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The Best Resistance Band Exercises to Tone Your Legs

Two women's legs as they do squats in a gym.
Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Resistance band routines have become the holy grail of leg workouts. If you’ve never given them a try, now’s the time! They’ll almost certainly change your life—or at least get you legs in amazing shape!

Easy to store in any bag, backpack, or even your jacket pocket, resistance bands have moved quickly from a fringe item to a must-have fitness accessory. You can use it as part of your warmup or to increase the challenge of your exercises.

There are a number of creative routines on YouTube and Instagram. Many people swear by them, as they’re able to target and isolate certain muscle groups and increase their performance.

In addition, the size and flexibility of resistance bands make them perfect for travel. You can easily pack and use them anywhere, from a hotel room or the beach to your backyard, or even an airport lounge. Let’s take a look at the different types of bands and some exercises you can do with them!

The Best Resistance Bands for Leg Workouts

Before we get into specific exercises, let’s get acquainted with the following three types of resistance bands you use to perform them:

Mini Looped Bands

Thin and typically made of elastic latex rubber, these come in different colors that indicate the level of tension. The colors used for each level differ depending on the brand, so make sure you check before you buy to ensure you’re getting the resistance level you want.

These are the cheapest of the bunch, and you can find them on Amazon or at any fitness store. They’re so small it’s easy to throw them in your gym back or even pack them in your suitcase to fit in a little exercise in your hotel room.

Fit Simplify Resistance Loops

These 12" x 2" loops bands are great for mixing up your exercise routine and easy to pack for use on the road.

Long Looped Bands

Narrower and thicker than the mini bands, you use these to perform whole body moves and mobility stretches, as well as to help with pull-up progression. They can also be quite efficient for hip thrusts.

Made from elastic rubber, they come in a variety of colors and are pretty easy to find. Expect to pay more for the full-size bands than the mini looped bands we just mentioned as the loops aren’t just longer the material is also significantly thicker.

Leekey Resistance Band Set

These longer loops are perfect for stretching, pull-up assistance, and more.

Hip Circle Bands

Hip circle bands, also called “booty bands” because of their heavy use in glute-building exercises, are thicker and provide much higher tension. This makes them great for more challenging moves as they’re less likely to roll up your thighs or snap. They’re usually made of a combination of cotton and elastic fabrics and include a built-in grip on the inside to keep them in place.

Like the other bands on our list, they come in a variety of colors. Some companies just list the tension level relative to the rest of the set (such as light, medium, and heavy) while others include the tension in pounds or kilograms like you’d expect from a resistance band set. Quality can vary wildly so it’s worth going with a heavy-duty set with extra stitching to avoid rollups and fraying.

Arena Strength Fabric Booty Bands

This high-quality set has durable construction as well as a physical workout guide.

Four Resistance Band Leg Sculpting Exercises

Now that we’ve taken a look at the different kinds of resistance bands and made some recommendations, it’s time to take a look at how you can build an exercise routine around the bands.

Below you’ll find four exercises and exercise modifications to help you increase the effectiveness of your lower body workouts.

Crab Walks

One of the most effective outer hip and thigh (abductor muscle) exercises, crab walks are amazing. Add them to your warm-up routine, and they’ll fire up your hips, thighs, and glutes, as well as activate your core. Stay low throughout the exercise and maintain the tension as you step to the side.

Crab walks are also great to add as a finisher exercise in a leg circuit workout because they can really maximize the hypertrophy.

Usually, you use mini looped bands to perform crab walks. The amount of tension depends on your level of fitness and which part of the workout you’re at (easier at the start, heavier at the end). The video above, however, includes a simple way to use a long resistance band for a crab walk by criss-crossing the band and using your arms to tension the loop fully.

Some people like to use hip circle bands with crab walks because they’re harder on the muscles and activate them faster but this isn’t recommended for beginners.

Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are known for their incredible glute isolation, but if you add a looped band to the mix, you take it to a whole new level. You can either loop them around your ankles or below or above your knees, and then push outward with your knees to maintain the tension.

Some people prefer to use a hip circle band as it provides greater resistance. Whichever you choose, you’ll never do glute bridges without them again.

Another great way to incorporate bands is to perform a glute bridge/hip thrust with the longer looped bands tucked under the rack, your gym bench, or even dumbbells. You can get really creative with these accessories!

Squats and Lunges

Staples in any leg workout, squats and lunges are the best way to tone your lower body. If you add a resistance band, it makes them much more challenging. It also ensures your technique stays on point—if the tension drops, the band falls. That means you’re not engaging your abductor muscles and your knees are going inward, which is not only wrong in terms of the exercise, but, also, the pressure on your knees increases the risk of injury.

The hip circle is the best band for squats and lunges because the inline grip prevents it from rolling upward and snapping unexpectedly. (If you want to incorporate longer bands into your squat routine, check out this video.) Once you start doing squats and lunges with a band, working out without them will seem too easy-peasy.

Leg Press

If the leg press isn’t challenging enough, loop a hip circle around your thighs or calves. This ensures proper technique and prevents your knees from going inward, protecting them from overload.

Keep your legs high on the machine, so you can fully press into your heels and engage your glutes in a much better way. Resistance bands also require you to move slower as you focus on maintaining good tension. This, in turn, creates a great opportunity to develop a stronger mind-to-muscle connection.

There are a ton of other exercises you can include in your next leg session, like this crazy treadmill work from Whitney Simmons or this quick home workout from Linn Lowes. Resistance bands are an amazing, inexpensive, and incredibly versatile way to seriously up your leg game!

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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