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Resistance Cord Exercises

author image Linda Freeman Webster
Linda Freeman Webster is a certified personal trainer, group fitness, yoga and Pilates instructor who has been in the fitness industry for 20 years. She has published articles for IDEA Health and Fitness Journal, IDEA Fitness Manager, and USA Hockey Magazine.
Resistance Cord Exercises
Close up of a young man using resistance cords Photo Credit Andres Rodriguez/Hemera/Getty Images


Resistance cords come in different styles; some have handles, and some do not. Those with handles are easier to use, as they give you a good gripping surface. There are also different levels of resistance, from very easy to very difficult; manufacturers color the cords accordingly. The thicker the cord or tubing is, the more difficult it will be. You can challenge all of the major muscle groups using resistance cords, but might need different resistance levels for different exercises.

Squat Step

An effective lower-body exercise, the squat step works the legs, buttocks, inner and outer thighs. Stand on the resistance cord with both feet, ensuring that the cord is firmly under each foot. Hold the handles in each hand, and pull the cord taught; depending on the length of the cord, your hands could end up near your hips or shoulders after you pull the cord tightly. Place your feet shoulder-distance apart, and perform a squat by bending your knees and hips, and pushing your tailbone back. A squat should feel as if you were about to sit down in a chair, then come back to standing. Next, step out to the right side with your right foot and follow with the left, keeping the cord taught throughout the side-step movement. Repeat the squat, then the step, performing eight to the right, and returning with eight to the left.

Chest and Back

To work the chest and back muscles, find a solid piece of furniture or stair railing to thread the resistance cord around as an anchor point. Stand facing your anchor point, and hold the handles in each hand. With your arms stretched out in front of you and palms facing each other, step back far enough to pull the cord tight so that you start with resistance on the cord. Bend your knees slightly and engage your abdominals. Pull both handles toward you as you bend your elbows and keep your arms by your side. Pull back as far as you can as you squeeze your shoulder blades together in the upper back; the handles should come close to your rib cage. Slowly release back to the starting position. This basic row exercise works the back.

For a chest exercise, keep the resistance cord anchored as previously noted, and hold a handle in each hand. Face away from the anchor point, and bring your arms out to your sides with elbows bent, and elbows and hands lifted to shoulder level. Your palms should face down, and the cord should come just under your upper arms, with the cord taught. Keep your knees slightly bent and your abdominals engaged as your press your hands straight out in front of you, then together in front of your chest; return your arms to the starting position. This chest-press movement works the pectoral muscles of the chest, as well as the front of the shoulders.

Arm Work

During this exercise, step your feet farther apart for more resistance, or closer together for less resistance. With your arms hanging by your sides and palms facing forward, bend your knees slightly and pull your abdominals in. Keeping your upper arms close to your sides throughout the movement, bend your elbows and bring your hands up to your shoulders. Slowly release your hands back to the starting position. This works the biceps, in the front of your arms, as the primary muscle, but the triceps in the back of your arms will also work to help control the release of the resistance cord. For more challenge, do not straighten your arm all the way each time until the last repetition in your set.

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