strength training may only be able to push out 10 reps, or less. If that’s you, forget about resistance bands, just keep up the good work and focus on upping your reps.
But for anyone who does a lot of strength training, push ups quickly become easy. Most gym heads can easily smash out 20 reps, perhaps even 40 or 50. Navy Seals can do well over a hundred in one go. The world record is 10,507, although I find that a little suspicious.
The point is that doing dozens of reps of any exercise may be great for burning calories and increasing endurance, but it won’t get you jacked.
What kind of resistance bands can you use for push ups?
For doing push ups you need to be able to sling the band around your back and loop it securely around your hands.
208cm resistance loops are ideal for push ups because they’re exactly the right length, they stay in place on your back and they’re easy to hold onto.
They also come in a wide range of resistance levels. Use the red band if you just want to add a little weight to your push ups. If you’re seriously strong, try the blue band. But be warned – it’s a killer.
For your reference, I weigh 80kg (176lb) and I usually bench press around 85kg (187lb) for 5-8 reps. So for push ups I use the green band and this decreases the number of reps I can do to around 10 (without the band I can do 50+).
How to use resistance bands to build a bigger chest with push ups
Hold the band at both ends of the loop and sling it around your back. Keeping the band in place, get into a press up position. At first, you might find that the band slips out of place – but with practice you’ll be able to keep it in place. Now you’re ready to do resisted push ups.
One arm push ups
Doing push ups with one arm is incredibly difficult, but it’s a goal worth aiming for.
For one arm push ups you can use resistance bands, not to make them harder (they’re hard enough as it is), but to decrease the weight load and make the movement easier.
For this exercise, simply attach the band at a high point and loop it around your body while you do the exercise. Keep your elbow close to your body instead of letting it flare out. Start with a heavier band and gradually move to lighter bands until you’re doing it unassisted.
To find out about other bodyweight exercises you can modify with bands, check out my post on calisthenics resistance bands. And to see our full range of bands, click here.