At the height of lockdown, when gyms were shut, many of us discovered the power of the resistance band. These humble strips of rubber don’t get much play when you’ve got a full set of weights and machines to get stuck into, but it turns out they can actually provide a beneficial workout, from the comfort of your own home.
Resistance bands are a great addition to any strength training routine or rehabilitation program. They come in a variety of sizes, lengths, and resistance levels. They’re also portable and easy to store, so they’re perfect for home use, hotel workouts, or making the most of a small space at the gym.
Are Resistance Bands Effective For Building Muscle?
Now, if you are a beginner, then for sure resistance bands are a good option for building muscle. In fact, just as good if not better. It will have a low risk and high reward, unlike free weights, which for beginners are high risk.
If you are advanced or you become advanced used bands, then you just need to be creative with your progressive overloading to continue building muscle. If you look at calisthenic guys, they become super ripped and have incredibly lean muscle mass without touching free weights.
So, if they can do that with bodyweight alone, then adding resistance bands to the mix can only enhance that.
1. Glute Bridge March
Hands down, glute bridges are the best low-impact move for your booty. Throw in some marching and a mini band, and you have a super-effective core exercise.
- Loop the band around the arches of your feet and lie on your back with your feet on a weight bench.
- Extend your arms along your sides.
- Press into your heels and lift your butt and lower back off the floor.
- Your weight should be in your feet, arms and shoulders.
- Lift your right foot off the bench and bring your right knee toward you.
- Place that foot back on the bench and switch legs. You’ll look like you’re marching.
2. Mountain Climber
Mountain climbers not only get your heart rate up quickly while working your core, but adding a mini band ups the intensity and incorporates your quads more.
- Start with the band around your feet and get into a plank supported by your hands.
- Your body should be in a straight line from head to toe.
- Bring one knee up toward your chest and back down to meet the other.
- Then repeat on the opposite side.
- Continue alternating as quickly as you can while maintaining good form.
Related article: 5 Exercises Using Only A Resistance Band To Pop Your Abs Out
3. Bicycle Crunch
The bicycle crunch is one of the best exercises you can do for you abdominals — specifically your obliques. And adding a resistance loop increases the challenge for your hip flexors.
- Loop the band around your feet and lie on your back.
- Place your hands behind your head with your elbows out to either side.
- Lift both feet and both shoulders a few inches off the ground to engage your abs.
- Now, bring your right knee to meet your left elbow, twisting across your body.
- Untwist back to the start, then repeat on the other side.
4. Squat With Leg Lift
- Place the band around your ankles (or anywhere below your knees) and stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Hinge at the hips and sit back and down into a squat.
- Stand back up and lift your right leg out to the side.
- Lower back down and repeat, but this time lift your left leg after you squat.
5. Push-Up Walk
The great thing about the mini band is how it helps you target smaller stabilizer muscles that you wouldn’t have ordinarily used in the standard version of an exercise. Case in point: push-up walks. While standard push-ups work just about every major muscle in the upper body, the band is great for targeting more of your shoulder muscles.
- Start in a plank with the band around your wrists (or anywhere below your elbows).
- Walk one hand out to the side several inches, then do a push-up.
- Once you’re back up in a plank, walk your hand back to the start and repeat on the other side.
6. Single-Arm Row
You can do this exercise with a dumbbell, but if you’re traveling and don’t want to lug around a pair, this variation is the perfect solution.
- Start in a lunge with your back knee resting on the ground.
- Loop the band around your front foot.
- With your opposite-side hand, grab the band and row it back, keeping your elbow in close to your side.
- Lower the band back to the start slowly and with control.
- Do all your reps on one side before switching to the other.
Related article: Build A Stronger Thicker Back With These 6 Row Variations
7. Side Plank With Leg Lift
Channel your inner ’80s Jazzerciser and give this exercise a try. But be warned: This isn’t your mama’s leg lift. It’s much harder.
- Place the band around your ankles and get into a side plank, resting on your bottom forearm.
- You can either stack your feet one on top of the other or stagger one in front for more support.
- Keeping your hips lifted, raise the top foot several inches off the ground.
- Hold for a second before lowering it back to the ground with control.
- Repeat all your reps on one side before doing the same thing on the other side.
Related article: 4 Fun Side Plank Variations For A Stronger Core
8. Squat Jack
- With the band around your ankles, stand with your feet wide enough apart so the band is taut.
- Squat down a few inches (but not all the way into a full squat).
- Then, jump your feet out to the sides, keeping your squat stance.
- Jump them back toward each other, careful not to let the band come loose.
- Continue jumping your feet in and out, staying in a semi-squat the whole time.
Related article: 5 Squat And Lunge Variations That Seriously Tone Your Backside
9. Leg Pull-Apart
If you haven’t already noticed, the most well-known mini band exercises target the outer hips, thighs and glutes. From that standpoint, this one is no different. However, because you’re using your glutes to keep your legs raised, it’s a really great exercise for your backside.
- Lie on your stomach with the band around your ankles.
- Rest your head on your folded arms.
- Engage your glutes to lift your legs a few inches off the ground.
- Once lifted, pull your feet away from each other.
- Slowly bring them back together.
- From here, you can either continue kicking them in and out or, if you need a break, you can lower your feet down briefly in between reps.
10. Triceps Extension
- Anchor the band behind your left shoulder by holding it with your left hand.
- Grab the other end behind your back with your right hand.
- Extend your right arm above your head, feeling the resistance of the band in the back of your arm.
- Continue raising and lowering your arm for all your reps before switching sides.
11. Lat Pulldown
Think you can only do lat pulldowns in the gym? Think again! Although you’ll only be able to work one side at a time with a band, you’re still getting all the benefits of the gym version — wherever you are!
- Hold one end of the band above your head.
- Grab the other end with your other hand and pull it down to your shoulder, keeping the first arm straight.
- Focus on using your lats (the broad muscles that span the width of your back) as you pull the band down.
- Then raise it back to the start with control.
- Do all your reps on one side before repeating on the other side.
Related article: 6 Pulldown Variations That’ll Give You A Lat Growing Workout
12. Plank Jacks
Not only are you going to get your heart racing up and sweat flowing, but you’ll also be working your outer hips and glutes too.
- With the band around your ankles, start in a plank, balancing on your hands and feet.
- Keep your hips level and core tight as you jump your feet out to the side.
- Then jump your feet back together, careful to keep the band taut around your ankles.
Related article: The 30 Day Plank Challenge That Will Tone And Strengthen Your Core
13. Standing March
Don’t be fooled by this exercise! It’s not as easy as it looks. And if it is, then choose a tighter band for more resistance.
- Stand with the band around your feet and your feet hip-width apart.
- Then, one side at a time, lift your knee up as close as you can toward your chest.
- Lower that foot slowly back to the ground and do the same thing with the opposite leg.
- Keep your core engaged the entire time so that you’re not leaning backward or forward.
- Continue marching like this until you lose proper form.
Related article: The 12 Best Standing Up Abs Exercises To Shape Your Figure
14. Biceps Curl
- Start seated with the band looped around your right thigh.
- Grab the other end with your right hand.
- With control, raise your right hand to your right shoulder, and then slowly lower it back down to your knee.
- Keep going for all your reps on one side before doing the other side.