7 Resistance Band Exercises to Replace Clunky Weight Machines

You don't need weight machines — or even a gym membership — to build strength.
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No gym membership? No problem. You don't need high-tech gym equipment to build muscle. Enter: resistance bands. Small and unassuming, these little elastic bands may not look like much, but you can use them to mimic the moves of gym machines and see similar results.


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Not convinced? Research shows that using resistance bands promotes comparable strength gains when compared to conventional weight training, according to a February 2019 review published in SAGE Open Medicine.

Resistance Bands vs. Weight Machines

When it comes to strength training, resistance bands are a great tool for a variety of reasons, says Ryan Fairman, ACSM-certified personal trainer, exercise physiologist and trainer with HYLETE.


For one, they're portable. Unlike large gym equipment, resistance bands don't weigh a ton or take up much space, so you can tuck them into your gym bag, suitcase or desk drawer and squeeze in a workout whenever motivation strikes.

Plus, they're versatile. From triceps extensions to a chest or leg press, you can use bands to perform almost any exercise. Conversely, you'd need a whole host of weight machines to achieve the same full-body workout.


The icing on the cake? They're affordable. A set of resistance bands costs significantly less than one month's membership payment at a fancy gym.

Read more: 10 Machine-to-Free-Weight Swaps to Improve Your Strength Gains


Ditch Weight Machines for These Resistance Band Exercises

So, whether you're not a fan of weight machines or you simply prefer the convenience of working out in your living room, these seven resistance bands exercises from Fairman will tone you from head to toe and offer a solid strength training alternative to using clunky gym equipment.

Instead of the: Adductor Machine, Do: Clamshells With Band

  1. Loop a resistance band around both legs just above your knees.
  2. Lie on your side with your legs stacked and knees bent at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Keep your feet together as you raise your top knee as high as you can. Don't let your lower leg leave the floor.
  4. Pause and squeeze your butt at the top of the movement, then slowly lower.

Reps: 8 to 12 on each side

Instead of the: Cable Machine Seated Row, Do: Seated Rows With Band

  1. Sit upright and place a long resistance band around both feet.
  2. Hold each end of the band with palms facing inward.
  3. Without moving your torso, pull the band toward your chest, keeping your elbows back and close to your body.
  4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, then slowly return to the starting position.

Reps: 8 to 12

Read more: 13 Cable-Machine Exercises That Build Full-Body Strength

Instead of the: Leg Press Machine, Do: Banded Squats

  1. Loop a resistance band around both legs just above your knees and stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees, push your butt back and lower into a squat.
  3. Squeeze your glutes as you push through your heels to stand.

Reps: 8-12

Instead of the: Seated Shoulder Press Machine, Do: Single Arm Banded Shoulder Press

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. In your right hand, hold a long band that's looped under your right foot.
  3. Engage your abs to pull your ribs downward and tuck your tailbone under.
  4. Press your right arm overhead.
  5. Keep your shoulder pulled down away from your ears.
  6. Slowly lower your arm back to the starting position.

Reps: 8 to 12 on each side

Read more: 4 Overhead Press Mistakes That Are Terrible for Your Shoulders

Instead of the: Seated Chest Press Machine, Do: Banded Push-Ups

  1. Hook your thumbs through a long resistance band, then bring it overhead and behind you so that it runs across your back.
  2. Start in a high plank, with hands under your shoulders, fingers facing forward.
  3. Maintaining a straight line from your head to your heels, lower as far down as you can without your shoulders popping forward.
  4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and downward at the bottom of the movement.
  5. Keep your abs tight and your ribs pulled down, so that your lower back doesn't arch.
  6. Push yourself back up to the starting position by spreading your shoulder blades apart.

Reps: 8 to 12

Instead of: Cable Machine Hammer Curls, Do: Standing Banded Biceps Curls

  1. Step onto the middle of a long resistance band and hold onto the ends with both hands.
  2. Lock your elbows into your rib cage.
  3. Then, with palms facing each other, curl the band (without letting your shoulders pop forward) and squeeze your biceps.
  4. Return you hands to starting position in a slow, controlled movement.

Reps: 8 to 12

Read more: 6 Biceps Curl Mistakes That Make This Exercise Way Less Effective

Instead of: Cable Machine Triceps Kickbacks, Do: Banded Triceps Extensions

  1. Step onto the middle of a long resistance band and hold onto the ends with both hands.
  2. Raise both ends of the band up over your shoulders, so that your elbows are pointed forward.
  3. Extend your arms upward until they're straight, then with a slow, controlled movement, lower them back to your shoulders.

Reps: 8 to 12