Resistance Band Workouts

Stretch your fitness goals with this full-body workout.

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Two people exercising with resistance bands around their thighs.

Is a home gym not in your budget? Don’t sweat it. Use low-cost, highly versatile resistance bands instead. From resistance bands you can get most of the same benefits you’d get from doing other types of resistance training you’d do at the gym—strength training, suspension training, bodyweight training, says Jacque Crockford, who has a doctorate in health science and exercise leadership and is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

The bands offer a different method of creating resistance, she says, and resistance creates exercise stress (or exertion) on the body, which is just what you want. And unlike dumbbells or barbells, these bands are lightweight and low cost, so they’re easy to take anywhere. Another benefit? The bands offer different levels of resistance within the same exercise. As you move through the exercise and stretch the band, the resistance increases—and with it, the difficulty of the exercise.

This makes resistance bands a good option for people of varying physical ability levels, varying experience levels and varying end goals, says Crockford. “Resistance bands offer not only a great way to progress in training, but they are also a really great, safe starting point for people who are learning how to move or maybe relearning how to move,” she adds.  

 

Before you work out

Before beginning any training plan, check in with your doctor or a certified training professional. As with any type of exercise equipment, it’s important to use the resistance bands correctly. Follow manufacturer guidelines, especially when it comes to attaching the band to your body and to anchor points. Also make sure to give the band a once-over before using it, looking for tears, rips or fraying.

To select the right resistance band for your goals and current fitness level, start with the lowest (lightest) resistance and complete 10 repetitions of the following exercises. If 10 reps feel easy, either increase the range of motion of the movement or move up to a higher resistance band until you feel challenged when completing the suggested reps.

For each of the following exercises, begin with one set of 10 repetitions and build your way up to two to three sets of 20 repetitions. Make sure to do the same number of repetitions on each side where applicable.

 

Arm Reaches

person holding resistance bands and lifting in air in front of their face

Works your upper arms and upper back

Equipment: One small resistance band

  1. Stand tall with your back straight, feet shoulder-width apart. Wrap the resistance band around both wrists. With your upper arms close to your sides, bend your lower arms 90 degrees from the elbows until they project out in front of you, palms facing up, still shoulder-width apart. The band should be taut so that you feel your shoulders engage.
  2. Maintaining the resistance of the band and the 90-degree angle in your arms, slowly raise your arms until your palms are at eye level. Pause for two seconds.
  3. With the band still taut, slowly extend your arms at the elbow, bringing your hands up above your head, but still slightly in front of your body. Pause for two seconds.
  4. Slowly return your arms to the position in Step 2.
  5. Slowly return your arms to the position in Step 3 to complete one repetition.

 

Donkey Kicks

person on the ground with resistance band around thighs with one leg in air


Works your crucial backside muscles—your hamstrings and gluteals 

Equipment: One small or medium resistance band

  1. Wrap the resistance band around your upper legs, just above the knee. Get down on the floor on all fours. Keep your back flat, your legs hip-width apart and your arms shoulder-width apart. Your toes should be flexed and touching the floor, bracing your body.
  2. Lift your right leg up off the floor slightly so that all of your weight is distributed on your two hands and left foot.
  3. With your right knee still bent in a 90-degree angle, slowly drive your heel upward as far as the band will allow or until your upper leg makes a straight line with your back and the bottom of your foot faces the ceiling. Only drive your leg as high as you can keep your back flat and your body quiet.
  4. Slowly return your right leg to the position in Step 2 to complete the first repetition.

 

Monster Walks

person with resistance band around thighs in semi-squat

Works your inner thighs, outer thighs and gluteals

Equipment: One medium resistance band

  1. Wrap the medium resistance band around your upper legs, just above the knee. Stand with your back straight but angled slightly forward from your hips. Position your legs shoulder-width apart to put some resistance on the band. Bend your legs to create a 45-degree angle in your knees. Hold arms at your side, elbows bent in a way that feels comfortable.
  2. Step/march to the right, leading with the knee (not reaching with the foot) as far as the band will allow (about 4 to 6 inches). Return your foot to the ground so that your feet are now slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and the band is at maximum tension.
  3. Bring your left leg up, over to the right and down so that your feet are again shoulder-width apart and the tension in the band releases. This completes one repetition.

 

Bear Crawl

person with resistance band around thighs and hands doing a bear-like crawl

 

Works your upper back, abdominals, upper legs and upper arms

Equipment: Two resistance bands, one small and one medium

  1. Wrap the medium resistance band around your upper legs, just above the knee. Wrap the small resistance band around your wrists. Get down on the floor on all fours. Keep your back flat, your legs hip-width apart and your arms shoulder-width apart. Your toes should be flexed and touching the floor, bracing your body.
  2. Rise 2 to 4 inches from the floor so that your weight is on your toes and hands. Your knees should no longer be touching the floor.
  3. With your left foot, step to your left as far as the band will allow (about 6 to 12 inches). At about the same time, move your right hand to the left. Then, one at a time and in control, do the same with the opposite foot and hand. The goal is to feel tension and release on the bands as you perform your bearlike shuffle. Repeat with a second step to the left.
  4. You’re now going to bear crawl in a box pattern: While still raised off of the floor, walk your hands and feet forward 2 times.
  5. Next, walk your hands and feet to the right 2 times.
  6. Finally, walk your hands and feet backward 2 times to complete the square and the first repetition.

 

Article written by Courtney Holden. Courtney moved to Boulder, Colorado, to pursue her dream of hiking, biking, skiing and writing about it. So far, things are working out. In the past four years, she’s transitioned from 100-mile days on her road bike to backpacking with a stuffed rabbit, toy truck and toddler in tow. Her husband comes, too. She confesses to preferring Diet Coke to craft beer. REI Co-op Member since 2011.