Mini bands might be small, but they can have a huge impact on your workout. As opposed to lengthier, thicker resistance bands, mini bands are nine-inch flat bands. Generally, you’ll use them to target muscles in your thighs, glutes, arms, and shoulders.
These versatile tools help warm up your body before lifting. You can also add them to exercises to give extra resistance — for example, around your knees during a barbell squat — or to up the resistance with bodyweight exercises.
Mini bands can help increase your muscle activation and help you learn to target different muscle groups and movement patterns. They are simple to use, portable, and highly effective when they’re used correctly. Here, we’ll go into the 10 best mini band exercises, programming suggestions, and training tips to get the best out of the mini band.
Get ready to feel the burn.
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Best Mini Band Exercises
- Hip Internal/External Rotation
- Mini Band Monster Walk
- Hip Flexor Isometric Hold
- Frog Hip Thrust
- Mini Band Back Squat
- Half-Kneeling Archer Row
- Overhead Reach
- Bent-Over Overhead Press
- Wall Slide
- Mini Band Push-Up
The hip requires 45 degrees of internal and external rotation for optimal performance and health. (1) If you don’t have enough internal rotation abilities, compensations can include overpronation at your feet, a high degree of unwanted knee valgus, and reduced step length and increased lumbar extension.
Benefits of the Hip Internal/External Rotation
- These help keep your hips healthy, with a well-developed ability to rotate.
- You’ll help maintain your knees and ankles in good working order.
- Rotations can improves your single-leg balance.
How to Do the Hip Internal/External Rotation
The mini band monster walk is a classic mini band move. It trains hip extension in one leg and hip abduction in the other. This activates your glute muscles, which all play an important role in the function and health of your lower back and knees.
Benefits of the Mini Band Monster Walk
- This move trains multiple hip functions at once.
- The mini band monster walk is a great warm-up exercise for running and single-leg exercises.
- You’ll help keep your hips and knees in tip-top shape.
How to Do the Mini Band Monster Walk
Place a mini band around your ankles or above your knees. Keep tension in the band and ‘walk’ slowly and deliberately, performing semi-circles with each foot. Try 10 steps forward and then 10 backward.
Your hips may feel tight, but tightness in that area may also mean that your hip flexors are weak. If they are, the hip flexion iso hold will help address this issue.
Weak hip flexors can cause tension in the lower back area, which contributes to lower back strains and other spinal issues. Targeting them with this move is high reward and low risk.
Benefits of the Hip Flexion Iso Hold
- The hip flexion iso hold can help strengthen weak hip flexors for better performance in activities like sprinting.
- You’ll improve your single-leg balance.
- This is a great potential preventive exercise for lower back pain.
How to Do the Hip Flexion Iso Hold
Use a light band to start with and have something solid to the side of you, in case you lose your balance. Place a mini-band over the front of both feet. Raise one hip as high as possible. Hold for 15 to 60 seconds on both sides.
With the frog hip thrust, you’re abducting and externally rotating your hips while flexing your lower back. This eliminates your hamstrings and lower back as much as possible.
Benefits of the Frog Hip Thrust
- The frog hip thrust puts you in touch with your glutes if you have problems feeling them work during bigger compound movements.
- This focuses on the glute max for higher reps, which can induce better hypertrophy.
- The extended time under tension due to the larger range of motion will set you up for major glute gains.
How to Do the Frog Hip Thrust
Place a mini band above your knees and put your feet together with your knees out. Place your upper back on a bench. Keep your chin tucked with your ribs and shoulders down. Perform a hip extension. Squeeze your glutes as hard as possible at lockout to get the best out of this exercise. Slowly lower down. Reset and repeat.
With the mini-band back squat, the band produces tension by trying to pull your knees inwards and cause hip internal rotation. Internal rotation is generally not a bad thing, but too much of it can cause collapsing form at the bottom of your squat.
If you have a problem with your knees caving in a bit too much, feeding the dysfunction with the mini band — called reactive neuromuscular training — will encourage your knees to push out extra hard. This can help lead to stronger, more efficient squats.
Benefits of the Mini Band Back Squat
- This move activates your glutes, training them to look alive during your squat.
- The mini band adds tension and muscle-building potential to your glutes.
- You’ll be providing a relatively easy fix to improve your squat technique.
How to Do the Mini Band Back Squat
Secure a light mini band above your knees. Set up for your squat. Squat down, pushing your knees into the inside of the mini band until you have reached your desired depth. Stand up and finish the lift with your glutes. Reset and repeat.
There is a lot going on in this move. You’re strengthening your support arm isometrically while training your upper back on the other side. This is a solid variation to add some volume to your upper back region.
Benefits of the Half-Kneeling Archer Row
- You gain a lot of core stability and hip mobility from the half-kneeling position.
- This adds volume to your upper back without adding stress.
- The half-kneeling position provides you with feedback when performing with less-than-optimal form.
How to Do the Half-Kneeling Archer Row
Get into a half-kneeling position and hold a mini band in both hands at shoulder height. With your chest up and shoulders down, perform a row on the side of your lowered knee. Complete all reps before switching sides.
Benefits of the Overhead Reach
- This move trains the serratus anterior, a muscle that is important for shoulder health.
- Overhead reaching primes all the muscles need to overhead press.
- You’ll reinforce good overhead pressing mechanics.
How to Do the Overhead Reach
Place a mini band around both wrists with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Start with your arms at your sides, in front of you. Press your arms out and spread your fingers while reaching forward until your elbows are extended. Then perform a front raise until your biceps are by your ears without overarching your lower back. Return to the starting position and repeat.
If you have trouble activating your traps and upper back during overhead or other movements, this exercise can be a big help. This mini band variation is a great upper body primer to perform on pressing days or as a drill to add some volume to the upper back without added stress.
Benefits of the Bent-Over Overhead Press
- This move strengthens your upper and lower back at the same time.
- You’ll help create a mind-muscle connection with your upper back. If you have trouble feeling it engage during bigger movements, this exercise can help.
- The bent-over overhead press activates your serratus anterior for better shoulder health and performance.
How to Do the Bent-Over Overhead Press
Place a mini band around your wrists with your elbows at 90 degrees. Start with your arms by your sides. Hinge forward at your hips. Maintaining your hinge, press the band overhead with your arms by your ears. Avoid shrugging your shoulders upward at the top of the lift, instead keeping your shoulder blades back and down. Reset and repeat.
The mini band wall slide might not look like much — but just wait until you try it. Adding a band to the move fires up your upper back.
The slide up and down the wall engages your serratus anterior, which is a vital muscle for going overhead with safety and precision.
Benefits of the Wall Slide
- This move gets your upper body ready to go overhead.
- You’ll engage your upper back, which is important for good posture.
- The reach overhead helps to improve your shoulder mobility.
How to Do the Wall Slide
Place a mini band around your wrists. Keep your elbows on the wall at 90 degrees. Place one foot forward and one foot back. Stand or sit up straight with your shoulders down and chest up. Slowly slide your forearms up the wall until your elbows are extended. Reverse the movement. Reset and repeat.
Benefits of the Mini Band Push-Up
- The band provides extra muscle-building tension for your chest and shoulders.
- If you’re an intermediate lifter wanting to start increasing push-up difficulty, this is a great way to start adding load.
- This move helps improves your shoulder stability.
How to Do the Mini Band Push-Up
With your hands and knees on the ground, place a mini-band around your wrists. Get into your preferred push-up position. Screw your hands outward into the ground. Perform a push-up as normal. Make sure your hands stay where they are during the entire exercise.
Programming Mini Band Exercises
Mini bands are excellent options for warm ups where you’re looking to prime your body for the work ahead. You can also program them in between strength exercises to shore up weak points and help with better form.
Mini Band Exercise Selection
Lower body-focused mini band exercises can help prepare your glutes, hips, and ankles for big barbell moves like the squat and deadlift. On upper body days, perform upper body-focused drills to prepare you to press and pull like a champion.
Mini Band Sets and Reps
Mini bands focus on smaller but very important muscles (the serratus anterior, for example) and prepare larger muscles (like the glutes) for the work ahead. While you likely won’t be lifting max weight with mini bands, they can help you with hypertrophy and endurance goals. Here are some guidelines for using mini bands in your routine.
- For Muscle: Particularly for the mini band squat and push-up, try two to four sets of 12 to 15 reps with a moderate mini band. For the other eight exercises, aim for 10 15 reps.
- For Warming Up: Perform one to two sets of eight to 12 reps.
Mini bands are best used to prepare your body for the training ahead and to shore up any muscular weakness. Keeping the reps moderate helps prime your muscles for action instead of exhausting them completely.
Mini Band Training Tips
You might be tempted to go with a heavier band, but it’s best to start on the lighter side to ensure proper form and a better mind-muscle connection. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your mini band training.
Particularly for the lower body band exercises, it can be awkward to get the band around your feet and into position.
Best to do this sitting down to avoid losing your balance and falling over. You can stand up once the band is comfortable and secure.
Prioritize Form Over Resistance
These 10 exercises may look simple enough. But especially if you’re new to mini bands, they will train your muscles differently than you’re used to. You don’t want to compromise movement quality for the sake of going heavier. Start light, nail form, and then move on to a heavier band.
Take Your Time
Don’t be in a hurry putting the mini band on your arms and legs. They tend to roll up and pinch the skin — that doesn’t feel pleasant. Moving slowly will help keep the bands more steady on your body. If you don’t like the way the band feels on your skin, wearing long sleeve pants or tops will help.
Mini Bands for the Win
Mini bands are a great tool to add to bodyweight or barbell exercises to engage more muscle, shore up any weakness, and prime your body for the work ahead. They are portable and simple to use — but don’t mistake them for being easy. A little resistance goes a long way, as this mini band can humble you in a big way.
- J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Feb; 27(2): 441–445.Hip rotation range of motion in sitting and prone positions in healthy Japanese adults. Heonsoo Han, RPT, MS,1,* Akira Kubo, RPT, Ph.D.,1 Kazuo Kurosawa, RPT, Ph.D.,1 Shizuka Maruichi, RPT,2 and Hitoshi Maruyama, RPT, PhD1
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