5 Functional Resistance Band Exercises

Updated: Mar 20

Regular resistance band training will improve muscular endurance and definition.

an exercise class training with resistance bands

Resistance bands are an essential training tool. They’re highly functional, space sensitive, extremely versatile, durable, inexpensive, portable and compact.


In addition to this plethora of positive attributes, resistance bands can be incorporated into most all exercises serving either to increase or decrease the resistance.


For example, resistance bands are brilliant to use when performing press-ups as they not only increase the load but do so at peak contraction points. (Also they make for a much safer way to increase resistances. Hands up if you’ve ever tried to position a weights disc on your back when press-upping? Besides the fact that it’s almost impossible to position the weight evenly, it’s just plain dangerous. Resistance bands eradicate all that nonsense.)


By contrast, when applied to pull-ups, an exercise that many trainers find particularly challenging, resistance bands can work in an assisting capacity (although you do need two bands).



Quick FAQ


What is a resistance band?

Quite simply it is a 2-metre-long loop of elasticised material – usually silicone. The resistance load of bands range from as little as 5kg to 50kg. This load can also be increased by double folding the band or simultaneously using multiple bands. That’s all there is to say on them.


Pray tell, why are they so good?

Well, beyond the positives aired above, resistance bands obey your natural biomechanics. By this I mean, if you were to hop on a piece of gym machinery, such as the seated leg press or chest press, the range of movement available would either be fixed or extremely limited. The problem with this is if your body does not naturally follow this predetermined range, performing the movement could, over time or with excessive loads, result in injury.


What I’m trying to say here is we all move differently but exercise machines do not accommodate our biomechanical idiosyncrasies. Because of their flexible properties resistance bands do not force you into a fixed range of movement but instead faithfully observe the natural contours through which you move. This makes for a much more natural exercise experience.


How can I incorporate resistance bands into my training sessions?

Honestly, there's a million and one ways to use resistance bands. But I'll quickly cover just a couple.


Resistance bands make for a brilliant addition to a circuit, either in the capacity of increasing the intensity of other exercises or on their own. So, for example, you might decide to tether a band to kettlebell to add that extra dimension when performing swings or squats. Alternatively, if perhaps you're new to training, you might instead opt for a less technical exercise such as resistance band bent-over rows.


Another method of making use of bands is by completing a 10, 15 or 20-minute AMRAP after a cardiovascular session. On concluding, say, a 5 mile run, or 10k row, you would set a countdown timer and work though 5 resistance band exercises, performing 10 repetitions on each. The goal is to accrue as many repetitions as possible in the allotted time.



The difference is all in the resistance

When you select a weight and perform a lift that weight remains the same through every phase of the movement; it neither increases nor decreases. This is ok but it is far from dynamic. Resistance bands work differently. As you perform the movement, say bent-over rows, the tensile strength increases reaching maximal load capacity at peak contraction – where it is most beneficial.


Furthermore, unlike conventional forms of resistance training – such as free weights, cables and machines – resistance bands are more suited (not to mention much safer) for performing explosive movements. Research has shown that varying the velocity of muscle contractions is an effective method of promoting ‘maximum voluntary torque’ – aka strength.

Truly, it’s amazing the physical benefits that can be derived from a two-metre-long loop of elastic.


Now that we’ve covered the why of resistance bands we shall turn our attention to the how. Below you will discover 5 resistance band exercises to practice and integrate into your training regime. And these exercises, you’ll be relieved to learn, weren’t whimsically plucked out of hat. They have been especially selected because they:


1: Are highly functional
2: Engage multiple muscle groups
3: Develop dynamic physicality

The 5 exercises include


1: Bent-over row
2: Squats
3: Press-ups
4: Lateral raises
5: Shoulder press


If after the favourable account of the benefits of training with resistance bands you’re left wondering why you haven’t yet got your own, a range of quality products have been sourced to save you the trouble.

OMORC Resistance Bands (4 Pack)

A well rated product that offers a range of resistances - 15kg, 25kg, 35kg and 50kg (so one for each member of the family). In addition to the four bands OMORC very kindly throw in a number of nifty accessories: 2 foam handles, a door anchor and a band guard. These extras boost the the range of exercises and applications thus supercharging an already multi-functional training tool.


(Click image for availability)





Lively Life Resistance Bands

Lively Life offer a range of single resistances. These bands are extremely well rated and with nearly 200 reviews they retain almost five stars. The option of resistances include: 16kg, 30kg, 39kg and a whopping 57kg. And though Lively Life do not offer any accessories all of their bands come with a lifetime warranty.


(Click image for availability)




1: Bent-over Row (BOR)

Muscles worked: The BOR is a back and bicep builder par excellence. It is arguably one of the best exercises for developing upper-body physicality and the gains it confers tend to translate very well to other exercises/sporting disciplines.


The bent-over row is a classic compound strength movement (a compound movement is one that activates multiple muscle groups across two or more joints; think squats, bench-presses, lunges, etc.). Regularly performing this exercise will develop the muscles of the back and arms whilst improving your proficiency at what has to be one of the best functional movements available.


Technique teaching points


  • Stand on the band with a double fold ensuring that your feet are shoulder-width apart.

  • The feet should be equally spaced across the band; if the band is shorter on one side the resistance will be greater.

  • Keeping the knees slightly bent grasp the makeshift handles and adopt the initiation position of the movement: hands level with the knees, back straight, head up, eyes forward.

  • To perform the movement contract through the lattissimus dorsi (back muscles colloquially called the wings) and pull the band up level with the lower part of the pectoralis major (lower chest – just under the nips).

  • Hold the contraction for a count of two seconds.

  • Release under control.

  • Repeat.



2: Squat

Muscles worked: primarily those of the legs: quadriceps, gluteus (maximus and medius) and hamstrings. Squatting has also been shown to develop whole-body strength.


Another classic movement the squat, because it involves and recruits so many neighbouring muscles, is believed to promote whole-body growth. I’ve even heard it said that regular squatting can even beef-up your biceps. I’m still not convinced on that one though. However, there’s no denying it, this is a tremendous exercise and no regime is complete without it.


Technique teaching points


  • Stand on the band ensuring that it runs underneath your instep – what you certainly do not want to happen is the band slipping from under your feet; the potential epidemiological fallout of such an eventuality is significantly worse for males: think eunuch.

  • Now, for this next position you’re going to have to perform a bit of origami. Pull the band up and slip your arms through it ensuring that the band runs across the anterior deltoids.

  • Stand up and manoeuvre yourself into the initiation position.

  • Under control perform a squat ensuring to observe correct lifting principals: back straight, firing through the quadriceps, pushing the hips forward, no locking out at the knee.



3: Press-ups

Muscles worked: primarily those of the chest (pectoralis major), triceps and anterior deltoids. Press-ups also help develop core, quad and hip flexor strength.


I love performing press-ups with a resistance band. A set of 10 feels like a hundred and at peak contraction a momentary laps of concentration could result in a high-impact face-plant with the floor (hence the reason I advise performing this exercise over a Yoga mat). But don’t let that put you off. The possibility of winding up with a pancake face is well worth the physical payoff. Honest.


Technique teaching points


  • Firstly roll out a Yoga mat – preferably a thick one.

  • Kneel on the mat and, before placing your hands down, secure the band around your back.

  • Manoeuvre your hands into position – a little over shoulder-width apart and in line with your shoulders.

  • Raise the knees so that you are adopting the press-up initiation position.

  • Under control perform a press-up: lower to 90° at the elbow joint; keep eyes fixed on a point about two feet from the fingertips; breathe naturally.

  • Repeat.

  • To recover from the position place the knees down and ensure that you are supported before removing your hands from the floor – or else it’s going to be Shrove Tuesday all over again.



4: Lateral Raises

Muscle worked: the lateral raise mercilessly attacks the anterior, medial and posterior heads of the deltoids (basically the shoulders). In addition, the trapezius muscle is also recruited, albeit to a lesser extent, to assist the movement.


The lateral raise is a classic shoulder sculpting and developing exercise that is traditionally performed with dumbbells. However, by dispensing with tradition, and instead executing this time-honoured exercise with a resistance band, you will work your shoulders in ways that they have never been worked before.


Technique teaching points

This exercise can be performed either as a single or double arm movement. The teaching points to follow apply to both.


  • Stand on a resistance band ensuring that it passes under your instep. If you do not heed this first bit of advice, and instead try to secure the band under the ball of your foot, or stupider still, your toes!, it will likely ‘ping’ (yes ‘ping!’) from beneath your hoof potentially causing injury to yourself or an innocent bystander.

  • Grasp the band but before raising it to your side position your feet to as to make a solid base – also, bend the knees a little would you.

  • Under control raise your arm to the side until your fist is level with your shoulder. The palm of the hand should face downwards and there should be a slight kink at the elbow.

  • Once you reach peak contraction – and with a resistance band you’ll feel this far more acutely than you would with a dumbbell – lower under control.

  • Repeat.



5: Standing Shoulder Press

Muscles worked: those of the shoulder (obviously), upper pectorals and triceps. If you modify the movement and turn it into a ‘push press’ (or thruster), it will also engage the quadriceps and a whole host of other muscles.


The standing shoulder press is one of the best upper-body strength developers and is the exercise of choice if you have designs on building overhead pushing power. Furthermore, it is eminently modifiable; as briefly mentioned (above) there is the option of incorporating the legs – turning it into a push press – or taking a full squat prior to the press – which would qualify as a thruster. . . .


But that’s like trying to run before you’ve learnt to walk. If you’re new to resistance band training, I advise mastering the foundation exercise – standing shoulder press – before tackling the modifications.


Technique teaching points


  • Stand on your resistance band ensuring that it passes under your instep. You know why you should do this: slip . . . whip!

  • Make sure that your feet are spaced about shoulder width distance.

  • Grasping the band with both hands, manoeuvre it so that it is suspended in line with your clavicles.

  • Before executing the movement space your hands so that they are positioned outside of your shoulders.

  • Now you are ready to press!



To Conclude

Truly, resistance bands are perhaps the single most diverse, multi-functional piece of exercise equipment money can buy. And for the pittance they cost resistance bands open up whole new vistas of exercise options.


Few training tools offer so many positives with so few negatives. It’s for this reason why no exercise regime is complete without resistance bands.



(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)

Blog Author

Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, professional personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.