5 Exercises with Resistance Bands To Try
Resistance bands—a simple, lightweight, and pliable piece of exercise equipment—can often be overlooked at the gym in favor of heavy dumbbells or high-tech machinery. But just because something is simple doesn’t mean that it won’t pack a wallop in your workout.
There are many benefits of resistance bands, no matter your fitness journey or goals. Resistance bands can specifically be a beneficial addition to any strength training regimen. Plus, they can be used by any skill level—from gym newbies to veteran deadlifters—to quickly build more strength in your upper body, glutes, hips, thighs, and calves.
If you’re new to working with resistance bands, or if you’re just looking for a refresher on how to bring something snappy into your strength-training regimen, we’ve got your back. This versatile addition to your gym kit may have you quickly swapping out the heavy machinery for something a bit more elastic.
What is a Resistance Band?
The basic principle of resistance bands is that the further you stretch them, the more your muscles have to work. Your muscles build strength as they fight against the band’s tension.
It’s a straightforward principle. But not all resistance bands will give you the same workout. Resistance bands come in a variety of tension levels and styles. Keep an eye out for the following variations:
Therapy bands – These flat pieces of elastic may be what you’re most familiar with. They generally have less resistance and are particularly helpful for improving stretches and mobility.
Tube bands with handles – These round bands can also be called “fit tube” resistance bands. Strength trainers tend to love them for upper body work, and you can use them as a replacement for dumbbells on moves like bicep curls or shoulder presses.
Figure 8 bands – These are similar to tube bands, but instead of handles, you’ll have soft grips. They also tend to be shorter than other types of resistance bands.
Ankle resistance bands – Ankle resistance bands are specially designed for lower body work. They come with velcro so you can wrap them around your ankles and add some resistance to your leg lifts and side steps.
Pull-up bands – If you’re training to perform push-ups or pull-ups, you’ll want these bands in your fitness toolkit. They help support your body while you’re learning how to pull yourself up over a bar. They tend to be longer than other bands and pack a heavier tension.
If you’re at your local gym, you’ll also notice that resistance bands come in a variety of colors. A general rule of thumb is that the darker the color of a resistance band, the more tension it has. When you’re first starting your resistance training, begin with lighter tension. Then you can work your way up as your muscles gain strength.
Upper Body Resistance Band Exercises Workout
One major benefit of resistance bands is that you can use them to exercise nearly every part of your body. When it comes to your upper half, there are a variety of effective exercises that can increase strength in your arms, shoulders, abs, and more.
Here are two resistance band exercises to add to your upper body routine.
#1 Lateral Lifts
Some people may also call this move the “lateral raise.” No matter what you call it, you’ll feel the tension mostly in your shoulders (or the lateral deltoid muscles). Your front deltoids and upper traps will also get a workout. To perform this resistance band exercise:
Start by stepping in the middle of your resistance band. You can use one foot or two to hold the band down. Grasp the ends of the band in either hand and begin with your arms down, next to your sides.
Slowly raise your arms until they are parallel to the floor.
Lower your arms until they’re by your sides again.
That’s one rep. Repeat 10 times.
#2 Chest Press
This is the perfect exercise for people who loathe push-ups but still want to work their chest and arms. The chest press is a fun move for targeting your biceps, triceps, and chest. You can do this either sitting or standing.
Begin with the resistance band behind your back. Hold one end of the resistance band in each hand.
Start with your elbows bent and your hands near your shoulders.
Straighten your elbow as you push your hands straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor.
Return your hands to your shoulders.
Your first rep is done. Repeat that 10 times.
Lower Body Exercises with Resistance Bands
If you’re ready to turn up the heat on classic lower body moves like the squat, all you need is a resistance band. Here’s how to get started on strength training your legs, hips, and glutes.
Everybody’s favorite hurt-so-good move gets raised to the next level with a resistance band. You’ll feel the burn in your glutes and quad muscles.
Place the resistance band around your legs and just above your knees. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Your feet should also be slightly turned out (about 5 to 10 degrees).
Lower yourself into a squat position, pushing your hips back. While you’re doing this, keep the resistance band taut by pushing your thighs out. Remember to keep your knees in line with your toes.
Stand back up and slightly release the band.
Repeat for 10 reps.
For a more challenging workout, increase the resistance level after each set.
It’s not too hard to guess how this exercise got its name. It’s especially effective for targeting your outer thighs, glutes, and hips. (And because you’re lying down, it can give the rest of your legs a rest in between other exercises.) To do this resistance band exercise:
Lie down on your right side with your hips and feet stacked on top of each other. Slip the resistance band up just above your knees.
Bend your knees at about a 90-degree angle, keeping your feet in line with your tailbone.
Keeping your feet in place, raise your top knee to the ceiling. Hold for one second, then lower your knee. (This should mimic the shape of a clamshell opening and closing.)
Repeat for 20 reps. Then roll over to your left side and repeat.
#5 Lateral Walk
This little step back and forth becomes a burn-inducing challenge once you add a resistance band. You’ll quickly strengthen your glutes and hips.
Step inside the resistance band and pull it up to your thighs.
Sink slowly into a half-squat.
Step to the right with your right foot, then bring your left foot one step over to meet it.
Step to the left with your left foot, then have your right foot follow.
That’s one rep. Repeat 20 times.
Tips for Proper Resistance Band Technique
Like most forms of exercise, you’ll see better results when you’re able to maintain proper form. But resistance bands are fairly easy to integrate into your workout routine. There are only a few pointers to bear in mind when using an exercise band:
Don’t work out with resistance bands that are torn.
If you’re tying a resistance band to a surface like a door, make sure that it is securely attached before beginning your exercise.
Keep the regular form that you’d use if you were exercising without a resistance band.
What Are the Benefits of Resistance Band Training?
Resistance bands are a popular choice among gym rats for good reason. Once you start using resistance bands, you may eventually find yourself swapping them in where you’d usually reach for weights.
“Resistance bands might not look like much, but they can strengthen your muscles as effectively as more traditional weights,” exercise physiologist Christopher Travers, MS, told the Cleveland Clinic.1 “In many ways, bands put more tension on your muscles and work them longer during movements.”
Some benefits of resistance training with a band include:
Better strength training – When you use a resistance band for your workouts, you’re triggering increased muscle activation. That translates to bigger strength gains.
Lower body fat – A 2022 study found that people who exercise with a resistance band report greater weight losses than when they work out with free weights or bodyweight exercises.2
Increased coordination – Working out with a resistance band effectively targets your small stabilizer muscles.
Less risk of injury – Because resistance bands work with the strength of your body, you’re much less likely to overexert yourself than you would be with free weights. Plus, you don’t have to worry about injuries from dropping heavy weights.
Adaptability – You can quickly change the intensity of your workout by shortening your band length or switching out the exercise band for one with higher or lower resistance level.
Portability – They’re lightweight and easy to use. You can keep one in your gym bag or suitcase, and it will barely take up any room.
Affordability – Most resistance bands cost less than $30 and last a lifetime.
Resistance bands can also be used for almost any workout. Bring them along as you hop on a squat machine, perform medicine ball workouts, or just for some light resistance training
Build Your Resistance Band Workout with Chuze Fitness
While we hope that you’re feeling more confident about working out with a resistance band after reading this, it’s perfectly normal to want some additional support. If you’re still thinking, “I don’t know where to start with resistance bands,” find your nearest Chuze Fitness location and kickstart an energizing and supportive training session with one of our experts.
Our knowledgeable and welcoming instructors will help you master resistance band technique, whether you’re on the gym floor or in one of our fitness classes. You can even join the action from your living room through an online iChuze class.
Our informative and caring team will work with you until you’ve fully mastered your resistance band technique. Your muscles will thank you later.
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
Cleveland Clinic. How Effective Are Resistance Bands for Strength Training? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/should-you-try-resistance-bands-for-strength-training/
Frontiers in Physiology. Effects of Different Resistance Exercise Forms on Body Composition and Muscle Strength in Overweight and/or Obese Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2021.791999/full
National Library of Medicine. Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6383082/
Verywell Fit. Choosing and Using Resistance Bands. https://www.verywellfit.com/choosing-and-using-resistance-bands-1229709
Women’s Health. 30 Resistance Band Exercises To Tone And Strengthen Your Entire Body. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/g29565103/best-resistance-band-exercises/