James Grage bands workout

BPI Sports co-founder, James Grage uses bands workouts to stay fit wherever he goes. Join him as he shows you why there’s never a good excuse to skip a workout when you have bands and a couple of good places to hang them. Watch the videos and follow along as James takes you through the paces of a total body workout using only resistance bands.

Note that James uses his signature 20-10-10-15 rep structures, training the same way he would train in the gym with weights, only with bands.

BANDS WORKOUTS TIPS:

  1. Shorten the band for more tension.
  2. Lengthen it for lighter resistance.
  3. Results come from those moments when you’re really uncomfortable, then having the ability to push yourself past that.

JAMES GRAGE’S SIGNATURE SET STRUCTURE:

  • Set One: 20 reps – First, use a comfortable resistance that allows you to perform 20 reps with perfect form.
  • Set Two: 10 Reps – Then, increase the resistance. You should be struggling to get the 10th
  • Set Three: 10 reps – Maintain the resistance.
  • Set Four: 15 reps – Finally, return to the original resistance. This is the sprint. Use good form and make sure you get that extra squeeze at peak contraction. Do this explosively.

BANDS WORKOUTS FOR ABS

Standing Tension Band Crunch
Focus on getting that flexion in your spine. Doing these with your back straight is not going to get that optimal contraction in your abs. Think about curling forward versus coming straight forward.

Seated Reverse Crunch
You want to get that nice curl in your spine. You’ve got to round your back. Hold onto the backrest and lift your butt up and crunch up. Make sure when you’re lowering yourself down, you stop short from touching the backrest. I’m never resting, so I have constant tension.

Medicine Ball Pull Down Crunch
I want to start with my arms behind me.  I like bands for all exercises, all body parts, but for abs especially. There’s no substitute. It just gives you so much flexibility because I get that resistance in a horizontal plane. I can grab from behind me all the way forward to really get that peak contraction.

BANDS WORKOUTS FOR SHOULDERS

Standing Tension Band Shoulder Press
At first, just focus on getting that nice extra squeeze at the top. Then, think about all three of your contractions from the concentric, the isometric and the eccentric. Just maximizing all three. Pause at the top for a second to get the maximum squeeze.

Standing Band Rear Delt Reverse Fly
You want to focus on keeping your scapula stationary. It’s all in the arms. Focus on going out to the sides as opposed to squeezing backwards.

Side (Lateral) Raises
You’re going to feel a little more on your anterior delt. If you want to change it, you can play with different grips. When doing a side raise, depending on where you’re gripping, it’s going to make a difference.

Upright Rows
When I do upright rows, I know a lot of people like going really narrow, I don’t like that feeling. I feel like I get impingement. I like to go a little more natural. It’s important to get that mini isometric pause at the top.

BANDS WORKOUTS FOR BACK

Band Pull Downs
Anchor the bands above your head. Just like a lat pull down, we want to focus on our elbows. Squeezing our elbows down towards our sides.

Low Row with Bands
I’m focusing on not pulling my hands down. I’m thinking about pulling my elbows down and close to my body. Even though it looks very linear, like a straight line, in my mind I’m picturing more like a half circle. We’re going to superset this with a row.

Dumbbell Row Mimic with Bands
We want to mimic a low row where our elbows are coming backward. I’m going to find a place where I can anchor the band at about waist height.  I’m focusing on keeping my elbows close to my sides. I’m not letting my elbows flare out. I’m keeping them tight to my sides and pulling them back. I’m focusing on really pulling my shoulder blades back together. I want to feel that nice contraction there.

High Row
The previous row we went low and we kept our elbows tight to our body. Now, we’re coming higher, just to the top of our chest, and we’re letting our elbows flare outward.

Single Arm Band “Dumbbell” Row
We’re going to mimic a dumbbell row. I’m going to mimic that same angle by stepping back and leaning forward. I’ll rest my hand on my knee and we’re going to pull back. We’re going to find that right balance. We’re going for 20 reps here. We want it to be a challenge at 15, so I’ll even adjust in the middle of my set if I have to. If I get to ten and feel it’s too easy, then I’ll go ahead and adjust my stance. When doing dumbbell rows, imagine putting that dumbbell in your back pocket.

Push Downs
This mimics a push down, so it’s the exact same movement that you do if you were to go into a gym and use a cable machine. The only difference is that little squeeze at the very end. I feel a little bit more tension with the bands than I do with the cable machine once I get to about that point.

BANDS WORKOUTS FOR BICEPS/TRICEPS

Triceps Push Downs
Even though it looks like a kickback, this is more like a regular triceps push down because I’m leaning forward. If I were in the gym, this would be me just going to the cable machine and from the high pulley, doing a triceps push down.

Standing Curl
We’re going to do what would be the equivalent of a standing bar curl. Anchor the band down below.  I see it as more of an easy curl because of the way your hands are positioned. They’re not flat down. You kind of have that easy curl grip going on. The advantage of an EZ curl bar is it puts your hands in a more neutral position, which I like. It’s easier on my wrists and my elbows. This is more of a neutral position and whenever I can take a neutral grip on something, I prefer to because it puts less stress on your joints.

Bands Preacher Curl
Bands should be anchored at elbow height. I just want a straight pull. It’s easy for me to just grab the loops because I’m not trying to angle my hands at all.

Overhead Extension
I could do this anywhere. I could find a tree, a light post, it wouldn’t matter. This is an overhead triceps extension. You’ve got three heads to the triceps and so this is putting one of those in a stretched position when you raise your arm over your head and when you stretch a muscle just slightly you’re putting a little more tension on it.

Iso-lateral (Single Arm) Curls
I’m going to anchor the band right at elbow height. Stepping away just to get that elbow behind my body and then as I curl up, you see that rotation in my hand so that pinky comes up and the thumb goes outward.

 

BANDS WORKOUTS FOR CHEST

Push-ups/Decline Push-ups/Flat Push-ups with and Without Bands
I started with the push-ups and went ahead and cranked out about thirty of them. With push-ups, you can change your incline or decline to focus on upper or lower chest. Use bands to increase the resistance.

Single Arm Incline Press
Anchor the band in an overhead position.  Do a single arm press in an inclined position in a superset combination focusing on upper chest.

Band Cable Fly (positioned low)
I’m turning my body more parallel to the band because what I’m looking for in this one is range of motion. The more you can pull your arm across your body the more you can fully contract that muscle

BANDS WORKOUTS FOR LEGS

Squat
For an overhead squat, we’re going to press the band straight over our head. Make sure you have a wide enough stance and you keep your butt down and your chin up through the motion. Squat down and then explode straight back up.

Deadlifts with Bands
I want to make sure I have a wide enough stance to where the band is already taut at the bottom. We’re going to drop our butt down and keep our chin up, just like in a good squat form. Keep a nice straight back, then we’re going to pull up and deadlift. Using traditional free weights, I’m going to be weakest at the bottom and strongest at the top. Because I’m using bands, I’ve got less resistance at the bottom where I’m weaker and as I stretch those bands they get harder. As I reach a stronger position, that progressive resistance with the band more closely matches my natural strength curve.

Stiff-legged Deadlift with Bands
We want to keep our back straight the entire time. That’s going to determine how far I go. That’s our range of motion and then I want to make sure that I stretch the band enough to where I’ve got tension all the way through that range of motion back up. I want you to squeeze your butt cheeks. Flex your butt as you come to the top and almost squeeze back just a hair. Straight legs down, straight back up and squeeze. I still want to control it on the eccentric, or the negative. Because we’re bending forward, we don’t want to put any unnecessary stress on our lower back. Finally, I like to control the rep speed on the way down and be more explosive on the way up.

Single Leg Squat/Lunge
This is in-between a single leg squat and a lunge. This puts a ton of emphasis on the hamstrings. I’m going to get into lunge position. Make sure you get a full extension in your leg and squeeze your glutes.  Instead of pushing straight up, we’re pushing backwards. You don’t just want to make sure you extend your leg, you want to extend the hip and squeeze your glutes.

For more of James’ workouts, check out: Advanced Training Techniques: Targeting the Short and Long Head of the Biceps.

All readers are advised to consult their physician before beginning any exercise and nutrition program. BPI Sports and the contributors do not accept any responsibility for injury sustained as a result of following the advice or suggestions contained within the content.