Build full-body muscle at home or in the gym in 2024 with our guide to the best resistance band exercises…
Resistance bands are often dismissed as little more than warm-up or rehab tools, but when you know how to use them properly, they quickly become valuable additions to your strength training arsenal. Before starting your new year fitness regime, it’s important to get clued up on the best resistance band exercises for every body part, so you can get the most out of your workouts.
“Resistance bands offer a flexible and affordable introduction to resistance training,” says coach David Birtwistle. “They can be excellent tools for developing strength if you don’t have a wealth of weights at your disposal.”
In the gym, you can add bands to weighted lifts like the bench press or deadlift to apply greater resistance throughout the movement. But if you’re working out from home, one decent set of bands is enough to get an effective full-body workout in.
Meet the expert: David Birtwistle is a highly motivated movement and nutrition consultant, Reflo ambassador and founder and head coach at Endeavour. His style of coaching empowers clients around the world to live a healthy and happy life.
Best resistance band exercises for upper body
- Resistance band deadlift
- Resistance band lateral raise
- Resistance band kneeling shoulder press
- Resistance band bent-over row
- Resistance band seated face pull
- Resistance band press-up
- Resistance band single-arm front raise
- Resistance band biceps curl
- Resistance band upright row
- Resistance band pull-apart
- Resistance band lying chest press
- Resistance band single-arm triceps extension
Keep reading for full exercise instructions, plus the best resistance band exercises for the lower body and core.
Target areas: Lower back, hamstrings
How to do a resistance band deadlift:
- Stand on the band with your feet close together.
- Grip the ends of the band.
- Take a deep breath and stand up straight.
- To initiate the movement, reach the hips back, tilting your tailbone up and keeping your lower back flat.
- Push your feet into the floor, drive your hips forward, and squeeze your glutes to transition back to standing.
Target areas: Delts
How to do a resistance band lateral raise:
- Stand tall and anchor one end of a long band under your foot.
- Grab the other end with your opposite hand.
- Brace your core and raise the band out to the side, taking it to shoulder height.
- Lower with control, but don’t let the band pass the line of your hips to maintain muscle tension.
Target areas: Shoulders, core
How to do a kneeling shoulder press:
- Take a shoulder-width grip of the band.
- Hold tight with the band in contact with the heels of your hands.
- Throughout the exercise, your elbows should be directly under your hands.
- Press the band overhead and lock your elbows.
- Pull the band back down, keeping your elbows tucked in.
Target areas: Back, biceps
How to do a bent-over row:
- Stand in the middle of a long band.
- Hinge at the hips to bend over and hold onto both ends.
- Row each end to your hips.
- Squeeze your lats at the top of the movement, then lower with control.
Target areas: Upper back
How to do a seated face pull:
- You’ll need an anchor point again for this one.
- Loop the band around it and take a seat a foot or two away.
- Grab hold of both ends of the band and pull it towards your head, keeping a straight back and strong core.
- As you pull, flare your elbows out to the sides – you should feel this move in your lats.
Target areas: Chest, core, shoulders
How to do a resistance band press-up:
- From a kneeling position, grab your resistance band and bring it around your upper back.
- Loop each end around your palms, then get into a press-up position.
- Press the heels of your hands into the floor and brace your abs.
- Descend into a press-up, then explosively drive back up.
Target areas: Delts
How to do a single-arm front raise:
- Loop one end of a long band under your foot.
- Stand tall and hold onto the other end with the hand on the same side.
- Brace your core and, with a straight arm, raise the band in front of you until it reaches shoulder height.
- Lower with control.
Target areas: Biceps, core
How to do a resistance band biceps curl:
- Loop the band under your feet.
- Grip the other end of the band with hands at shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the band with arms extended.
- Curl the band up to chest height, squeezing your biceps at the top.
- Lower with control.
Target areas: Shoulders, core
How to do a resistance band upright row:
- Stand tall, with the middle of a long band positioned under your feet.
- Hold onto the free side of the band, with hands shoulder-width apart.
- Raise the band to around neck height, by leading with your elbows and bringing them as high as you can.
- Lower and repeat.
Target areas: Upper back
How to do a resistance band pull-apart:
- Stand holding a band with hands shoulder-width apart.
- Raise the band to shoulder height, with arms extended.
- Pull the band horizontally across your chest.
- Pull as far as you can, feeling the squeeze in your upper back.
- Pause for a second in the pulled position, with retracted shoulder blades, then return to arms out front.
Target areas: Chest
How to do a lying chest press:
- From sitting, bring the band around your upper back and hold onto each end.
- Lie down with knees bent.
- Initiate the movement by pressing the band directly over your chest – feeling the squeeze in your pecs.
- Pause for a second at the top of the movement, then lower until your triceps lightly touch the floor.
Target areas: Triceps
How to do single-arm triceps extensions:
- From standing, loop one end of a long band around your foot.
- Squat down to grab the other end and bring it to shoulder height.
- Bring it around your head, so you’re holding it with a bent elbow behind your head at around shoulder height.
- Press the band directly overhead, keeping your elbow fixed in one place.
Best resistance band exercises for lower body
- Resistance band front squat
- Resistance band lateral step-out squat
- Resistance band single-leg deadlift
- Resistance band split squat
Keep reading for full exercise instructions, plus the best resistance band exercises for the core.
Target areas: Quads, glutes, core
How to do a resistance band front squat:
- Loop one end of the band around the base of your feet.
- Cross your hip crease with the middle of the band.
- Loop the other end over your shoulders.
- Squat down with control, keeping core braced and shoulders retracted.
- Drive through your heels, raise and tuck your hips.
Target areas: Quads, glutes
How to do a lateral step-out squat:
- Start by looping a short band around both knees.
- Squat until your quads are parallel to the floor, keeping your chest up and back straight.
- Maintaining this squat, step out to the side so the band tightens.
- Step back to the middle and repeat to the other side.
Target areas: Hamstrings, core, balance, proprioception
How to do a single-leg deadlift:
- Stand on one end of a resistance band and grab the other with the opposite hand.
- Hover your free foot off the floor and keep a very slight bend in your front knee.
- Hinge at the hips and raise your free foot behind you, lowering the band until your torso is parallel to the floor.
- Return to standing.
Target areas: Glutes, hamstrings, quads
How to do a resistance band split squat:
- Loop one end of a long band around your front foot and the other around your upper back.
- Step your free foot back and raise your heel off the floor.
- With your weight slightly over your front leg, bend both knees to 90 degrees.
- Drive through your front heel to return to standing.
Best resistance band core exercises
Keep reading for full exercise instructions.
Target areas: Core, shoulders
How to do a side plank high pull:
- Assume a high side plank position: feet stacked, bottom arm extended, torso in a straight line from shoulders to hips.
- Position one end of a band under your planted hand and hold onto the other end with your free hand.
- The starting position is with top elbow bent, band loose.
- Initiate the movement by raising your elbow and pulling the band tight.
- Pull as far as possible, while maintaining your form in the high side plank position.
Target areas: Core, lats
How to do a resistance band plank row:
- You’ll need an anchor point for this one – either a pole or willing training partner.
- Loop one end of the band around the anchor point.
- Get into a high plank/press-up position, a couple of feet away from the anchor.
- Maintaining the high plank, reach one hand out and grab the end of the band.
- Keep your core braced as you pull the band towards your hip.
- Release and repeat.
- Do all reps on one side, then switch.
Target areas: Core
How to do a resistance band Russian twist:
- Loop the band around a fixed anchor point.
- Grab the end of the band and bring it over your head, holding it at chest height.
- Lean back slightly and twist your torso to one side with control, then the other.
- You can also make it harder by lifting your feet off the floor slightly.
Benefits of training with resistance bands
Resistance bands are one of the most versatile bits of kit you can have in your gym bag, ideal for warming up, stretching and building muscle. You can even use more heavy duty resistance bands for everything from assisted pull-ups to increasing tension in a bench press.
Another big benefit of training with resistance bands is that you are in control of the level of resistance, depending on how hard or far you stretch them. Also, unlike free weights, which vary in tension at different points of a lift, pull or push because of gravity, a resistance band provides a set, consistent amount of tension throughout the exercise.
Lastly, a huge perk of resistance bands is that they are super lightweight and portable. Unlike other strength training equipment, like dumbbells and weight plates – which are a workout in themselves to transport – resistance bands can be added to your gym bag without adding any extra weight, making them ideal for working out on-the-go or while traveling.
Can you build muscle with resistance bands?
There’s a common misconception that resistance bands are only suitable for stretching. While bands are a handy tool for improving mobility, they are also effective strength training companions, suitable for everything from light muscle activation in a warm up to super-strengthening training sessions.
A scientific review published in 2019 found that elastic resistance training was able to promote the same strength gains as conventional resistance training. While research from 2012 concluded that a progressive resistance training plan could boost skeletal muscle mass, muscle strength and reduce body fat.
How to exercise with resistance bands
If you’re a complete beginner when it comes to exercising with resistance bands, there are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind. Educator, strength coach and mobility specialist Jack Hanrahan has been coaching clients in strength training, cardio and mobility for 15 years. Here, he shares his top tips for resistance band training success:
- Start light – Find the appropriate band; start with a lighter resistance band and only progress when you can perform the exercise through a full range of motion.
- Slow down – Perform at a slow controlled tempo so the band isn’t jerking you around and it doesn’t whip you back.
- Stay secure – Anchor the band to something secure, like a fixed park bench or thin tree – not a curtain rail.
- Grip strong – Use a strong grip and anchor the band under the middle of your foot.
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