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11 resistance band exercises for a full-body workout

From your arms to your glutes, using a resistance band works large and small muscles for targeted toning.
The wood chopper works the shoulders, biceps, legs and core.
The wood chopper works the shoulders, biceps, legs and core.Stephanie Mansour

Resistance bands may be my favorite piece of exercise equipment. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dumbbell workout. But resistance bands are super affordable, transportable and versatile, and can help target larger muscles as well as smaller stabilizing muscles. Plus, research shows that engaging in elastic band resistance training improves balance, gait function and flexibility. Research also suggests that elastic band exercises induce greater neuromuscular fatigue than exercises with isometric contractions. 

As someone who is always on the go, I love that bands are super easy to pack and whip out in a small space (like a hotel room) and they can literally be shoved in a drawer at home!

There are different varieties of resistance bands. I like to have two sets: a smaller, looped band and a longer band with handle attachments. The smaller resistance bands are perfect to use for working the glutes and legs as the range of motion is smaller than it would be for the arms. The arms require larger resistance bands to allow for a larger range of motion. Plus, the handles make it easier to grasp the resistance bands while performing pulling motions to work the upper body.

Here are 11 resistance band exercises that you can use to work your entire body!

These exercises are performed with a resistance band with handles. 

Wood chopper exercise

Wood chopper

Engaging the shoulder, abdominal and quad muscles, wood choppers are a great shoulder-strengthening exercise that also works the entire core. Start with one foot placed on the center of the resistance band. Grip one of the handles with both hands. In the starting position, place your hands holding the handles near your knee. With a slight bend in your knees, begin to pull the handle across your body diagonally with arms extended. Be sure you are engaging your abs and using your obliques to twist the body. The stopping point ends just over your opposite shoulder. Slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 repetitions, then switch sides.

Tricep kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks

Step on the resistance band with both feet hip-width apart. Grab one handle in each hand. Maintain a straight back as you hinge at the hips to lean your torso forward. Turn your hands so that your palms are facing your body. Add a 90-degree bend to your elbows with arms tucked into your sides. Keeping your elbows tucked in, push the handles back and up until your arms are fully extended. Return to the starting position. Repeat for 10 repetitions.

Overhead pull-apart

Overhead pull-apart

Grab one handle of the resistance band in each hand. If the band is very long, let the handles dangle and hold onto the actual band so that there is no slack. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Extend your arms out straight up overhead, palms facing away from your body. Make sure there is enough tension in the resistance band that it is a challenge to pull your arms apart, but not so much that you have to strain to do so. Keeping your arms straight, pull the band apart and our to the sides until your arms reach a “T” position. Return to the starting position. Repeat for 10 repetitions.

Pull-apart exercise

Pull-apart

Stand with your feet at hip-width apart and grab one handle of the resistance band in each hand. If the band is very long, let the handles dangle and hold onto the actual band. Extend your arms straight out in front of you, palms facing the ground. Make sure there is tension in the resistance band, enough that it is a challenge, but not so much that it is too difficult to pull apart. Pull the band apart until reaching a “T” position with the arms, making sure that the hands and arms remain parallel to the ground. Return to the starting position. Repeat for 10 repetitions.

Bent-over row

Bent-over row

Step on the resistance band with both feet hip-width distance apart. Grab one handle of the resistance band in each hand, palms facing each other. Add a slight bend in your knees, pushing your hips back to hinge your torso forward. Maintain a flat back with core engaged. Let your arms hang straight down under your shoulders, adding a slight bend to your elbows. Drive your elbows straight up to bring the resistance band to your chest, keeping elbows tucked into your sides. Slowly lower back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 repetitions. 

Bicep curl

Bicep curl

Step on the band with both feet hips-distance apart. Hold one handle in each hand with your arms down by your sides. Slightly bend your knees and pull your abs in. Then pull the band up toward your shoulders into a bicep curl and release. Repeat 10 times.

Overhead press

Overhead press

Start with one foot forward, standing on top of the band, and the other foot back behind you. Switch your grip, grabbing the handles from underneath so that your palms are facing forward and away from you. Start by holding the handles at shoulder height. Then press the band up over your head, extending both arms fully. Release back down to the starting position and repeat 10 times.

These exercises are performed with a looped resistance band.

Standing side taps

Standing side taps

This exercise works the gluteus medius (the muscle outside the hip) and the thighs. It’s also a bit of a cardio move since tapping from one side to the other without a break will elevate your heart rate. Step into the resistance band so that it is just above the ankles. Pull your navel in toward your spine and bend your knees so that your butt is reaching back. Place your feet open just as wide as your shoulders. This is a modified squat position and you’ll stay here for the entire exercise! Tap your right foot out to the right, feeling the tension on the band, and then bring it back to the center so that the feet are just as wide as the shoulders. Then tap the left foot to the left and feel the tension on the band; bring it back to the center. Repeat this for 10 taps to each side. 

Standing banded squat

Standing banded squat

Step into the resistance band with both feet so that it is around your thighs, right above the knee. Step the feet out as wide as the hips to create tension on the band. Pull the navel in and bend at the knees to sit back with your glutes. Act like you’re sitting back into a chair, and then drill down through the heels to stand back up. The band helps activate the glutes with the tension around the legs and helps stabilize your body to perform the squat with proper form. Repeat 10 times.

Standing lateral band walk

Standing lateral band walk

Step into the resistance band with both feet so that it is around your thighs, right above the knee. Open the feet as wide as the hips to create tension on the band. Lower down into a half-squat position while pulling your navel in toward your spine and pressing down through the heels. Then shift your weight over to your left side, and step sideways to the right. Bring your left foot slightly in, keeping tension on the band, and continue to side step to the right like this for 10 steps (or however many steps you have room for!). Then repeat to the left. 

Banded bridge

Banded bridge

Step into the resistance band with both feet so that it is around your thighs, right above the knee. Lying down on your back, bend your knees with your feet on the ground as wide as your hips. Shimmy the band up around your upper thighs. Take a deep breath in, and then exhale as you pull your navel in toward your spine and tilt your pelvis forward to press the low back into the ground. Slowly roll your low back, middle back and then upper back off the ground into a bridge position, pressing your legs out against the band and opening the legs wide. Hold it at the top. Then, pulse the legs and the band out to the sides for 10 counts. Slowly lower back down onto the ground vertebrae by vertebrae. Repeat 10 times.