If you don’t have access to any weights at home, then a resistance band is a cost-effective and convenient alternative for you to still get some resistance training done! As a certain popular physio likes to say, “You can’t go wrong getting strong!”.
Resistance bands also offer ‘variable resistance’, meaning that the load will be greater as the stretch of the band is increased. Bands can therefore be used as an alternative to dumbbells or machines, providing a form of novel stimulus for your muscles to adapt to.
Full-Body Resistance Band Workout
For this workout, include a quick 5-10 minute warm-up by performing some bodyweight exercises for your lower body, like lunges, and some upper body movements like shoulder rotations and some push-ups.
It’s important to warm-up properly to appropriately prepare your muscles to work at their full potential, and it also reduces the risk of muscle strains by increasing their elasticity via the heat produced from the influx of warm blood from your core to your peripheral muscles.
The reps stated for this workout are only a guide – since the resistance (provided by the thickness & length of the resistance band) of a given band may vary, and the strength/muscular endurance of each individual will vary too. For this workout, you’ll be aiming to ‘feel the burn’ in the muscle groups being worked, so you’ll need to adapt the sets and reps as necessary.
If it’s enough stimulus for you, then use the stated reps – but if not, then try doing as many controlled reps as possible within a set time frame (like 20 seconds), then move on to the next exercise and complete multiple rounds. A heavier resistance band may allow you to make strength adaptations, although it is likely that using a resistance band would provide a level of resistance suitable for stimulating hypertrophy (muscle growth) and localised muscular endurance.
If you’re looking for an upper-body workout, then of course, only use the upper body exercises, and vice versa for a leg workout. Try to perform the compound exercises (the ones that use multiple large muscle groups) prior to the isolation exercises (the ones that only use a single muscle group over one joint), as this will help you to maintain proper form in the movements where it matters most, instead of fatiguing yourself with the easier exercises first.
1. Bent-Over Row
Muscles Worked: Latissimus Dorsi (Back), Spinal Erectors, Trapezius, Rhomboids
Attach the band to an anchor point at the floor or at your feet. Bend at the hips, maintaining a neutral flat spine. Your torso should be just above parallel to the floor, with your arms extended towards the floor, while there is a slight amount of tension on the resistance band. Pull both of your elbows back towards the ceiling, closely passing your torso. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull your elbows back for a better contraction in your rhomboids/the muscles surrounding your scapulae (shoulder blades). Slowly return to the start position, and repeat.
2. Banded Glute Bridge
Muscles Worked: Glutes, Core Muscles, Hamstrings
Start by lying on your back, bring your heels back until they are underneath your knees. Wrap the band around your knees while in this position. You can either perform the exercise as a hold like a plank, or as reps by lowering your hips to the floor and pushing them back towards the ceiling. Be sure to squeeze your glutes throughout the exercise by pushing your knees outwards against the resistance of the band. For some isometric hamstring work, pull your heels into the ground during the exercise too. If you want to make it more difficult, try shifting your feet slightly further apart, whilst still pushing out against the resistance of the band throughout the movement.
3. Lateral Band Walks
Muscles Worked: Glutes
Wrap the resistance band around your knees whilst standing in a quarter squat stance. Your feet should be far enough apart so that there is a slight amount of tension on the band. From here, step sideways (i.e. walk laterally) for 5-10 steps, maintaining tension on the band, before walking the same number of steps in the opposite direction. To make this exercise more challenging, move the band further down your legs, closer to your ankles and perform the exercise as described.
4.Glute Kick Backs
Muscles Worked: Glutes, Quads
Start by placing a resistance band around your legs at the ankles. Kick backwards slowly, tensing the glute for 2 seconds before returning to the start position and performing the next rep.
5. Overhead Press
Muscles Worked: Deltoids, Triceps, Trapezius
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and loop the band underneath each foot. Hold the band just outside your shoulders, your arms bent and palms facing forward.
Perform an overhead press by pushing your hands towards the ceiling whilst holding the band in each hand before returning your hands to shoulder level.
6. Band-Loaded Squat
Muscles Worked: Glutes, Quads, Spinal Erectors, Core Muscles, Grip Strength
Stand on the resistance band with both feet whilst standing in your usual squat stance. Ensure there is enough material from the resistance band for you to grab onto on the outside of your feet. The band should have a slight amount of tension on it when you are holding the band when at the bottom of the squat (think like a trap-bar deadlift!). Squat up against the resistance of the band (try not to lose grip!) and repeat. Keep your chest up and proud throughout the exercise, with your knees tracking over your toes.
7. Romanian Deadlift
Muscles Worked: Hamstrings, Glutes, Spinal Erectors
Stand on one end of the resistance band, bend at the hips and grab the band with both hands with a slight amount of tension in the band at the bottom position (with your arms fully extended). Maintain a neutral back angle throughout the movement, keeping your hands/the band close to your body throughout. Extend at your hips until standing upright – you should feel the loading in your hamstrings, glutes and lower back (especially once fatigued). Squeeze at the top position before returning to the starting position in a controlled manner.
8. Banded Front Squat
Stand inside of the resistance band in a normal squat stance (your feet should hold the band to the floor). Squat down and loop the band around the front of your shoulders (arms straight in front of you or crossed). Squat up against the resistance of the band, keeping your back straight and chest proud. Squat down and repeat.
9. Banded Squat
Muscles Worked: Quadriceps, Glutes
Start with a comfortable squat stance (this may be with feet shoulder-width apart, slightly wider or narrower depending on individual preference). Loop the band around your knees so that there is tension pulling your knees inwards/caving your knees in. Use this as a stimulus to push your knees out against as your perform a normal squat, ensuring that you continue to push your knees outwards against the resistance throughout the movement. This will develop hip and knee stability in the squat by developing the strength of the Gluteus Medius muscle at the hip. Keep each squat slow and controlled to retain tension on the muscles throughout the movement.
10. Banded Knee Raises
Muscles Worked: Hip Flexors
In a standing or lying position, loop the resistance band around one of your feet with the leg straight, then loop the other end of the band around the knee of the opposite leg while the hip is flexed to around 90-degrees. There should be some tension on the band while in this position. To perform the exercise, raise your knee to your chest against the resistance of the band before lowering back to the start position.
11. Table-Top Hip Abduction
Muscles Worked: Glutes, Core Muscles
Starting on your hands and knees in the ‘table-top’ position, loop the band around your knees. From here, open your legs by ‘abducting’ the working leg up until it is parallel with your hip (or as far as you can go!). You should feel this working in the side of your hip – make sure to squeeze at the end of the movement and maintain a neutral spine throughout, which will help to maintain your balance throughout the exercise.
12. Hamstring Curls
Muscles Worked: Hamstrings
Anchor the resistance band to a solid place and lie on your chest. Loop the resistance band around one ankle, with slight tension on the band in this position. Kick your foot towards your hips against the resistance of the band, squeezing at the top of each rep.
Muscles Worked: Hip Abductors/Glutes
Lying on your back or on your side, loop the band around your knees. With around a 45-degree bend in your hips and knees, open your legs against the resistance of the band. You can perform this exercise bilaterally (both legs at the same time) or unilaterally (one leg at a time). Doing this exercise unilaterally allows you to work one side isometrically (no movement at the joint) while working the other with an isotonic muscle contraction (joint moves as muscle length changes). Experiment with holding the contraction at the end of the range of movement on each rep for a given amount of time like 5 seconds to increase the challenge! This exercise is great for working your hip abductors like the Gluteus Medius muscle – responsible for providing stability to the hip, knee and ankle.
14. Single Arm Row
Muscles Worked: Latissimus Dorsi (Back), Elbow Flexors
Attach the band to an anchor point on the floor/at your feet. Bend at the hips, also with a slight bend at your knees (i.e. ‘soft knees’). Use the arm that is not holding the resistance band to support your torso (i.e. use a bench/chair to lean on). For the starting position of this exercise, your arm should be dangling straight beneath your shoulder with a small amount of tension on the resistance band. Pull your elbow back towards the ceiling and ‘squeeze’ at the end of the movement. Aim to keep your elbow close as it passes your torso, whilst simultaneously pulling your shoulder blades together. Return to the start position in a controlled manner, and repeat.
15. Banded Push-Up
Muscles Worked: Triceps, Pectoralis Major/Minor, Deltoids
Get into a normal push up position, but place either end of the band underneath the palm of your hands, with the remainder of the band running over your upper back. This will add tension to the top of the push-up, making it more difficult. Perform a standard push up – with a straight line in your body from your feet to your shoulders, shoulders stacked over your wrists and elbows at a 45-degree angle as you perform the exercise. Perform each rep in a controlled manner to retain tension on the working muscles throughout the exercise.
16. Supine Lying Pull-Downs
Muscles Worked: Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps
Lying on your back, tie the resistance band to a solid anchor close to the floor (ask a partner to stand in the loop as the anchor if you need). When lying on your back, the resistance band should have slight tension on it while your arms are overhead. Similar to a lat pull-down, pull the band down towards your shoulders. You should feel this in your lats (the muscles on your back/side of your torso). Return to the starting position and repeat.
17. Standing Hip Abduction
Muscles Worked: Glutes
Loop the resistance band around your ankles (put it around your knees if you’re struggling to overcome the resistance of the band). Stand on one leg, supporting yourself by holding onto a stable surface if necessary. With a slight bend in your knees, ‘abduct’ the raised leg (open your legs) against the resistance of the band. Squeeze at the end of the range of motion before slowly returning to the start position. You should feel the tension in the side of your hips, as this exercise loads the Gluteus Medius muscle.
18. Standing Band Pull-Aparts
Muscles Worked: Rear Deltoid, Rotator Cuff
Standing with your arms straight out in front of you with the band looped around each wrist, open your arms (similar to a rear delt fly) against the resistance. To make this exercise easier, move the band closer to the shoulder joint. You can add in pauses at the end of the range of movement to create an additional challenge.
19. Banded Chest Press
Attach the band to an anchor behind you while you are standing. Stand inside the loop as if you are performing a bench press. There should be tension on the band when your hands are near your chest. Press the band forwards like a bench press, squeezing your chest at the end of the movement, before returning to the start position. Alternatively, lie with your back on the floor with the resistance band underneath your upper back and perform the exercise exactly the same as a bench press.
20. Bicep Curl
Muscles Worked: Elbow Flexor Muscles (Biceps)
Fix the resistance band to an anchor, either by looping it around something secure or by standing on one end. Whether seated or standing, maintain a neutral spine and keep your elbows tucked at your sides. To perform the exercise, your arms should bend only at the elbows (no movement at the shoulder, or swaying if standing). Flex until your elbows are fully bent, before lowering to the start position in a controlled manner.
You can perform the bicep curl at varying degrees on shoulder flexion/extension, so vary the attachment point of the resistance band to your anchor and experiment with different positions (i.e. with your arms parallel with your shoulders, perform the bicep curl as described above. This position allows the biceps muscle to reach a more shortened position, thus providing additional stimulus for muscle growth!).
21. Tricep Extension
Muscles Worked: Elbow Extensor Muscles (Triceps)
Fix the band to an anchor point behind yourself or above yourself. Starting with your elbows fully flexed, with slight tension on the band, extend your elbows against the resistance provided by the band. Remember to keep your elbows stationary throughout the movement so that you can optimally load the triceps/elbow extensor muscles through the full range of movement.