If you’re wondering how to build muscle with resistance bands, or if it’s even possible, then you’re not alone. While many people assume that you need to be using heavy weights to gain muscle, or joining an expensive gym, it’s far from the truth: resistance bands are cheap, easy to use at home, can be stuffed in a drawer or cupboard, and are perfect for beginners.
If you’re looking to start your fitness journey in 2024, the best treadmills and multi-gyms can be helpful and the best running watches or best smartwatches can help you exercise outdoors, but you can start small by spending under $40 / £30 / AU$60 on a simple set of resistance bands . Fitness doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive: with a set of resistance bands of varying densities, handles and a door hook, you can start exercising at home and replicate almost any gym exercise that uses cables or weights.
The basics of building muscle
Before we get to resistance bands, let’s have a quick chat about how to build muscle with anything. The key thing here is the reps, or repetitions of the same movement you perform: performing under six reps with heavier weights (or denser bands) tends to be best for strength, those over 12 are more for endurance, and in between those two sits eight to 10 reps, the sweet spot of muscle growth. It may seem odd that muscle growth and strength aren’t the same thing, but it’s true.
You can slow reps down to make things more difficult, too. Let’s say your bicep curl normally takes you three or four seconds: well, slow that down to four seconds up and four seconds down and suddenly your muscles will be working a lot harder, pulling against the band’s elastic for longer, and that’ll help you build muscle.
We’ve put together some workouts. Each of the exercises should be done with as much resistance band resistance as you can manage for ten reps, and each exercise should be five sets of ten with a 60-90 second rest in between each set. Take it slowish too, with about four seconds on each part of the motion.
If you find the exercises are too easy, you can also just stretch the bands slightly more before doing the motion to get more resistance.
How to build chest muscle with resistance bands
This one’s pretty simple. You’re going to hold the resistance bands under your hands with the bands themselves over the upper part of your back. From here, you just do push-ups. It’s a great way to hit your chest, and an excellent start.
Banded floor press
The floor press has you lying on the floor with the ends of the bands in your hands and the bands underneath you. Then you just push your arms out in front of you. You can also do this one stood up if you want for more range of motion.
Banded crossover fly
Finally, we’ve got the fly. For this exercise, you’re going to need to use a door hook (if the band’s set came with one), or another anchor point.
One end of the band in each hand with the bands around the pole behind you, take each hand and cross them over in front of you just below your pectorals with your arms mostly straight.
How to build back muscle with resistance bands
Banded bent over row
To do a row with resistance bands you can stand on the bands, take one end in each hand, bend your legs slightly and then lean forwards and bring your hands up past your sides with your elbows behind them. You can alter this by changing the angle of your wrists too.
Band reverse fly
The reverse fly requires a pole or door anchor.
Put your bands around the anchor, take one end on each side, and then stand close-ish to it. Then just straighten your arms and take them from being in front of you to as far back as you can while at shoulder height.
A door anchor or pull-up bar is going to make this one far easier. Wrap the band around the pull-up bar and then simply pull the bands down on each side while keeping your chest slightly up and your elbows back.
How to build leg muscle with resistance bands
Resistance band squat
There are a few ways to do this, but our favourite is to stand on the bands, hold them in your hands, and then squat. Just make sure the resistance is such that it’s taut when you’re at the lowest point of your squat to make you work more.
Also called a “donkey kickback, you’ll need to position yourself on your hands and knees on the floor. Hold the bands in your hands and place the main part around the base of your feet, then just push back with one leg at a time.
How to build arm muscle with resistance bands
Banded shoulder press
Stand on the resistance bands, then hold one end in each hand, and press directly upwards. Keep good form for this one to hit the shoulders properly.
Stand on the resistance bands and hold the ends with your hands by your side. From here, hold your palms inwards, then raises your hands by bending the arms at the elbow as you rotate your palms to face up.
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Jason is a qualified personal trainer who now writes for a living across fitness, tech, and gaming. He does most of his workouts at home with a focus on weight lifting and martial arts, and is also constantly figuring out ways of exercising that somehow keep his daughter entertained at the same time.