If you’re looking to get more toned but feel a little bit intimidated by strength training, resistance bands could be the tool to unlock sculpted arms, legs, glutes, and abs. This muscle-building band is a low-impact way to strengthen muscles in every area of the body by using oppositional force to work your muscles. The greater the resistance, the more your muscles will work. The result? Strong, visibly toned muscles.
Like body weight exercises, resistance band exercises can be performed practically anywhere, including hotels, outdoor parks, gyms, and even at home. You can loop this portable, versatile tool around a bed post, tree, or squat rack and create an instant way to level up your fitness routine. And, according to fitness experts, it’s well worth it to add resistance bands to your workouts (don't forget to check out our favorite resistance band exercises for legs too!)
Why resistance bands work
When you use a resistance band, it stretches to create tension, and your muscles have to overcome this oppositional force. In doing so, your muscles work harder, resulting stronger, more defined muscles, says Nicole Glor, fitness instructor and creator of NikkiFitness YouTube Channel. “You can add them to weighted bars to increase the resistance, and they help you improve range of motion when weights stop working because of gravity.”
They can also be your gym buddy when you want to go deeper into an exercise or stretch. “When stretching, resistance bands can take the place of another person to extend your reach and provide pressure,” Glor says. “They also require more core activation for most moves.”
Resistance bands are also a safe way to fight osteoporosis and increase bone density. “There's less force on the joints, so if you are recovering from an injury or have joint pain, these can be your best friends,” Glor says. This makes them great for beginners. “Resistance bands are versatile and can be used for many muscle groups while being easy on the joints. Everyone from beginners to body builders can use them effectively.”
Reps: 20 reps for 3 total sets
Anchor the middle of your band around a set point such as a railing and grab the handles with both hands. Step back far enough for the band to be tight when arms are extended straight. Pull the elbows back to your ribcage to complete one row. Return to start and repeat 20 times and 3 sets. You can make it harder by adding a squat when you straighten the arms and stand when you pull the band back. This works the upper back muscles and helps with posture.
Reps: 10-20 reps for 3 sets in total
Anchor the middle of your band to a set point, such as a railing. Grab the handles with your hands and turn so that your back is facing the anchor point. Slightly bend your legs and stand with your feet shoulders width apart. Bring your elbows up to just above ear level and bend your arms overhead with hands behind you, holding the ends of the band. Walk away from the anchor point so that in this position the band is tight. Straighten your arms overhead and slightly in front of you so that you feel your triceps working and the band resists. Return to start and repeat 10-20 times for 3 sets. Walk further away from the anchor point to make it more difficult. If balance is challenging, stand with one foot in front and one behind.
Reps: 20 reps for 3 sets in total
Anchor the band under one foot and hold the handles in each hand with your palms facing upwards. Stand with your knees slightly bent and feet shoulders width apart. Start with your hands holding the ends of the band at hip level with your arms extended to the ground. Bend your elbows to lift the ends of the band up to shoulder level, keeping elbows close by the ribs. Return to start Repeat 20 reps for 3 sets. You can make it more challenging by wrapping more of the ends around your hands or putting the anchor point under both feet.
Reps: 10 reps on each side for 3 total sets
Anchor the middle of the band under the right foot and stand with your feet shoulders width apart. Hold the handles in each hand and bend your elbows to put the hands at shoulder level with palms facing forward. Step left leg back and lift your arms overhead pressing the bands upwards with resistance. Lower the bands back to shoulder level and return to stand for one rep. Do 10 reps and then switch sides fort 3 sets in total. This works the shoulders and glutes.
Reps: 30 reps for 3 sets in total
Lay down on the floor, face up, with a long resistance band anchored under the middle of your back. Take the handles in each hand. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees with your knuckles up facing the sky. Press your hands to the sky by extending the arms straight over your chest and press your hips to the sky into a bridge. Lower to start position for one rep. Do 30 reps and 3 total sets. This works the chest, biceps, glutes, and quads.
Reps: alternate each side for one minute
Take a small, flat, closed loop resistance band and wrap it around your legs in between your knees and ankles until tight. Step to the right so the bad is really tight and squat half way down. Continue to step right and hold the squat (don’t stand all the way up in between steps) across the room as far as you can go, then repeat the same number of steps to the left back to start. It you are in a small space, just step once or twice to the left then the same number back to the right. Continue right and left for a total of one minute.
Reps: 20 on each side for a total of 3 sets
Keeping the band around your thighs, lay on your left hip and forearm. Stack your feet together and keep them glued while you lift the top (right) knee upwards. Lower knee for one rep. Perform 20 reps on each side and 3 sets. This works the outer thighs.
Reps: 10 to 20 reps for 3 total sets
Keeping a small, closed loop band around your shins, stand on your with your right foot and turn your left foot out 45 degrees so that both feet together make the letter “T.” The left heel should touch the arch of your right foot if you loosened the band. Start with feet wide enough so the band doesn’t slide down, and then kick the left leg back until you can’t go any further. Return to start for 10-20 reps. So the same number in the other side and perform 3 sets.
Reps: 20 reps for a total of 3 sets
Next we give the legs a rest and go back to arms, chest and back with the long resistance band. Stand up with your feet shoulders width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold each end of the resistance band and wrap the middle behind your middle back. Wrap your hands around the ends of the band so that there is no slack when you lift your elbows to shoulder height and bend them to 90 degrees with knuckles pointing straight ahead. Extend your arms straight in front of you so that you feel heavy resistance from the band. Return to start for one rep. Do 20 reps for 3 sets. Make it harder by marching in place or squatting when your arms return to start position.
Reps: 20 reps for a set of 3
Sit on a yoga mat with both feet extended in front of you. Anchor the middle of the band around your flexed feet at arch level so it doesn’t slide up. Hold the handles of the resistance band or wrap them around your hands until there is no slack when your arms are extended. Pull your elbows and hands back to ribcage so that the resistance is tight and you feel your upper back engaged. Squeeze the shoulder blades towards each other and keep the shoulders down and away from the ears. Extend your arms straight out for one rep. Do 20 reps for 3 total sets. This works the upper back and is good for the posture to avoid rounded shoulders.
Resistance bands come in many forms and are used for various types of workouts, including physical therapy, pre-workout mobility warmups, strengthening muscles, speed and agility drills, and stretching. There are a few different types of resistance bands you can choose from, depending on your goals. Some look like a long, round tube with handles at each end, while others that take the shape of a shorter closed loop. Resistance bands that are longer with handles can be used for more upper body and full body workouts, whereas the shorter closed loop resistance band is best for legs, glutes, and lower body, Glor says.
Resistance bands are inexpensive compared to machines and require little storage space, making them a great option to have on standby. Glor recommends incorporating resistance band exercises 2-3 times a week in conjunction with weights and different forms of cardio, like walking or swimming.