7 Resistance Band Exercises for Legs (Plus, Sample Workouts)

resistance bands add extra variety to your training to help increase muscle endurance and growth

Resistance bands are an inexpensive way to upgrade bodyweight training workouts or add extra variety to your training to help increase muscle endurance and growth. 

We’ve covered the best banded chest exercises and the best banded ab exercises previously.  

But today, we’re discussing how you can use bands to target your leg muscles.  

The 7 best resistance band leg exercise are:


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Who Should Do Resistance Band Leg Exercises?

Resistance band leg exercises are a great option for at home lifters or people who are looking to add some new training stimulus to their lower body training. 

Note: The main limitations of resistance band training is that it can be difficult to place enough mechanical loading and stress on the muscles, especially the stronger and more powerful you are. 

If you are one of those individuals, it may be best to use these exercises later in a workout after doing more compound exercises with heavier loads.

Below we’re going to discuss the best leg exercises using resistance bands.  If you want these exercises programmed into a workout, then download the Fitbod app and select “resistance bands” as your main piece of equipment.  

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7 Best Band Exercises For Legs:

Below are seven resistance band leg exercises to attack the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings in situations where you do not have access to weights or are looking to progress your bodyweight only training sessions.

1. Banded Front Squat

The banded front squat is a good exercise to target the quadriceps. Due to the loads and tension often being lower than with weights, you can target the quads more directly with a more vertical squat patterning, such as the front squat.

How to Do the Banded Front Squat

  • Assume a squat width stance, with the heels elevated slightly if you would like to target the quads even more.
  • Place one end of the resistance band under the midfoot (not the toes, but the mid foot), and the other end in your hands, with your wrists by your shoulders and the elbows up.
  • The band should be forcing you to keep your elbows and torso up.
  • Your knees should both be in the inside of the bands as you squat.

Common Mistakes

One of the most common issues with this movement, as well as most squats, is the knees not bending enough. 

Most people will push their hips back, and allow their torso to lean excessively forwards, rather than plant the heels and midfoot, and sit down so that their hips stay more underneath them as they squat. 

Pro Tips

The key here is to target the quads, therefore you need to make sure that as you squat, your knees are bending more than the hips are. This should result in you staying upright as your knees travel forwards over the toes. 

Think about keeping your hips underneath you as you squat, rather than pushing them backwards.

If you have issues with sitting down in a more vertical position, try elevating your heels as they allow you to produce a more vertical torso during the squat deeper knee flexion.

You can make this more difficult by adding more band tension, and focusing on sitting as low as possible while keeping your lower back flat.

2. Banded Overhead Squat

The banded overhead squat is a great resistance band leg exercises to pattern a more vertical squat and reinforce back tension and proper technique when squatting (neutral spine). To do this, you’ll perform all the same steps as the banded front squat, with the exception that the hands are extended above you, which forces your upper back to be more active and you more vertical as you squat.

How to Do the Banded Overhead Squat

  • Assume a squat width stance, with the heels elevated slightly if you would like to target the quads even more.
  • Place one end of the resistance band under the midfoot (not the toes, but the mid foot), and the other end in your hands, with your hands overhead about 3 feet apart. You can widen them if you are having issues with shoulder mobility.
  • The band should be in line with your upper back/traps. From the side, the band should be a perfect 90 degrees from the floor (vertical line directly above the midfoot).
  • As you squat down, you will need to make sure the arms do not move forward and that the band stays vertical (not angled too far forward or backwards).
  • Your knees should both be in the inside of the bands as you squat.

Common Mistakes

Common mistakes in the banded overhead squat are not staying as upright as you could during the  movement and not maintaining back tension. 

Your hips should stay down, not back when squatting, similar to the banded front squat. Your upper back should have tension across it and between the shoulderblades from holding the band overhead.

Pro Tip

If you find you are having issues staying upright, think about pulling the band apart as you are simultaneously reaching it overhead. This can help you engage the upper back to maintain a more vertical torso.

You can progress or regress this exercise by adjusting the amount of band tension, or remove the band all together if your overhead strength is a limiting factor.

3. Banded Bulgarian Split Squat

This unilateral leg exercise is a great way to attack lower body strength, increase muscle mass, and improve stability and balance on one leg. 

Additionally, unilateral exercises are a great option during times when it may be difficult to have access to heavy loads or if bilateral movements are too easy.

How to Do the Banded Bulgarian Split Squat

  • Get set up in a standard Bulgarian split squat position, with the back foot elevated. 
  • Place the front foot in front of you, making sure that your toes and heels are firmly planted. You should be able to lower yourself into a kneeling position so that your back knee is on the floor.
  • Place the resistance band underneath your front foot, and then pull it over your head and across the body. The band itself should be secured under the front foot and slung over the opposite shoulder, with your head in the middle.
  • Descend down, making sure to keep your torso upright and front heel down. Be sure to allow the back knee to bend, as the majority of your weight should be in the front leg.

Common Mistakes

Bulgarian split squats can be changing, as they require balance and strength. A common mistake seen in this movement is improper placement of the front foot and placing too much pressure and weight in the back foot.

Be sure to place your front foot slightly in front of you, so that when you are in the bottom of the squat your back knee is a few inches behind the front feel. The more space between them, the more glute you get and less quad being used.

Placing too much weight on the back leg will often not allow you to get as low, and can cause greater hip tightness that restricts movements. Think about relaxing the back leg, and placing all of your weight and leg strength in the front leg. 

Pro Tips

The goal of this movement is to isolate the quads and glutes, in a unilateral manner. To make this more difficult, you can elevate your front foot as well, which will increase the range of motion of the movement.

You can also take a narrower stance, as long as you can keep your front heel down and go all the way to the floor. The narrower the stance, the more knee flexion is needed, and therefore you’ll have a great reliance of quadricep engagement.

If you have issues with balance during this movement, try performing a split squat with your back foot planted on the ground rather than on a bench or box behind you.

4. Banded Romanian Deadlift

The banded Romanian deadlift, or RDL is a great movement to train the hamstrings and glutes. Like the Romanian deadlift done with weights, the hips go into flexion and extension (hinge) as individuals maintain a fixed, slightly bent knee and flat back. 

You will want to use the fullest range of motion you can since the load is relatively light compared to heavy weight training, so standing on a raised platform is recommended if you have the means.

How to Do the Banded Romanian Deadlift

  • Stand on the resistance band so that your feet are about hip width apart and both ends of the band are on the lateral aspects of the feet. 
  • Grab both ends, one in each hand like a handle, while keeping the band firmly and securely underneath the midfoot.
  • With a flat back, and the knees only slightly bent (they should be perpendicular to the floor, so think knees above the ankles). Pull the bands upwards using your hamstrings and push the hips to the neutral position at the top.
  • Descends down by pushing your hips back and keeping the knees fixed in the original position, making sure to feel a deep stretch on the hamstrings. The bigger the stretch, the better.

Common Mistakes

Two common mistakes with the banded RDL are too little range of motion is used, and not keeping the knees back enough. 

To increase the range of motion, you will most likely need to be standing on something (like a stack of big books, a few blocks, some plates) that is stable yet allows you to elevate yourself a 2-6 inches off the floor (much like you would a deficit deadlift). 

You will run the band under that, and stand on the platform (stack of books, plates, etc). This will allow you to go lower and not touch the floor, and have greater tension throughout the movement.

Additionally, allowing the knees to bend decreases the stretch and loading on the hamstrings, so make sure you are keeping the knees as extended as possible. Note, that they should be slightly bent, but only to the point that they are allowing the shin to remain perpendicular to the floor.

Pro Tips

Focus on keeping a flat back, the knees back, and slowly lowering yourself to maintain as much tension and stretch on the hamstrings as possible. At the top, maximally contract the glutes to boost hamstring and glute engagement.

5. Banded Hamstring Curl

This is a single joint exercise that can be done lying prone on the floor, standing, or even seated (however seated can be tricky to set up). 

Unlike hinging exercises that attack the hamstring at the origin, where the hamstring curl targets the muscle at the insertion point. 

By performing both hinge movements and knee flexion movements, you are able to train the hamstrings to the fullest extent possible.

How to Do the Banded Hamstring Curl (Lying)

  • Start by attaching the resistance band around a pole or frame, something that will not move. Loop one end of the band through the other, and create a slipknot of sorts.
  • With the band attached, grab the one end of the band (still a loop) and walk a few feet away from the anchor point, and lie down on your chest.
  • Loop the band around your ankles, making sure to keep the feet pulled slightly apart to maintain tension on the band. 
  • With the legs as straight as you can get them, pull the heels of the hips, feeling the hamstrings engaging. Slowly lower the legs back down, making sure to keep tension on the muscle.

Common Mistakes

Common mistakes during this movement are not controlling the movement throughout the full range of motion, and failure to take the muscle to full failure. 

Because this exercise can be limited due to the set up and the inability to add load, you will need to focus on training the muscle to full failure using full range of motion, slow eccentrics, and higher reps training (unless you have access to thicker bands).

Pro Tips

If you are looking to make this exercise harder, simply move yourself more away from the anchor point, as this will create more stretch on the band. Note, some bands have a limit to how far they should be stretched, so you can always add another band as well and decrease the risk of the band snapping on you.

6. Banded Hip Thrust

This is a glute focused movement that can be done to increase glute growth and strength without needing to load the lower back as much as a RDL or banded pull through. 

How to Do the Banded Hip Thrust

  • Start by attaching the ends of a resistance band to two anchor points on the sides of you. You want to be able to have enough tension on the band as you lift your hips, so the farther the anchor points are away from you, the better.
  • With both ends of the bands anchored, slide underneath the band so that you are under the band, much like you would be if you had a barbell on the hips during the hip thrust.
  • Bend the knees 90 degrees, and place your upper back across a bench or stable elevated surface, and perform hip thrusts, making sure to hold at the top and descend slowly.

Common Mistakes

The biggest mistake seen with the hip thrust is going too fast, not fully extending the hips, and not using the full range of motion. Focus on full repetitions and controlling the lowering phase of the movement for best results.

Pro Tips

When you are extending the hips, the ribcage should not flare upwards, but rather focus on keeping them pulled into your torso as you raise the hips. Raising of the ribcage often means you are extending the lumbar spine to “lift the load” rather than lifting up the hips.

7. Banded Pull Through

The banded pull through is similar to the banded Romanian deadlift and the banded hip thrust, in that it is a hinge exercise, yet also decreases the overall stress on the lower back (when done properly). 

How to Do the Banded Pull Through

  • Attach a resistance band to an anchor point on the floor, like a post or beam. Be sure it is something sturdy.
  • Grab the end that is not attached to the anchor point, and walk forward, with your back to the anchor.
  • Place your feet about hip width apart, and have the resistance band running between the legs underneath you.
  • Hinge down as if you were doing a deadlift, and keep the back flat. The hands should be allowed to get pulled through the legs towards the anchor point, however do not let the chest collapse, shoulders hunched forward, knees bend (past being perpendicular to the floor) or background.
  • With enough tension at the bottom to feel a stretch on the hamstrings, stand up by pushing the hips forwards, back to the neutral position, and squeeze the glutes.
  • Lower yourself down by keeping the knees back and stiff, back flat, and allowing the hands to get pulled through the legs.

Common Mistakes

The most common mistake with these is ensuring you are keeping the back flat and chest up. If you allow the body to hunch forwards or lose back tension, you will not be able to perform these as efficiently as possible or place the best stretch on the hamstrings.

Pro Tips

If you are looking to increase resistance or loading, you can add a band to the movement, just be sure to still be able to fully extend the hips. 

If you find you are having issues getting a good stretch and contraction on the hamstrings and glutes, try performing these further away from the anchor point to add more tension.

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3 Resistance Band Workouts For Legs

Below are three resistance band leg workouts for all levels. 

Note, that the goal of these workouts is to build muscle, and therefore it is necessary to have proper control throughout the movement, train in the fullest range of motion possible, and bring the muscle to complete failure with good form.

Complete Leg Day Band Workout

complete leg day band workout

Here is a full resistance band leg workout for all levels. Due to the inability of resistance bands to load a ton of external loading on stronger individuals, more advanced lifters will need to aim for more repetitions than beginners to accumulate enough volume and muscle fatigue in a session. 

All exercises need to be done with slow eccentric phase and control, and trained in the fullest range of motion you can as this can increase muscle stress and boost training effectiveness in the absence of more weight.

Warm Up

  • Banded Overhead Squat: 2-3 sets of 10 reps, slow eccentric, pause at bottom in deep squat, elbows stay locked out overhead. Use this as a way to pattern a more vertical squat to isolate the quads more.
  • Banded Hip Thrust: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps, slow eccentric, aggressive hip extension with max glute contraction at the top

Quads

  • Banded Front Squat: 4 sets of 15-20 reps, slow eccentric, aggressive hip extension with max glute contraction at the top.
  • Banded Bulgarian Split Squat: 4 sets of 15-20 reps, slow eccentric, aggressive hip extension with max glute contraction at the top.

Hamstrings

  • Banded Romanian Deadlift: 4 sets of 15-20 reps, slow eccentric, aggressive hip extension with max glute contraction at the top.
  • Banded Pull Through: 70-100 reps, using body weight or moderate band tension. You should be able to only get 20-30 total reps without needing to stop. If you do stop, rest only 10-20 total seconds, and keep chipping away at the total rep count of 100, taking 10-20 second rests as needed.

Quad-Focused Band Workout

quad-focused band workout

Here is a quad focused band workout for all levels. Because band tension is often not enough external loading for people, increasing time under tension, and training more to muscle fatigue is necessary to bring about adaptations.

Warm Up

  • Banded Overhead Squat: 2-3 sets of 10 reps, slow eccentric, pause at bottom in deep squat, elbows stay locked out overhead. Use this as a way to pattern a more vertical squat to isolate the quads more.
  • Banded Pull Through: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps, slow eccentric, aggressive hip extension with max glute contraction at the top.

Quads

  • Banded Tempo Pause Front Squat: 50-70 (myo reps) total. 3 seconds lowering, 1 second pause, explosive up, full knee extension, however no resting at top, come right back down slowly. When you need to take a rest, only rest for 10 seconds max, if you rest longer, the muscle building effect of light squats may be diminished.
  • Banded Bulgarian Split Squat: 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions, 3 seconds lowering, pause at bottom, explosive on way up, no resting between sets. Rest as needed between sets, typically 2 minutes after finishing both legs

Hamstrings

  • Banded Hamstring Curl: 4 sets of 20 reps, with a tension that is challenging for 10-15, getting the remainder of reps by taking 5-10 seconds rests as needed until you accumulate 20 total reps. Reps should be tough, and should bring about massive amounts of muscle tension and burn.

Hamstring-Focused Band Workout

hamstring-focused band workout

Here is a hamstring focused band workout for all levels. This workout is higher in hamstring and glute focused movements as compared to the quad workout, and is a great pairing to do in a weekly program that involves the quad focused program.

Hamstrings

  • Banded Hip Thrust: 70-100 reps, using body weight or moderate band tension. You should be able to only get 20-30 total reps without needing to stop. If you do stop, rest only 10-20 total seconds, and keep chipping away at the total rep count of 100, taking 10-20 second rests as needed.
  • Banded Hamstring Curl: 4 sets of 20 reps, with a tension that is challenging for 10-15, getting the remainder of reps by taking 5-10 seconds rests as needed until you accumulate 20 total reps. Reps should be tough, and should bring about massive amounts of muscle tension and burn.
  • Banded Pull Through: 4 sets of 15-20 reps, slow eccentric, aggressive hip extension with max glute contraction at the top.

Quads

  • Banded Front Squat: 70-100 reps, using bodyweight or moderate band tension. You should be able to only get 20-30 total reps without needing to stop. If you do stop, rest only 10-20 total seconds, and keep chipping away at the total rep count of 100, taking 10-20 second rests as needed.

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try 3 free workouts on Fitbod.


Final Thoughts

Resistance band training is a great way to add a new training stimulus and progress bodyweight workouts when you do not have access to weights. Due to the lower loading potential of bands, for most people, it is recommended that you prioritize full ranges of motion, controlled eccentrics, tempos to increase time under tension, and training the muscle to complete failure.


About The Author

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.