Rock out with the band! Resistance bands are a great addition to any strength training routine or rehabilitation program and come in a variety of sizes, lengths, and strengths. The influence of resistance bands on frontal plane knee mechanics during body-weight squat and vertical jump movements. Gooyers CE, Beach TA, Frost DM. Sports biomechanics, 2012, Nov.;11(3):1476-3141.
Progressive hip rehabilitation: the effects of resistance band placement on gluteal activation during two common exercises. Cambridge ED, Sidorkewicz N, Ikeda DM. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 2012, Mar.;27(7):1879-1271. This portable exercise equipment is also easily stored, making it perfect for home use, hotel workouts, or when you’re tight on space at the gym. Just like free weights, exercise bands come in a range of resistance levels, from highly stretchable to heavy-duty strength.
The most common types of bands include tube bands with handles, loop bands (aka giant rubber bands), and therapy bands. (When in doubt, a fitness professional can help determine which band is right for you, depending on your fitness level and specific workout plan). For most exercises, try aiming for 8 to 25 reps for 2 to 3 sets per exercise. And don’t miss our sample workout suggested at the very end. Ready, set, streeetch!
1. Front Squat
Stand on band with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Holding a handle in each hand, bring the top of the band over each shoulder. (If it's too long, secure band in place by crossing your arms at your chest.) Sit straight down, chest up, abs firm, pressing knees out over your toes. Rise back up to start position and repeat for 8 to 12 reps.
Kick it up a notch with this quad-builder. Anchor a loop band in a low position on a support (like an incline bench), looping the other end around your ankle with the band positioned behind you. Step away from the anchor to create tension on the band, and position feet hip-width apart. Shift your weight to the left foot, and lift the right leg from the floor. Extend the knee until it straightens out in front of you. Slowly return to starting position and repeat for 8 to 12 reps before switching legs.
Lie belly down and loop a band around your right ankle, anchoring the other end to a door or support. Scoot away from the anchor to create tension. Tighten your core and bend your leg at the knee, bringing your heel toward your glutes as far as you can comfortably go. Slowly return your leg to starting position and repeat for 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides.
4. Glute Bridge
Salute those glutes! Tie a band around your legs right above your knees. Lie on your back with your feet on the floor, bending your knees to 90 degrees. Rise up with your hips until your shoulders, hips and knees align, contracting your glutes through the entire movement. Do 15 to 20 reps.
Anchor a loop band at ankle height to a support and stand with your left side facing the support, wrapping the free end around your right (outer) ankle. Stand perpendicular to the band and step away from the support to create some tension (the good kind, of course). From a wide stance, get into a quarter squat or an athletic stance, and then sweep your working ankle across your body past your standing leg, squeezing your thighs together. Slowly return to starting position and repeat for 12 to 15 reps before switching sides.
Loop a band around your legs just above your knees. Lie on your back with hips and knees flexed to 90 degrees. Pull the knees apart while contracting your glutes for 2 to 3 seconds. Slowly return to starting position and repeat, aiming for 10 to 12 total reps.
Take a load off for this one. Secure a loop or therapy band around an anchor (like the leg of a coffee table or chair), and sit with one leg straight out, wrapping the other end of the loop around the top of your foot. Lean back, supporting your weight on your hands, and flex your foot forward until you feel a good stretch in your shin. In a controlled movement, bring your toes back up, flexing them toward your knee as far as comfortable. Slowly return to starting position and go for 10 to 12 reps on each side.
Don’t sidestep these side steps! Step into a loop band or tie a therapy band around the lower legs, just above both ankles. Place feet shoulder-width apart to create tension on the band. From a half-squat position, shift your weight to the left side, stepping sideways with the right leg. Move the standing leg slightly in, but keep the band taut. Take 8 to 10 steps before heading back the other way.
This one’s a bit of a balancing act. Anchor your loop band at ankle height, and stand with your left side toward the anchor. Attach the free end to your outside ankle and step out to create tension on the band. Move your supporting leg back so your foot is elevated from the floor, lift your working leg up, slowly bringing your looped foot out to the side, contracting your outer glutes. If you feel wobbly, grab a support (like the wall or the back of a chair). Lower back down to starting position and repeat for 15 to 20 reps on each side.
10. Seated Abduction
To really show those thighs who’s boss, sit at the edge of a chair or bench and tie a loop band around both legs, just above the knees. Place your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. Slowly press your knees out, turning your feet in as your legs move apart. Hold for two seconds, and then bring your knees back together. Aim for 15 to 20 reps.
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11. Bent-Over Row
You can do it, put your back into it. Stand over the center of the band with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend slightly at the knees and hinge at the waist, keeping your hips back. Grasp each handle with hands facing the outside of your knees. With elbows bent, pull the band up toward your hips, squeezing your shoulder blades together until your elbows form a 90-degree angle. Lower and row for 10 to 12 reps.
12. Seated Row
Take a seat, but don’t get too cozy. With legs extended, place the center of the band behind the soles of your feet. Grab the band with both hands, arms extended and palms facing each other. Sitting nice and tall, bend at the elbow and pull the band toward your core, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly return to starting position and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.
13. Pull Apart
Stand with knees slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart. Grip the middle section of the band with both hands at shoulder level with palms facing down. Keeping your arms straight, pull the band out and back until your shoulder blades contract. Slowly return to starting position and stretch, squeeze, and release for 8 to 10 reps.
14. Lying Pullover
No, this doesn’t involve pulling the covers over your head. For this effective pec and lat exercise, anchor the tube band in a low position. Next, lie on your back, grabbing the free end of the band with both hands, stretching arms straight out overhead. With elbows slightly bent, pull the band overhead, crossing your torso until the handle reaches your knees. Slowly return to starting position and keep it up for 8 to 10 reps.
15. Lat Pulldown
Ready to work the upper back? Anchor the band overhead to a horizontal bar (or even a sturdy tree limb), pulling the free ends down at your sides. Kneel facing the anchor so the bands are positioned in front of you, gripping each end with arms extended overhead and hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Bending the elbows, pull the band down toward the floor while contracting your back muscles. Once the hands reach your shoulders, slowly raise them back to the starting position and rock out 10 to 12 reps.
Take this classic move to a new level. Get in plank position, draping the resistance band across your upper back. Loop the ends of the band through each thumb, and place your hands on the ground in starting position—body facedown on the ground. Contract your glutes and abs, and push straight up until your arms fully extend. Lower back down, chest to the floor, and see what you’ve got for 5 to 20 reps (depending on your strength).
Next up: The upper chest muscles! In a right forward lunge position, place the middle of your band beneath your back foot. Grabbing a handle in each hand, bring the band to shoulder level. Press the bands upward straight over your chest like a rainbow until the arms fully extend. Lower back down and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.
18. Bench Press
No barbell? No problem! Anchor a tube band on the bench legs, and lie on the bench, face up. Grabbing a handle in each hand. position them at shoulder height (so your thumbs touch the front of your shoulders). Extend the arms straight up overhead to full extension, moving your hands toward each other at the top. Lower back down and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.
Anchor the tube band on a cable column or sturdy support at chest height. Grab each handle with your back to the band. Step forward to reduce slack, positioning your hands at chest height. With elbows up and palms facing down, press the band straight out in front of you until your arms reach full extension, and squeeze those chest muscles. Return to starting position and press on for 12 to 15 reps.
20. Overhead Press
Stand over the center of a tube band with feet shoulder-width apart. Grip each handle, positioning your hands at shoulder level with palms facing each other so your thumbs touch your shoulders. Press straight up, rotating your palms forward as you fully extend your arms. Lower back down slowly and repeat for 8 to 10 reps.
21. Forward Raise
To hit the front of the shoulders, stand on the middle of the band with feet shoulder-width apart and grip each handle at your sides with palms facing in. Next, without locking your elbows, bring your right arm straight out in front of you to shoulder height. Slowly lower back down and raise the roof for 8 to 12 reps before switching arms.
22. Lateral Raise
Build bolder shoulders with this isolation move. Stand with feet positioned over the center of a tube band, shoulder-width apart. Grip each handle with arms down at your side and palms facing in. Bending your elbows ever so slightly, raise your arms straight out to the side to shoulder-level. Slowly lower back down and go for a total of 8 to 10 reps.
23. Upright Row
Stand proud as you target your traps. With feet positioned over the center of the band, shoulder-width apart, grip each handle and position them with palms facing each other just in front of your thighs. Pull the band straight up the front of your body to shoulder-level, keeping your elbows bent and positioned in a high “V.” Slowly lower back down to starting position and keep rowing for 10 to 12 reps.
Target the whole shoulder with this fierce move. Sit at the edge of a chair or bench, positioning your feet over the middle of the band. Cross the band at your knees, grabbing each handle with palms facing each other. Bend forward at the waist, back straight, and raise your arms straight out to your sides until the band reaches shoulder level. Lower back to starting position and fly away with 10 to 12 reps.
Want to get ready for the gun show? Start in a forward lunge position, right leg in front, and place the middle of the band under the right foot. Grasp one end of the loop band with your right band, resting your elbow on the inside of your knee (to target those biceps a little deeper). With palm facing away from your knee, curl the band up toward your shoulder, squeezing your biceps at the top. Slowly lower back down and repeat for 8 to 10 reps before switching sides.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with your feet placed over the middle of the band. Grab a handle in each hand, starting with your arms down at your sides. With palms facing in front of you, pull your arms toward your shoulders by bending at the elbow until you get a good bicep contraction. Slowly lower back down and go for a total of 12 to15 curls.
27. Triceps Kickback
Kick back and relax. Just kidding! Stand in a forward lunge position with your right foot in front, positioned over the center of the band. Holding each end of the band, position your arms at your sides with palms facing behind you. Bend at the elbows (keeping them tucked by your sides) until your forearms are parallel to the floor. Next, press down the arms, pushing the band behind your body until the arms fully extend. Lower back down and repeat for 8 to 10 reps.
Sit on a chair or bench, placing the center of a tube band beneath your glutes. Grab a handle in each hand, and stretch your arms up, bending your elbows so that your hands are positioned behind your neck. With palms toward the ceiling, press your arms straight up until they fully extend. Lower back down and repeat for 10 to 12 reps before switching sides.
29. Kneeling Crunch
Attach the band to a high anchor (such as the top of a door or cable column) and kneel down, grabbing each side of the band. Extend the elbows out at shoulder-level, engage your abdominals, and crunch down toward your hips while contracting your abs. Slowly return to starting position and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.
Be an ax man (or woman) in training with this great core move. Anchor the loop or tube band toward the top of a cable column or support. With your right side to the support, grab the free end of the band with your arms stretched out overhead. In one smooth motion, pull the band down and across your body to the front of your knees while rotating your right hip and pivoting your back foot. Slowly return to starting position and repeat for 8 to 10 reps on each side.
Know when to walk away. Anchor a loop or tube band on a cable column or support positioned slightly below your chest. Grasping the free end, create tension on the band and squat to an athletic stance. Holding the band with both hands straight out in front of your chest, keeping your core tight, step laterally until the band is too tense to go any further. Slow and controlled, move back toward the column to starting position. Repeat for 6 to 8 reps on each side.
32. Reverse Crunch
Now flip it and reverse it. Anchor the band on a low support. Lie on your back, bending knees 90 degrees. Wrap band around the tops of both feet and scoot back to create tension. Abs tight and back flat, pull your knees toward your shoulders, contracting your abdominal muscles. Slowly return to starting position and repeat for 12 to 15 reps.
33. Russian Twist
Sit on the floor with legs extended, wrapping the center of the band around the bottom of your feet. Hold the free ends in each hand. Slightly bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor, and lean back at a 45-degree angle. Rotate the band right by bringing your left hand across your body and your right hand down by your right hip. Contracting your oblique muscles, bring the band toward your right hip while keeping your middle and low back neutral. Return to starting position and rotate left then right for a total of 10-12 reps on each side.
The Full-Body Resistance Band Workout
Ready to put it all together? Greatist expert and certified personal trainer Jessi Kneeland (who also demonstrates the moves here!) created this routine that'll work your whole body.
Originally published January 2013. Updated February 2015 and April 2017.