If you typically reach for a barbell or dumbbells on leg day, you may want to switch it up and give resistance band leg exercises a try.
Resistance band exercises feature prominently in 9 Week Control Freak with Autumn Calabrese — and for good reason.
“Resistance bands are great for developing the glutes and hamstrings, especially since the exercise selection is less demanding on the low back than the weighted counterparts,” says Cody Braun, CPT.
“Many resistance band leg exercises also require stability and core strength, which adds a lot more to your overall fitness routine,” he adds.
Resistance bands keep your muscles under constant tension during each and every exercise. This is known as “time under tension,” and it’s a powerful growth stimulus.
“Using resistance bands to work the legs challenges your lower body muscles to work during both parts of the exercise — on the way up and down, on the right and to the left, you never get a break!” says Stephanie Mansour, a Chicago-based personal trainer.
The Best Resistance Band Leg Exercises
To see the benefits of resistance bands in action, add one (or more) of the following resistance band exercises to your next leg day.
This allows you to perform a wide variety of resistance band exercises safely and effectively.
1. Front Squat
- Stand facing away from the Control Track, and hold the handles at shoulder-height with the track set to the low point. Doing so will help keep your torso upright because the band will pull you backward throughout the movement, Braun says. You should feel moderate tension in the band.
- Push your butt back to squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your knees in line with your toes and your heels glued to the floor. Keep the core engaged to maintain proper form.
- Once you’re in the bottom position, press through both feet to stand up.
2. Squat Pull-Through
- Stand facing away from the Control Track. Hold the handles between your legs with arms straight, and the track set to the low point. There should be no slack in the band.
- With a slight bend in your knees, hinge forward at the hips, allowing the tension on the band to pull your hands backward. Keep your back flat, chest up, and arms straight.
- Stop once you’ve gone as far as you comfortably can; you should feel a stretch in your glutes and hamstrings.
- With arms still straight, squeeze your glutes to push your hips up and forward to return to a standing position.
3. Single-Leg RDL
- Stand facing the Control Track with the anchor set to the midpoint. Hold both handles in one hand and step away from the track so your arm is raised and there is no slack in the band.
- Shift your weight onto the leg opposite the band and let that knee bend slightly. Lift your other foot several inches off the floor behind you. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your back flat, push your hips back to lower your torso as the band pulls your arm away from you. As you do, allow your non-working leg to raise behind you.
- Pause, and then push your hips forward as you lower your raised leg to return to the starting position.
4. Side Lunge
- Stand facing the Control Track with feet hip-width apart. Hold the handles in front of you at shoulder-height, with the track set to the midpoint. This will help you sit lower with a more vertical spine, since the band is pulling you forward throughout the movement, Braun says. You should feel moderate tension in the band.
- Keeping your feet parallel and arms extended in front, take a big step to the right with your right foot without bending your left knee.
- With your chest up and back flat, sit your hips back and bend your right knee until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Your left leg should remain straight the entire time.
- Push through your right foot to return to the starting position and repeat on the other leg.
5. Pistol Squat
- Stand facing the Control Track with a handle in each hand, with the track set at the high point. You should feel moderate tension in the band.
- Extend your right leg in front of you with your heel an inch or two off the floor. Alternatively, you can bend your right knee and hover it behind you instead, so the knee is facing the floor; this option may be more accessible to you as you learn the pistol squat.
- Push your hips back and squat down on the left leg as far as you can. Keep your chest high, back flat, and left knee in line with your left toes the entire time.
- Push through your left foot to return to the starting position without letting your right foot touch the floor. Repeat on the other leg.