Strengthen Your Arms and Abs With This Quick Resistance Band Workout

Adding a resistance band to arm and ab exercises like bird dog help you build more strength.
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

Resistance bands are inexpensive, versatile and easy to store — plus they deliver. This challenge builds full-body strength using only bands. Get all the details on the challenge here.

Resistance band exercises are the perfect way to work your abs and arms in the same workout. The design of the band itself means your core has to stabilize you through every movement — it's not just the lifting that taxes your muscles.

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"With traditional weights such as dumbbells or barbells you slowly release the tension during the eccentric phase or lengthening of the muscle," says Tatiana Scott, CPT, personal trainer, founder of Fit With Curves and host of our 4-Week Resistance Band Challenge. "However, with resistance bands, you can create tension on the muscle even during the eccentric phase."

This increases the intensity of your workout, thus maximizing results, she says. Think about a lateral raise: There's obvious tension as you lift your arms and stretch the band, but you need tension on the way down too so that the band doesn't just spring together.

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That's a perk for just about any body part, but resistance band exercises are especially effective for your arms and abs. Here's why: Unlike larger muscle groups (like your quads, glutes and hamstrings) that require a heavier load to grow bigger and stronger, you can do higher reps of arm and ab exercises with resistance bands to build those smaller muscles and still see remarkable results, says Geoff Tripp, CSCS, certified personal trainer and head of fitness at Trainiac.

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Scott compiled these resistance band exercises for arms and abs as part of our 4-Week Resistance Band Challenge, but you can do this routine even if you're not participating in the rest of the month-long program.

If you're doing the challenge, follow the weekly rep scheme below. If you're doing this resistance band workout on your own, increase or decrease the reps and sets based on your fitness level. You should be able to finish all the reps with good form, but the last two should feel challenging.

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In between sets and exercises, rest for 20 to 40 seconds. You won't feel fully rested (like you were before your workout), but you should feel ready to tackle the next set.

Sets and Reps per Exercise

Biceps Curl

Lateral Raise

Plank With Tap Out

Triceps Extension

Bird Dog

Week 1

1 set of 15

1 set of 10

1 set of 10 (each side)

1 set of 10 (each side)

1 set of 10 (each side)

Week 2

2 sets of 15

2 sets of 10

2 sets of 10 (each side)

2 sets of 10 (each side)

2 sets of 10 (each side)

Week 3

1 set of 20

1 set of 15

1 set of 15 (each side)

1 set of 15 (each side)

1 set of 15 (each side)

Week 4

2 sets of 20

2 sets of 15

2 sets of 15 (each side)

2 sets of 15 (each side)

2 sets of 15 (each side)

Try This Resistance Band Workout for Abs and Arms

For this workout, you'll need a mini loop and a long loop band. If you only have one, check out the modifications below each exercise.

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1. Resistance Band Biceps Curl

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Activity Resistance Band Workout
Body Part Arms
  1. With your feet hip-width apart, stand on the middle of the band, so it's anchored to the ground.
  2. Grab both handles (or ends of the band) with an underhand grip (palms facing forward).
  3. Keep your elbows at your side and pull the band up to your shoulders.
  4. Maintain a controlled movement as you slowly lower back down.

Tip

You can perform this exercise seated with a mini band looped around one leg. Then do a curl with the arm on the same side. Make sure you do the same number of reps on each side.

2. Long Loop 90-Degree Lateral Raise 

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Activity Resistance Band Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Step on the middle of the band with your right foot and step your left foot slightly behind so you're in a staggered stance.
  2. Loop the other end around both forearms, and bend both arms to 90 degrees with your elbows at your sides.
  3. Roll your shoulders back and down your spine. Squeeze your upper back and lift your elbows until they reach shoulder height.
  4. Bring your arms slowly down to keep tension in the band.
  5. Do half the reps with your right foot in front and the second half with your left in front.

Tip

If you're using a mini band, hold it in both hands in front of your body. Pull one side of the mini band up to shoulder height. Return to the starting position and repeat. Make sure to do the same number of reps on each side.

3. Mini Loop Plank With Tap Out

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Activity Resistance Band Workout
Body Part Abs and Shoulders
  1. Begin in a high plank on your hands and toes, with your hands under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels. Hold your neck in a neutral position.
  2. Loop a mini band around both forearms just above your wrists.
  3. Lift your right hand off the ground and tap it out to the right side.
  4. Bring your hand back in to the starting position.
  5. Repeat with the left hand and continue alternating.

Tip

To incorporate a long loop into this move, anchor one end of the loop around both feet at your arches. Secure the other end around both forearms just above the wrists.

4. Resistance Band Overhead Triceps Extension

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Activity Resistance Band Workout
Body Part Arms
  1. Anchor the end of a resistance band with handles (or a long band) under both feet.
  2. Grab the other handle with your right hand with your arm extended straight overhead. There should be a fair amount of tension and stretch on the band.
  3. Slowly lower the band until your hand is behind your neck, keeping your upper arm close to your ear so that your elbow doesn't flair out.
  4. Press back up to the starting position. You should notice tension throughout the move. If you don't, step your feet farther up the band.

Tip

If you only have a mini band, your set-up will be a bit different: Loop each end of the band around your palms and hold your hands at shoulder height — left palm facing your body, right palm facing out. Pin your elbows to your sides. Anchoring your left hand at your shoulder, press your right hand down, stretching the end down toward your right thigh. Slowly release back to your shoulder.

5. Long Loop Bird Dog

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Activity Resistance Band Workout
Region Core
  1. Set up your band first: From standing, loop one end of a long resistance band around your right hand and loop the other end around your left foot, securing it on the arch of your foot.
  2. Lower down to all fours — hands under your shoulder and knees under your hips.
  3. Reach your right arm straight out in front of you until it's in line with your ear.
  4. Simultaneously reach your left leg straight behind you, fully extending your knee.
  5. Reverse the motion and return to all fours.
  6. Repeat all your reps on one side before switching your band over to the left arm and right foot.

Tip

If you're only working with a mini band, that's OK! The bird dog exercise can be just as challenging — and effective! — without a band.

Follow Along With the Challenge

Use the calendar below to help you stay on track with the 4-Week Resistance Band Challenge. Do the workout (or rest day) listed, then check off each day as you complete it. (Get a printer-friendly version here.)

Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

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