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.

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 makes 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.

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. These are the cheapest of the bunch, and you can find them on Amazon or at any fitness store.
  • Hip circle bands: These 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. They also come in different colors, but if you get one medium-heavy or a simple heavy one, that will enable you to perform the exercises in this article. These from B_ND are well made and popular, while this well-reviewed set is a bit more budget-friendly.
  • 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. These from Natacha Oceane come with a set of her famous exercises (which really showcase why she’s one of the biggest fitness influencers today).

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).

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. 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 »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support LifeSavvy.

LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?