Everything You Need to Know About Resistance Band Workouts and the Best Exercises to Try

Regular resistance band workouts can help you build muscle (and even lose weight) if you build a routine with these compound exercises.
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Seasoned lifter, gym newbie or devoted CrossFit competitor — no athlete is too advanced or too new to benefit from resistance band workouts.

These versatile pieces of fitness gear are a great way to build muscle strength and endurance. Plus, they kick up the intensity on just about any exercise, making them a smart addition to a weight-loss routine.

Do Resistance Bands Work for Building Muscle?

If you're skeptical of resistance bands, loop one above your knees during a set of hip thrusts and your burning glutes will be evidence enough that bands work.

Portable and easy to store, resistance bands increase the, well, resistance placed on your muscles. This ups the time your muscles spend under tension (called TUT), which is one of the necessary variables for muscle strengthening and growth, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Because they force your muscles to contract for longer periods of time, resistance bands increase the fatigue to your muscle tissue, which your body then repairs, leaving stronger muscle in its place.

Resistance bands can also provide some variety to your resistance training, and challenging your muscles in new ways can help keep them growing, according to the ACE.

"With free weights, the force is always downward, and we're fighting to move up, but with resistance bands, we can change up the lines of force," K. Aleisha Fetters, CSCS, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Also, resistance bands provide variable resistance: How hard we have to work changes as we stretch the band in each rep, which is another way to mix things up."

Can You Lose Weight With Resistance Bands?

Because they can help you build lean muscle mass, resistance bands are a good weight-loss tool, too. Strength training improves your body composition, increasing your ratio of lean muscle to fat, according to Harvard Health Publishing. As a result, your metabolism increases and you burn more calories even when you're just washing the dishes or walking down stairs.

Strength training — whether it's with bands, dumbbells or your own body weight — may be especially beneficial in keeping off visceral fat, the deep belly fat that surrounds your organs and threatens heart health, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Tip

Resistance bands promise loads of benefits — but you still need to make sure you're giving your muscles plenty of time to recover, Fetters says. "If soreness is preventing you from performing a certain exercise properly, that's your sign you need some more rest." Aim for around three resistance band workouts a week.

What to Look for in a Resistance Band

There are a number of band sizes and levels of resistance you can choose from, and they're all easy to find online. The best resistance band for you will vary depending on the exercises you perform and your current fitness level.

When it comes to size, it's a good idea to have both a standard and a long-loop band. If you're someone who loves to do upper-body exercises, you can also choose a resistance band with handles. Or, if glute bridges are more your thing, try a thick, non-slip booty band.

Choosing the best level of resistance depends on your current abilities and exercise goals. Brands generally color-code their bands depending on the amount of resistance each band provides.

Resistance Bands We Love

The Best Upper-Body Resistance Band Exercises

Move 1: Overhead Press

  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Loop a long resistance band under your feet, holding the other end in both hands.
  3. Bring your hands up to your shoulders.
  4. On an exhale, press the band straight over your head, engaging your core.
  5. Lower back down to shoulder level and repeat.

Move 2: Pull-Apart

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold one end of the band in each hand.
  3. With your palms facing down, pull the band apart and to the sides of your body at chest level, keeping your core tight.
  4. Bring your hands back together, letting the resistance relax.

Tip

Make sure to keep your core tight as you slowly let the band come back in. You should really feel this in your chest and upper back.

Move 3: Upright Row

  1. Place the band underneath your feet and stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Holding the other end of the band in both hands, raise your elbows toward the sky while keeping your hands close your body.
  3. With elbows wide, lift until your elbows are slightly above shoulder height.
  4. Slowly lower back down and repeat.

Move 4: Seated Triceps Extension

  1. Take a seat on the ground, legs extended, and wrap the band around your feet. The other side of the band should be behind you so that you're inside of the circle.
  2. Lean slightly forward, engaging the abs, and grab the sides of the band.
  3. With palms facing your body and elbows in line with your shoulders, extend your hands back, straightening your elbows.
  4. Pause and squeeze your triceps for a moment.
  5. Slowly lower back to the start and repeat.

The Best Lower-Body Resistance Band Exercises

Move 1: Good Morning

  1. Place the band underneath your feet and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat down and place the band around the back of your neck and hold the band in both hands at shoulder level so it doesn't compress your neck.
  3. Straighten your legs and stand up from your squat.
  4. Hinging at the hips while keeping a flat back, bend forward so that you feel tension in the hamstrings.
  5. As you stand back up, squeeze your glutes.

Move 2: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

  1. Loop the band around a sturdy pole or couch leg so that it will stay put.
  2. Grab the band with your right hand.
  3. Stand on your left foot far enough away that you feel tension in the band.
  4. Hinge at the hip and slowly bend forward while keeping your hips level. Unlike a normal Romanian deadlift, the resistance band version gets easier as you bend forward.
  5. As you stand back up, squeeze your glutes and abs to maintain control.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

Move 3: Side Step

  1. Stand on the band with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Twist the band and hold the upper edge at chest level so that it makes an X shape.
  3. Pull the band apart with your hands to create tension.
  4. Lower down into a quarter squat and step out to one side.
  5. Keeping your glutes and core engaged, step your feet together.
  6. Continue walking in one direction, then switch sides.

Move 4: Hip Thrust

  1. Loop the band around a sturdy pole or couch leg so that it stays put.
  2. Place a mat or towel on the ground and kneel inside of the loop, facing away from the pole so that there is tension on the band. Position the band around your hips.
  3. Squeeze your glutes to thrust your hips forward with control until you're fully extended.
  4. Slowly lower back to the start.

Tip

Keep your core tight throughout this exercise.

Move 5: Jump Squat

  1. Loop the band around a sturdy pole at hip level so it will stay put.
  2. Stand inside the band with it positioned at your hips and move far enough away that there is tension in the band.
  3. Lower down into a squat, bending your knees to about 90 degrees (or as low as you can go while maintaining good squat form, with your shoulders back and chest up).
  4. Press through your heels to explode up and away from the pole.
  5. Land softly with your knees slightly bent before lowering into a squat for the next rep.

Related Reading

Try This Full-Body Resistance Band Workout

Once you have a few of the common resistance band exercises down, take on a full-body workout. These exercises are compound movements, which means they'll fire up multiple muscle groups at once.

This routine is designed to help you build functional strength and body control while maintaining mobility. You'll need one resistance band of medium tension and something stable to loop the band around.

After the warm-up exercise, try to do two to three rounds of this resistance band workout before your cooldown stretch.

Warm-Up: Shoulder Opener

Image Credit: Describe the Fauna/LIVESTRONG.com
  1. Stand with one end of the band in each hand.
  2. Spread your hands slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart and hold the ends so the band rests on your quads.
  3. Reach your arms overhead, and then back behind you.
  4. Avoid arching the lower back.
  5. Hold here for a few moments then return to the starting position.

Reps: 8 to 10

Move 1: Overhead Squat Press and Twist

Image Credit: Describe the Fauna/LIVESTRONG.com
  1. Hold one end of the band in each hand and stand on it with your feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Squat down until your knees make a 90-degree angle (or as low as you can go safely and comfortably) and bring the ends of the band by your shoulders.
  3. Press through your heels to stand as you simultaneously extend your arms overhead.
  4. At the top of the movement, twist to one side as you keep your hips facing forward.
  5. Inhale to return to center and repeat on the other side.

Reps: 10 on each side

Move 2: Side Step

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  1. Stand on the resistance band with feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Cross the band in front of you to form an X and pull up on the ends to bring your elbows by your side.
  3. Lower down into a quarter squat and step out to one side.
  4. Step your other foot to meet it.

Reps: 15 steps each side

Move 3: Lat Pull-Down in Chair Pose

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  1. Attach the band to an anchor like a pole at least one foot above you.
  2. Hold one end in each hand and stand with feet hip-distance apart or slightly narrower.
  3. Inhale, extend your arms up overhead, then exhale as you bend your knees and lower your thighs toward parallel with the ground.
  4. Hold this position while you pull your elbows down by your ribcage so your arms form a W shape.
  5. Slowly release back to the starting position.

Reps: 10

Move 4: Lunge and Twist

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  1. Attach the band to a fixed anchor like a pole at least a foot above you.
  2. Stand with the band on the outside of your right hip, holding one end in each hand.
  3. Step your right leg forward into a lunge, keeping your right knee over the middle of your right foot.
  4. Lower until both knees form 90-degree angles.
  5. Inhale as you turn toward the right.
  6. Exhale as you twist to the left, pulling the band taut.
  7. Return to center, then press through your right heel to stand.

Reps: 10 on each side

Move 5: Upward Fly in Warrior I

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  1. Attach the resistance band to an anchor like a pole at least one foot above you.
  2. Face away from your anchor as you hold one end of the band in each hand, arms extended out to the sides.
  3. Step your right foot back about three feet, turning it out 45 degrees.
  4. Bend your left knee to about 90 degrees.
  5. Sweep your arms in front of your until they are shoulder-distance apart and your elbows align with your temples.
  6. Slowly exhale as you return to the starting position.

Reps: 10 on each side

Move 6: Warrior III Rows

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  1. Place the band beneath the arch of your right foot and hold the ends at your hips.
  2. With a slight bend in your right knee, hinge forward from the hips to bring your chest parallel to the floor while simultaneously lifting your left leg straight behind you.
  3. Bend the elbows to perform a row.
  4. Squeeze at the top of the motion, release the arms slowly, and repeat.

Reps: 10 on each leg

Move 7: Abdominal Crunch and Triceps Extension

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  1. Attach the resistance band to an anchor overhead.
  2. Kneel and hold one end of the band in each hand.
  3. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle by your temples.
  4. Contract your core and hinge at the hips as you pull your bellybutton in toward your spine and round your back to come forward.
  5. Hold this position as you extend your arms straight by contracting your triceps.

Reps: 20

Move 8: Glute Kickback With Ab Pull-In

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  1. Start on all fours with the band looped around the arch of your left foot and the ends beneath your palms.
  2. Extend your left leg behind you with the foot flexed and glutes squeezing.
  3. Exhale as you draw your right knee in toward your chest. Round your back and draw your bellybutton in.

Reps: 10 on each side

Cooldown: Hamstring Stretch

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  1. Lie on your back and loop the band around the arch of your left foot.
  2. Hold one side of the band in each hand.
  3. Lift your left leg straight up, stacking your foot and knee over your hip, with your right leg extended straight out on the floor.
  4. Keep a slight bend in your knee and engage your quads to lengthen your hamstrings.
  5. Keep your lower back pressing toward the floor.

Reps: 10 deep breaths on each side

Tip

If you begin to feel your hips roll or if your low back arches, bend the knee of your leg that's on the floor and place the foot on the floor close to your glutes.

Additional reporting by Collette Stohler and Kelly Gonzalez

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