The 8 Best Band Exercises for Mass, Strength, and Endurance

Bands aren't for wussies. Don't believe us? Do these eight moves to gain muscle and ease up on your joints.

The beauty of resistance bands is they don’t rely on gravity for resistance —like a dumbbell or pair of kettlebells — so you can perform various exercises at different angles to challenge your muscle in all different directions.  

Using resistance bands for accessory exercises is a great way to add variety to your routine and give your joints a break from the constant pounding of a heavily loaded barbell. To help you sieve through all the best resistance band exercises available, we’ll dive into the benefits of training with resistance bands and provide a list of the eight best resistance band exercises.

 Best Resistance Band Exercises

Chaos Push-Up

Resistance bands are some of the most utilitarian tools in a gym. Not only can you lift but, but bands can be used as a training accouterment to make an exercise either easier or harder. In the case of the chaos push-up — which has you perform push-ups on the middle of a suspended band — it’s the latter. The instability of the resistance band fires up all your stabilizing muscles while performing a push-up. Anything less than perfect form, the band will give you instant feedback. (And by feedback, we mean you won’t be able to do the move. Harsh, right?)

Benefits of the Chaos Push-Up

  • The instability of the chaos push-up is great for additional rotator cuff recruitment.
  • Adds more core stability and control to your push-ups.
  • Chaos band training activates the smaller stabilizers (shoulder, core, and hips) while improving proprioception. That is, your ability to have self-awareness while your body is in motion.

How to Do the Chaos Push-Up

Loop a heavy-duty band around each of the spotter arms of a squat rack. The higher up the band, the easier the exercise, and the lower the band, the harder the move will be. We suggest starting with the band a bit higher Place your hands on the band in a shoulder-width grip and grip tight. Bring your legs behind you, engage your glutes, and core and slowly lower yourself down into a push-up. Push yourself up and reset your good starting position, and repeat. 

Bent Over Rear Delt Flye

Band pull-aparts and standing reverse flyes are great exercises that work the important muscles between your shoulder blades. But bent over rear delt flyes are more optimal. Mainly because being in the hinge position makes this more of a total body exercise. In addition to working your rear shoulder, you’re also focusing on your lower back, good hinge technique, as well as the muscles of the rhomboids and traps.

Benefits of the Bent Over Rear Delt Flye

  • Trains the lower, upper back, and good hinge position.
  • Great exercise for posture.
  • Strengthens the rhomboids and traps in the deadlift position, which assists upper back bracing for the deadlift.

How to Do the Bent Over Reverse Delt Flye

Hinge from the hips until your torso is almost parallel to the floor and take a shoulder-width grip of the looped band. Take a deep breath and pull the band between your belly button and sternum, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pause for a second, lower back down, and repeat. 

Spanish Squat

Having a band behind your knees with the Spanish Squat allows you to sit back into the squat while keeping your shins vertical. This increases the load on the quads while taking pressure off the knees, making it a great option for people with knee pain or those looking to beef up their quads.

Benefits of the Spanish Squat

  • Great squatting option for lifters with knee pain.
  • Increase knee drive for your deadlift and barbell squats.
  • A great option to build your quads in a functional position, unlike the leg extension machine.

How to Do the Spanish Squat

Attach a moderate looped resistance band around a squat rack at knee height. Step inside the band, putting it behind the knees, and walk back until the band is tight. You should feel the band pulling the knees forwards. Sit back into the squat, keeping your shins and torso vertical, and stand back up, pushing the back of your knees into the band.

Half-Kneeling Band Row

By lowering your center of mass, you’ll move your hips and shoulders without too much compensation from the pelvis and lower back while performing the row. This is a godsend if you suffer from lower back pain and helps dial in your rowing technique. And with the narrower base of support, you’ll receive extra core stability and glute activation benefits.

 Benefits of The Half-Kneeling Row

  • If hip mobility is an issue, lifting from the half-kneeling position can make the lift more accessible.
  • It makes for a perfect accessory for when you’re performing squats or deadlifts because of the hip mobility benefits.
  • A great option if you’re suffering from low back pain.

How to Do the Band Half-Kneeling Row

Attach the looped band around a chin-up bar or squat rack, grip t in one hand, and get into a good half-kneeling position, with knee above hip and ankle above the knee. The hand you’re rowing with is on the same side as the knee that’s down. Engage your back glute, sit up tall, and row your hand towards your hip while keeping your shoulders down and chest up. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Band Thruster

Thrusters are associated with barbells and CrossFit, but you can also be performed with bands. It’s a fantastic full-body exercise that trains your legs and upper body as one unit. But the beauty of performing them with the band is, it’s easier on your joints, allows you to accumulate more volume to build more muscle, and helps improve lockout strength and power.

 Benefits of the Band Thruster

  • Easier on the joints of the knees, lower back, wrist, elbows, and shoulders.
  • Safer movement for beginners to perform before using the barbell.
  • Allows you to get more volume in for hypertrophy purposes.

How to Do the Band Thruster

Stand on the looped band underneath the middle of your feet, get into your preferred squat stance, and grip the band on either side.  Bring up into the racked position and then lower down into a squat. As you’re rising from the squat, press the band overhead until lockout. Bring the band back to the racked position and repeat.

Band-Assisted Broad Jump

Broad jumps are the best expression of lower body strength and power. They are a great lower body power exercise that will help you run faster, jump higher, and improve your lockout strength for deadlifts. Performing them with the band makes it harder at the beginning to overcome the resistance and easier on the landing because the resistance on the band takes some of the impact off your knees. 

Benefits of the Band Assisted Broad Jump

  • A great lower body strength and power exercise that’s easier on the joints.
  • Improves your acceleration and power.
  • Allows you to do more reps, which means that you can accumulate more volume for muscle mass and endurance.

How to Do the Band Assisted Broad Jump

Loop a resistance band around a power rack and step into it and secure around the front of your hips. Walk forward until you feel the band pulling you backward. Hinge forward, keeping your chest up and feeling the tension in your hamstrings. Explode forward and jump, landing on the balls of your feet and slowly walk back to the starting position. Set your hips back and repeat. 

Resistance Band Biceps Curl

Isolating the biceps with curls is a gym rite of passage. It’s performed with a variety of tools and is performed from a variety of body positions. Performing them with bands is easier on the joints of the wrists, elbows, and shoulders and the ascending resistance of the band makes it more difficult at the top of the movement — something other tools do not provide. 

Benefits of Resistance Band Biceps Curl

  • It’s a longer range of motion compared to a weight machine that limits the range of your ROM.
  • Easier on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints.
  • More resistance on the biceps throughout the range of motion 

How to Do Resistance Band Biceps Curl

Grip both sides of the band with an underhand grip and stand in the middle of the band with both your feet. Stand up straight, pull your shoulders back and down, and then curl the handles until your hands are at shoulder level. Pause, lower down slowly, and repeat.

Overhead Triceps Extension

Like biceps curls, triceps extensions are performed with various tools in a variety of body positions. With overhead triceps extensions, the band is already being stretched, providing tension from the get-go. It only gets harder as you extend the elbows, which is great for hypertrophy and improving lockout strength for your bench press.

Benefits of Overhead Triceps Extensions

  • Increased tension throughout a larger range of motion.
  • It helps improve overhead lockout strength, which is important for shoulder press variations.
  • Easier on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints.

How to Do Overhead Triceps Extension

With the band underneath the middle of both feet, step forward with one foot and bring the band’s handles up behind your ears. Standing tall and keeping your elbows tucked in, extend the elbows until lockout, and pause for a second. Slowly lower down to the starting position and then repeat for reps.

The Benefits Of Bands

Although hardcore lifters frown upon the use of bands because there not the best tool for strength, they’re still lots of benefits for using bands in your program.

Versatility and Ease of Use

It’s not like dumbbells, barbells, and weight machines are hard to use, but with resistance bands, it’s easy to switch between exercises. (Also, they’re generally easier to store — making them perfect for smaller home gyms.) You don’t have to wait around for a piece of equipment to be ready, you can grab one band and do various exercises.

Muscle Recruitment

The beauty of bands is that they don’t rely on gravity for resistance to perform various exercises. The band is tight throughout the entire range of motion of almost every exercise, so they stress your muscles in ways a barbell or dumbbell can’t. You can anchor bands from anything solid to hit all your muscles from a variety of angles. 

You Can Add Bands to Dumbbells and Barbells

If you already have dumbbells, weight plates, or a barbell, you can tie a looped resistance around them to add extra resistance to save you from buying more dumbbells and to keep on making progress. Also, bands add an extra level of instability to a lift and make standard barbell and dumbbell exercises more difficult throughout the full range of motion. This is why strength athletes often use them to help break through sticking points.

Improves the Strength Curve

The strength curve is the muscular force generated at each point throughout an exercise’s range of motion. Because of joint angles, the resistance is not constant. During a dumbbell bench press, more force is needed during the first third of the movement than at lockout, where the weight almost feels light.

The resistance band opposes this strength curve. When the band is not stretched, less force is required to get it moving. However, when you are locking out, more force is needed, improving your strength where you need it most, at lockout.

Easy on Your Joints

When you’re lifting barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, they’re putting a certain amount of stress on your joints. That’s not to say that the stress from weights is bad — many lifters rely on weights to progress. But, band exercises can provide a reprieve from constant loading as needed.

Considerations When Training With Bands

Before you use a resistance band, check for cracks and splits. Bands can break if not properly maintained or due to wear and tear. If a breaking band has ever hit you, you know it doesn’t tickle. Avoid this issue by checking before using it. 

resistance band biceps curl
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Plus, when securing a band either around an object or around your feet, please make sure that the band will not come loose and bite you in a place where it hurts. You’ll only make this mistake once.

Furthermore, due to the ascending resistance of resistance bands, it’s difficult to measure gains and progress because it’s hard to figure out the exact poundage you’re lifting. Although different size bands give you resistance numbers, it’s not an exact science.  A simple fix for this is to measure your sets with reps and then increase band difficulty slowly over time. 

If your goal is health and to stay in shape, resistance bands are great, but if you’re looking to build serious muscle or strength, this is difficult to do with bands because they only come so thick and only stretch so far before they break. There are better tools than bands for building absolute strength.   

Band Programming Suggestions

There are many ways to program bands. Here are a handful of suggestions:

  • For strength: Stick to your normal strength routine, but after your main lift, perform a banded version of that same lift for three sets of six reps. For example, after deadlifts, reduce the load, and loop a band around the barbell. Stand in the middle of the band. These are known as speed deadlifts, and they’ll help improve your pulling power. Again, this is just one example.  
  • For more muscle: This is simple. Just sub a standard muscle-building exercise for one of the equivalent moves above. So, instead of doing a biceps curl with a barbell, do them with bands. Because they’re easier on your joints, you can do three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps. 
  • In a circuit: You can also pick three to five exercises and pair them in a circuit, performing each move back to back to back. Do three to five rounds of 12 to 15 reps per move. 

More Resistance Band Training Tips

Bands are a great way to add volume to your training and strengthen your muscles from all angles without adding much joint stress. Now you know the eight best resistance band training exercises, start adding them to your routine pronto. You should also check out these other helpful band training articles for strength, power, and fitness athletes.

 Featured image: Romariolen/Shutterstock