10 Resistance Band Exercises That Will Strengthen and Stretch Your Legs in No Time

Photo: Getty Images/Vladimir Sukhachev
We're gonna go ahead and say it: Resistance bands don't get enough credit. Why's that? Let us count the ways. For starters, these portable tools certainly aren't as intimidating as heavy weights at the gym, yet they bring on similar results. And if you're new to strength training or just getting back into your groove, they'll give you just the right amount of a challenge while helping you nail any given exercise before progressing to harder variations (which is why experts recommend resistance band exercises for seniors in particular). What's more, resistance band leg workouts even let you strengthen while you stretch out tight or sore muscles, helping you recover from or prevent injury.

Experts In This Article

Another perk of doing resistance band workouts is that these tools are affordable and easy to use anywhere. Whether you're working out in your apartment or packing them in your carry-on for hotel room sweat sessions, you never have to skip a leg strengthening workout again.

"A resistance band, in my opinion, is the best addition for a whole body burn. When you’re pushing against it during an exercise, your muscles have to engage or 'fire up' to fight the tension," says personal trainer Samantha Jade, creator of BY SJ. "While you can use resistance bands for a whole body workout, they're especially great at shaping the legs and booty."

How to choose the right resistance band

Whether flat or looped, many resistance bands will come as part of a set of two to five bands like this one ($13), ranging from light resistance to heavy. While some newer options come in all kinds of colors and patterns, the traditional latex resistance bands have colors that correspond to their strength:

  • Green: extra light
  • Blue: light
  • Yellow: medium
  • Red: heavy
  • Gray: extra heavy

If you find the latex material uncomfortable or too flimsy, you can reach instead for fabric resistance bands like this pack for $16. Fabric options are typically sturdier and will last longer, but won't have as much give.

Not sure which resistance level to use for a given exercise? “Choose a band level that is challenging, but that you can move through your full range of motion,” Alissa Tucker, CPT, CES, the master trainer of AKT, previously told Well+Good about using resistance bands. “Because of the increase of intensity as you reach your full range of motion, a tendency can be to limit and not move through the full range.”

And if you’re not sure which band will let you do that, grab a couple, says Tucker. “You can start with the heavier band and if/when you feel your form start to slip or that you’re cutting your range of motion short, switch to the lighter band.”

Try these 10 resistance band leg workouts

Ready to get in that lower body workout using resistance band routines? These leg exercises with bands will have you feeling the burn, whether you're looking for resistance bands exercises for beginners, or have been working out your legs for years.

1. Lateral band walk

  1. Place a looped resistance band above your knees and lower down coming into a partial squat position.
  2. With your arms forward, chest lifted, and knees bent, lead with your heel and take eight steps to your left. Make sure your feet stay parallel the entire time.
  3. Repeat in the opposite direction, making sure to keep your abs drawn in.

2. Jump squats with bands

  1. Place a looped band above your knees and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower down into a squat, then jump, propelling yourself upward using the muscles in your legs.
  3. Land softly back in your squat position and repeat.
  4. Do two to three sets of eight reps.

3. Seated banded leg extensions

  1. Find a sturdy chair or bench and attach your resistance band to the leg or base so it loops around your right ankle.
  2. With your legs at 90 degrees, feel the resistance as you straighten your right leg. Bring your leg back to 90 degrees as you return to your starting position.
  3. Do a total of 12 reps, then repeat on the left leg.

4. Side leg raises

  1. Grab a mat and lie down on your side with a looped resistance band above your knees.
  2. With your bottom leg bent, straighten your top leg. Keeping your hips level and core tight, slowly raise your leg as high as you can, then lower it so it's hovering above the floor.
  3. Perform 10 reps for a total of two to three sets.

5. Standing rear leg lift

  1. Place a looped resistance band around your lower calves. With your hands on something sturdy to stay balanced—like a wall or a chair—move one leg straight behind you.
  2. Once you've extended the leg back as far as the band allows, squeeze your glutes, then lower back to your starting position.
  3. Repeat 10 to 12 times on each side.

6. Banded step-out

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hinge back into a partial squat position.
  2. With a resistance band around your ankles and your hands on your hips, step your right foot out to the right side, tap the floor, then bring it back.
  3. Do 10 to 12 reps on each side. Complete two to three sets.

7. Lying leg curl

  1. Lie on your stomach with your toes pointed down and a resistance band looped around your right ankle and left foot.
  2. Bend your right leg at the knee, bringing it to a 90-degree angle. Pause, then lower back down to the floor.
  3. Do 10 to 12 reps on each side.

8. Leg press with resistance band

  1. Lie on your back. Bending your right leg to your chest, hold a resistance band tightly in both hands and place your foot in the center of the loop.
  2. With your left leg bent or extended on the floor, slowly press your right leg out at a 45-degree angle, then slowly bring it back in toward your chest.
  3. Do 12 reps on each side.

9. Clamshells with a resistance band

  1. Place a looped resistance band above your knees and then lay on your left side with your hips bent at a 45-degree angle and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Keep your hips and feet stacked, and then lift your right knee up off of the left. Hold for two to three seconds then lower back down.
  3. Repeat for a total of 10 reps. Complete two to three sets on each side.

10. Glute bridge with a resistance band

  1. Place a looped resistance band above your knees then lay on your back.
  2. Engage your core, and with your feet flat on the ground, squeeze your glutes, and lift your lower back and hips up and off the ground. Be sure to maintain a neutral spine and keep your head and shoulders on the ground.
  3. Hold for three seconds, then lower back to the ground.
  4. Complete 10 reps. Repeat for a total of three to three sets.

Prefer to follow along with an instructor? No sweat. We've got you covered: 

Frequently asked questions

Should you wear a resistance band around your thighs or ankles?

Where you place the band depends on the individual exercise, and which muscles you're trying to hit. Most resistance band leg workouts will have you moving the band between your thighs and calves, based on the moves included. The one thing you don't want to do is place it directly on your knee or ankle joints—the band could place too much pressure there and cause injury.

What are the disadvantages of resistance bands?

Unlike dumbbells or other weights, resistance bands offer variable resistance based on how stretched the band is. Meaning: You're getting more challenge when the band is taut, which leads to a particular part of the move being the hardest. Bands also have an upper limit on how much resistance they offer, so you could potentially grow so strong they no longer challenge your muscles—or they simply break on you, which can hurt.

Are resistance bands with or without handles better?

The type of resistance band you choose depends on the exercises you're doing. Bands with handles are mainly designed for upper body exercises. For resistance band leg workouts, however, skip them and go for a looped band or flat resistance band.

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