Resistance bands offer a way to slightly and gradually increase resistance in loads of workouts. They’re a friend to calisthenics athletes and bodybuilders alike.
If your goal is to tone, bulk, and shape your body while cutting away fat, resistance bands are one of the best ways to get that done.
Since they aren’t all-powerful on their own, these specific exercises help beginners utilize their resistance bands in the most effective way while still keeping their skill level in mind.
If you’re just getting started, this is the quintessential guide to all the different ways you can use resistance bands to seriously improve your physical fitness.
#1 Band Pull-Apart
This is the most basic exercise you can do with resistance bands, and allow you to get used to the way they feel on your muscles when you pull bands apart.
This is basically the best place to start for any beginner while also working out portions of your back, arms, and some areas of your chest all at the same time.
The difficulty here can be raised depending on how long you want to hold the bands in the full position, while also increasing the resistance band strength as you see fit.
Stand with the band around both of your hands
Hold the band at chest-level height
Pull your arms apart until you feel resistance; be sure to engage your core and keep your back and neck neutral
You will feel pressure on the shoulder blades, which indicates that it’s engaging the right muscles
Slowly release your grip and return to the starting position; there is no time requirement for holding your arms out
#2 Standing Side Steps
The concept is pretty on-the-nose with a name like that. You step side to side, building muscles in your outer quads, calves, and learning proper hip rotation while keeping your neck and spine in a neutral position.
Standing side steps help you with positioning for long-term success while using resistance bands at later stages of your fitness journey.
With your resistance band around the space just above your ankles, gently bend your knees
Hold your hands together and align your spine with your neck to keep it neutral; engage your core during the entire exercise
While keeping one foot planted, pull the other foot out to the side; do not let it go in front of or behind you, you want a straight line sideways
Perform 10 reps and alternate to the other leg, repeat for as many reps as you can
#3 Standing Jacks
You don’t have to jump for it to be a jack, you know? You can do the same motions of jumping jacks without impacting your knees and other joints.
This may feel a bit silly at first when you think back to your PE days in elementary school, but this is a great start to get used to resistance bands while improving dynamic muscles that you’ll be engaging at a later date as you progress to more intense movements.
Stand with both feet apart at shoulder width
Place both arms into the resistance band; it should sit around your wrists on both arms
Place your arms above your head and extend them in a capital Y pattern as if you were doing a jumping jack
Explode out, and gently pull in, repeating this process with rhythmic breathing
Perform 10 reps, then switch to your legs; have a resistance band around both ankles, and explode out while gently pulling back in
Alternate between your legs and your arms, one rep on each while alternating to another, and you’ll quickly begin to sweat
#4 Seated Rows
You don’t have to own a rowing machine to be able to row! At least, not anymore. While it’s good to have those machines, you can sit and use a resistance band to emulate rowing.
This works on your back, your core, and while this doesn’t help with your legs as a rowing machine does, it teaches you proper form and is all about keeping your neck and spine in a neutral position while you exercise.
Sit flat on your mat or the floor
Pull the resistance band over the bottom of your shoes so you have equal slack on either side
Hold the handles tight, keep your back and neck straight
With your legs primarily straight, pull the bands backwards while engaging your elbows and holding your core tight
Once you’ve pulled back as far as you can go, gently release to the starting position and repeat
Focus on your core and breathe rhythmically; inhale when you pull, exhale when you release, and your breathing pattern will guide you through this exercise
#5 Pallof Press
If one of the main reasons you want to use resistance bands has to do with relieving back pain, you’re in luck.
The Pallof Press is specifically designed to help you alleviate back pain through muscle building, so you put less stress on the front of your body, and focus on the parts that you should be—your back and arm muscles, while also improving your core.
Secure one end of the band to an immovable object, such as a support beam or something else extremely sturdy
Using both hands, hold the free end of the resistance band and walk backwards away from the support until the line is taut
Turn 90 degrees to either side (you will switch sides later so don’t be worried about all the exercise going into one side)
Pull the band outward in front of you, controlling the resistance you feel from the side and try to keep it straight
Hold it while your arms are extended for 10 or 15 seconds, then gently retract without letting go of the tension from your hands to the support
Repeat on other side; it’s a good idea to do 5 reps on each side and continuously alternate
#6 Overhead Press
This is extremely simple and involves a dynamic range of motion.
If one of your problem areas are your arms, this will work out multiple aspects of them while also helping with a better range of motion on your back, and building that core bit by bit so that you can see progress across most of your body as you progress to higher-stage resistance band workouts.
Lay the resistance band down on the center of your mat and step directly on the center of the band
Use your other foot about 12-18 inches behind your dominant foot for stability
Bend at the knees with a slight pivot of the hips
Reach down and grab both handles, holding them out in front of you slightly; use your knee as a marker for where you should be pulling the bands upward
Hold the handles so that your fingers are pointing down, and then pull up until you extend your arms fully over your head
Repeat this process and consider increasing the resistance band rating if things get too easy
#7 Bicep Curls
Who doesn’t want better biceps? Whether it’s to tone them or bulk them up, your biceps need some love!
This is a super simple beginner-friendly exercise, you just have to make sure that your resistance band can handle the stress, and that you’re not overexerting yourself in the beginning.
Lay your resistance band down on your mat or floor
Stand with both feet at shoulder width apart right in the middle of the resistance band
Reach down to grab both handles, and keep your back straight, your neck neutral, and only slightly bend at the knees
Pull upward on both sides at the same time, keeping your arms down and slightly outward so you aren’t just pulling straight up
Engage your core and pull until your hands reach your shoulders, releasing gently and repeating the process
Breath and core control is everything here, and this will help you with other exercises as time goes on
#8 Squat Jacks
Similar to side steps, these use the same resistance band but slightly higher up the body. You’ll also be bending a bit, and this type of bending at the knee helps with deadlifts and more complex ways to use your resistance bands in the future.
If you really want to build up your legs and get some serious muscle going, this is a great way to engage them at a beginner level.
Stand with your feet at shoulder width apart after stepping into the resistance band and pulling it up to your thighs, they should rest somewhere in the middle
Place your hands together to affirm your center of gravity
Bend your knees slightly while pivoting your hips backward; your neck and spine should be in a neutral position
Move both legs outward at the same time until you feel resistance, then see how far you can go from there
The key is to gently release pressure to enter the original stance, training your muscles on the movement explosion and the movement implosion
Repeat this as many times as possible, focusing on form over speed (but eventually working up the speed to the point that this makes you sweat)
#9 Bent Over Reverse Fly
This only requires one foot to keep you steady, and the other foot is on the resistance band. You want a single band with handles on either end for this one to maintain stability.
You only need a very little bit of space to do these, so the basic dimensions of a simple yoga mat would do (actually that works for many of these beginner resistance band workouts).
Lay the resistance band on the floor in front of you, and place one foot over the center of the band; this should comfortable line up with the arch of your shoe
Reach down and grab one handle in each hand
Your other foot should be about 12-18 inches behind your current foot with your feet at shoulder width, that other foot will act as stability while you exercise
Bend your knee slightly and keep your back aligned, but slightly pivoted at the hip; you want your neck and spine to be neutral
Pull up at a 45° angle until the band begins to offer resistance, and see how far you can go
If you can extend your arms perfectly out from your body on either side, that’s about as far as the band should take you; gently release your grip and continue this exercise
If you find that it’s too easy to pull until your arms create a straight line that’s level with your shoulders, consider progressing to the next level of resistance band
#10 Lying Leg Raises
Leg raises also work out your legs (as you might have guessed), but they can help with your core and lower abdomen as well. It’s not a full ab workout, but it helps with the lower abs that plenty of people have a difficult time exercising.
This is something you can scale as well, so as you eventually stretch out the resistance band all the way and then upgrade to a stronger band with a higher resistance rating.
It’s all up to you (also, it may be a beginner move, but leg raises are a core feature of calisthenics workouts for even the toughest of athletes).
Lay on the floor with your legs completely flat against the mat you’re resting on
With the resistance band over both of your lower legs just above the ankle, you want to raise one leg up while keeping the heel of your other foot firmly on the floor or mat
This can be tricky at first because your other leg wants to raise up with your first leg, so resistance is key here
Keep your hands flat on the mat so you don’t accidentally use momentum to make this exercise easier
Engage your core and focus on your breathing exercises as you lift your legs
Perform 10 reps on one leg, and then switch to the other leg—the great thing about this is that you don’t have to move to switch to the other leg, and the resistance training by keeping your other foot planted is great for control and stability moving forward
Justin Rodriguez has spent most of his adult life inspiring people to take their fitness more seriously. He is not new to the business of providing practical solutions for those looking to set and smash their fitness goals. From sharing professional tips and tricks to recommending awesome products, Justin Rodriguez helps just about anyone who wants to get the best out of their workout routines.Having gathered a lot of experience both in and outside the gym, Justin Rodriguez uses DSW Fitness as a medium to show you exactly how to get that great-looking body with toned muscles you’ve always wanted.