“They come in different lengths, difficulties—light, medium, heavy, extra-heavy—colors and sizes,” says NASM-certified personal trainer Danny Saltos. “You can use resistance bands for bicep curls, shoulder presses, chest presses, squats and more. In other words, an affordable resistance band is all you need to recreate any piece of gym equipment at home and get a full-body workout.
If you’re a beginner who wants to try resistance band exercises, keep reading to learn about its benefits, nine beginner-friendly steps, and tips on how to get the most out of your workout.
Benefits of resistance band exercises
1. Easy on the joints
“Resistance band exercises are much like traditional weight-bearing exercises, in that they have an anchor point and therefore engage the body more with each exercise,” says Florrie Mahoney, founder of Board30, a fitness studio franchise offering full-body resistance band workouts. “Smooth and constant tension is great for your joints and even helps strengthen your joints, the more you use them.”
2. Increases strength evenly
If you want to ensure a symmetrical workout, the resistance band has your back (and core, and arms—you get the gist). “Resistance band exercises increase strength equally both concentrically and eccentrically [meaning, when you contract and release]So your muscles are stronger but more flexible and less injury-prone,” says Mahoney.
3. Builds muscle
Resistance bands may seem flimsy, but don’t be fooled: they can help you build some serious muscle. “You can build muscle mass using resistance bands by increasing the tension and doing fewer reps,” says Mahoney. “You can incorporate cardio more easily than weights,” which is more and more unpredictable
4. Travel friendly
You may not travel a ton right now, but when you do, resistance bands make a great companion. You literally don’t need any other equipment (see Advantages of Versatility below). “Stuff them in your luggage or throw them in your backpack,” Saltos says. “Some can even be bundled together in a small mesh bag.”
Versatility is another great benefit of resistance band exercises. “You can do almost every gym movement from the comfort of your own home,” Saltos says. “You can work your glutes, quads, chest, back, arms and abs, all with a good band.”
6. Great for all fitness levels
Whether you’re just starting to get into your fitness groove or you’re a complete fitness fanatic, resistance bands work great for people of all fitness levels because they come in a variety of resistances. “Most band sets come in a variety of bright colors,” says Saltos. “It’s visually appealing but serves as a way to identify the different thickness/stiffness of each band. Lighter bands offer less resistance, and heavier bands offer much more resistance.”
9 Resistance Band Exercises for Beginners
A Killer Resistance Band Take your squats up a notch by adding a resistance band to the mix for a glute workout.
Use a light resistance band for this. Step onto the band with both feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the ends of the band with one hand on each side. Then squat. “This added resistance from the band mimics the same stimulation as using free weights or a cable machine,” Saltos says. Your legs and butt will feel burnt.
2. Chest press
If you want to work on upper body strength, a resistance band chest press will help with that. “Using an anchor point that’s about shoulder height (eg, a fence, a sturdy pole, a door frame anchor), grab a handle in each hand and face away from the anchor point,” Saltos says. “Using a staggered position, press the resistance band until your arms lock out at full extension.”
3. Bicep curls
A resistance band bicep curl (shown at about the 11-minute mark in the video above) is another simple beginner exercise that both Saltos and Mahoney recommend. “Stand on your resistance band using an anchor point (your left or right foot) and perform a bicep curl,” Saltos says. Mahoney’s tips for proper execution include tucking your elbows in as you curl, maintaining a straight spine, and keeping a slight bend in your knees.
4. Core kick
To do a core kick, sit on a mat and wrap your resistance band around one foot and hold the end with both hands. “Put the legs in the air with the resistance band and lean back at 45 degrees,” says Mahoney. “Bring your knee toward your chest and then press for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.” In the video above, you can see a variation of that movement with both feet stuck on the resistance band.
5. Back row
You don’t need weights or a rowing machine to get your back row. To do this, grab your resistance band and take a seat on the ground. “Run the band on both feet as your anchor,” says Saltos. “Sit back nice and tall, and pull both hands back in rowing fashion using a neutral grip.” It will help build strength, flexibility and stamina.
6. Lateral shoulder raises
Target your shoulders and abs with a lateral shoulder raise supported by your comfortable resistance band. Start by standing on your resistance band using one foot as your anchor. “Raise your right and left arms until they’re parallel to the ground so your body forms a T,” Saltos says. “Low [your arms] And repeat.”
7. Tricep press
To get your triceps nice and toned, try a resistance band tricep press. “Stand on your resistance band,” says Mahoney. “Bend 45 degrees at the waist. Tuck your elbows into your rib cage with a 90-degree bend at the elbows. Press straight back with the hands to engage the triceps. Keeping your head in line with your spine and elbows is critical stability.”
8. Shoulder press
Give your shoulders some love with resistance band shoulder presses. Begin standing upright on your resistance band. “Holding the resistance bands, bring your hands up to shoulder height and drive your elbows out to the sides,” says Mahoney. “Press both hands straight up from the shoulders.” If you need to correct it, do one hand at a time instead of both.
9. Quad press
To work your quads, while standing, place your resistance band around one foot. “Hold the edge of the band,” says Mahoney. “Bring your knees toward your core and then press down and forward at a 45-degree angle. Make sure you have a slight bend in your support leg and a straight spine.” In the video above, you can see a variation while lying down.
Resistance band exercise tips for beginners
Check the resistance level
Before you start reps, Mahoney suggests checking the band’s resistance level first. If the resistance is too high or not enough, you can adjust as needed.
View your form
As with any other style of exercise, Mahoney says watching your form is key “Engage your core to protect your spine and don’t lock your joints,” she says. If something doesn’t feel right, Saltos says it’s a sign to double-check your form. A quick Google search can help with this.
While these resistance band exercises are great for beginners, you should take it easy (and slowly) when you’re first starting out. “Start with a 30-minute workout three times per week,” Saltos says. “Over time you can gradually build workouts up to 45 and 60 minutes.”
Keep your resistance band training interesting by experimenting and finding what feels good. “Play around with different methods like higher reps using lighter bands and lower reps using heavier bands,” Saltos says. “You can also exercise for time, which is a great way to challenge your muscular endurance.”