When it comes to strength training, you might automatically reach for dumbbells or kettlebells, or hop on a machine at the gym. But if you want to switch things up, you can easily get a full-body workout using resistance bands instead.
In fact, the super portable fitness equipment comes highly recommended by a lot of trainers. “They’re cheap, you can take them anywhere, and they take up next to no space, so they’re a winner if you’re looking to change up your routine,” says Centr head trainer Luke Zocchi, who uses them regularly. And you can use them for more than just donkey kicks — there are plenty of full-body resistance band workouts that’ll work all the muscles within your body.
Exercising with resistance bands comes with unique perks you don’t get from traditional weight training. First of all, the stretchiness of a band helps you reach deep into muscles that you might otherwise miss, especially if you usually exercise with weights. “Bands work by allowing you to isolate muscles and putting those muscles under constant tension through the range of motion,” Zocchi explains. He compares this type of movement to dumbbells, where tension can be lost at certain points of an exercise.
They’re also a good bet if you’re looking for something gentle. “Resistance bands have a lower impact on your body than weights and you typically have a bit more control,” he adds. “They can also help keep the load off certain injuries.”
With all those benefits in mind, pick up a resistance band and try one the full-body workouts below to hit your triceps, quads, and everything in between.
According to Rhonda Hunt, a NASM-certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, resistance bands are a great way to target all the small muscles that often get missed during other types of workouts. Here’s a circuit she recommends.
- Lateral walks. Place band around ankles. Keep feet parallel with tension on the band. Take a small step to the right eight times. Then walk eight steps to the left. Repeat for 30 seconds.
- Single-leg Romanian deadlift. Stand on the band with your right foot. Hold the other end of the band with the left hand. With the majority of your weight in the right foot, hinge from the hips and raise the left leg up as the chest and shoulders lower, maintaining leveled hips and a straight line from shoulder to heel on the left. Press into the right heel and engage glutes to rise back up to stand. Repeat for 45 seconds on each side.
- Deceleration bicep curls. Sit in a chair. Step on band with right foot. Hold band with right hand, place your right elbow inside your right thigh. Lower hand down to floor. Bend elbow to perform bicep curls. Curl up fast then resist the band for 4 counts to slowly lower. Repeat for 45 seconds, then hold the band halfway up and do quick pulses for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Lunging back rows. Stand on band with left foot. Hold band in right hand. Bend left knee into a lunge position. Straighten right arm towards left foot, then bend the right elbow, pulling the band towards your right hip. Retract your shoulder blade and slowly release the band back to the start. Repeat for 45 seconds on both sides.
- Shoulder adductions. Start with band around wrists, arms extended out straight in front of shoulders, palms facing in. Push palms slightly away against the resistance of the band and hold for three counts, then release. Repeat for 30 seconds.
- Lats and shoulder pulldowns. Hold either side of the band, extend arms overhead. Bend elbows and pull the band apart until elbows come in line with shoulders. Hold for 3 counts, then return to start. Repeat for 45 seconds. Bend your elbows again and do quick pulses for 15 seconds to finish.
- Bicycle crunches. Lie on your back. Place band around feet or above knees. Slowly perform a single bicycle crunch by kicking one leg out straight, then the other while twisting opposite elbow to opposite knee. Hold for 3 counts, then switch to the other side. Repeat for 45 seconds.
- Single-arm rows. Fold the resistance band in half. Stand in the middle of it with one foot. Hold the handles with the same hand as the foot you’re standing on and keep the other hand on your knee. Bend over in a bent-over row position. Pull the band to your chest while keeping your elbow tucked in. Hold at the top, squeeze your back muscles, then slowly return to start. Repeat 12 reps, 3 sets on each side.
- Glute bridge with alternating leg raises. Place the resistance band above your knees. Lie down on your back, bend your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips to the ceiling. Push your knees out to feel pressure on the resistance band. Slowly straighten your leg until it’s aligned with your back. Switch legs and kick your right foot out. Alternate for 15 reps, 3 sets.
- Goblet squats. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes facing outwards. Place a band under both feet to anchor it. Pull the band ends up to your chest to form a triangle. Lower into a squat position by sending your hips back. With a straight back, press into your heels and engage your glutes to stand. Repeat 12 reps, 3 sets.
Heather Carroll, a certified personal trainer and owner of A Balanced Life Training, recommends this routine to strengthen your whole body. “Depending on the level of your resistance band, you can go slower with a heavier band or faster with control with a light band,” she tells Bustle.
- Squat walk with half bicep curls. Wrap the band under your feet and hold an end in each hand. Stand up tall. Sit hips back into a chair squat. Draw your arms into a 90-degree angle at the elbow. Take 2 steps to the right, then 2 steps to the left. Add a half bicep curl to the shoulders as you step. Do 12 to 24 reps on each side.
- Lunge low rows.- Take a long lunge with the back leg straight. Form one long line from the crown of your head to your back heel. Place one end of the band under the front foot. Hold the band in the opposite hand and grab it at your desired tension. Low row your hand to your hip then back to start. Focus on keeping the hips and shoulders square. Do 12 reps on each side.
- Overhead pulldowns. Stand tall with the band in each hand and arms overhead. With arms slightly bent, pull down to your sides, then draw back up to the start to replicate a lat pulldown. Do 24 reps, 2 sets.
- Triceps overhead. Stand on the band with your left foot and hold the end of the band in your left hand. Bring the arm up overhead. Bend at the elbow with your hand behind the head and extend through the tricep to straighten the arm. Do 12 to 20 reps on each side, 2 sets.
- Double-leg stretch. Lie on your back and loop the band around your feet. Hold ends in each hand. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders up. Press your legs away at a 45-degree angle against the band, then draw back into your core with control. Do 24 reps, 2 sets.
Chest presses. Anchor resistance band at chest height. Stand facing away from your anchor point. Start with each side of the band under your arms. Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent or in a split stance. Press the band handles out in front of you, bringing hands closer together near the end of the movement. Bring hands back to start and repeat 10 times.
Torso rotations. Stand with your feet hip-width apart to the left of a resistance band anchored at chest height. Hold both handles together. Start with arms out straight extended to the right, knees slightly bent. Use your obliques to initiate a twisting movement. Move both handles in a smooth arc to your left, keeping arms at chest height. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Overhead press. Stand with both feet on a resistance band, hip-width apart. Hold handles in front of shoulders, palms facing away. Engage core and squeeze glutes. Press both handles up overhead and move hands slightly closer together. Keep arms straight, biceps by ears. Reverse movement to return to start.
Glute bridges. Lie on your back with a mini-band looped just above your knees. Place your feet hip-width apart, heels close to your glutes. Keep each knee in line with your mid-foot. Tuck your pelvis so there’s space between your lower back and the floor. Press into your heels to raise your hips off the floor. Squeeze your glutes, feeling the tension of the band. Hold briefly, then return to start. Repeat 10 times.
- Repeat for three rounds.
Mariah Metzger, CSCS, an ACE-certified personal trainer and owner of Intersect Fitness, recommends going slowly throughout the circuit. “Make sure you pause for a couple of seconds at the hardest part of each rep,” Metzger tells Bustle. “And if doing 15 reps is super easy, then you need a heavier resistance band.”
- Kneeling core presses. Wrap the band around a column or sturdy piece of furniture. Kneel and face away from the column. Grab the ends of the band in each hand and hold at either side of your face. Move away from column until you feel tension in the band. Maintain a tall kneel, breathe out, and bring the top of your rib cage to your belly button for a mini crunch. Press hands up, then lower your hands. Keep core engaged the whole time. Do 12 to 15 reps.
- Tricep pulldowns. Keep band around a column. Face the column and kneel on both knees. Keep your elbows tucked to your sides. Hold band ends in each hand, palms facing each other at about face height. Without moving elbows, straighten your arms to pull the band down. Do 12 to 15 reps.
- Banded push-up. Put the band across your mid-back. Hold the ends of the band under your hands in a push-up position. Do a push-up on toes or on knees. Do 12 to 15 reps.
- Band hops. Lie the band on the floor in a straight line. Face the band. Do a squat, explode up and over the band, landing again in a squat on the other side. Try to land gently. Turn around and repeat. Do 12 to 15 reps.
- Banded good mornings. Tie your band in a circle or use a loop band. Stand on band with your feet hip- width apart. Loop the band around your neck and upper shoulders. Try to put it more on the meat of your shoulder and not on your neck vertebrae. Hold onto the band with your hands at about the height of your hips. Brace your core and soften your knees. Keep your upper body rigid like a board. Send your hips backward. When your butt can’t go back any further, stand back up. Do 12 to 15 reps.
- Hammer curls. Remain standing on the band. Put your elbows by your side. Grab the band with your palms facing each other. Perform a bicep curl. Go slow on the way down. Do 12 to 15 reps.
- Leg extensions. Lie on your back with knees up, legs bent at 90 degrees. Loop the band around the arches of one foot and hold the other end with your hands to create tension. Put the unbanded foot down with the sole of your shoe flat on the floor. Straighten the banded leg. Do 12 to 15 reps on each side.
- Repeat the whole sequence two times.
Jennifer Jacobs, CPT, a certified personal trainer and Beachbody supertrainer, suggests this full-bod resistance band workout.
- Monster walks. Place band just above knees. With knees slightly bent, maintain tension in the band as you take one step forward and out to the side. Step other foot forward and out to the side. Make sure to take big, wide steps with your knees out. Continue to walk forward for 30 seconds, then walk back in the same manner for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 times.
- Dead bugs. Attach band at knee level to a stable anchor point. Lie on the floor with anchored band behind you. With knees bent and feet on the floor, grab onto the band with both hands and draw it over your chest. Keep arms up and straight. Pick your feet up and bend knees 90 degrees. Engage abs and slowly extend one leg out parallel to the floor. Return leg to start, then repeat with the opposite leg for 30 seconds.
- Runner’s lunges. Stand on middle of band with one foot. Hold ends of band up by your shoulders. Step one foot back, lower down into runner’s lunge, then stand back up straight against the resistance of the band. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.
- Kneeling hip thrusts. Start in a tall kneeling position with a band above your knees. Hinge at hips and press glutes back to sit on heels. Then lift your body back up by extending your hips. Tighten glutes together. Repeat 12 to 15 reps.
- Donkey kicks. Get on all fours. Place a band around your thighs. With shoulders over wrists, drive the working heel up towards your glute with a flexed foot. Then extend at the hip without arching your back to lower back down, keeping all the emphasis on your glute. Lower the knee to the floor. Repeat 12 to 15 reps on each side.
Lopes, J.S.S. (2019). Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis. SAGE Open Med. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6383082/
Rhonda Hunt, NASM-certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor
Jennifer Jacobs, CPT, certified personal trainer, Beachbody supertrainer
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