Build lower-body strength with this seven-move resistance band leg workout

This short resistance band leg workout helps strengthen your lower body without the gym

Woman doing a resistance band leg workout
(Image credit: Helen O'Leary)

A resistance band leg workout is a highly effective way to strengthen your lower body without putting pressure on joints or bones. This is important as stronger legs can improve your posture and make daily tasks like walking, lifting groceries, or carrying children much easier. 

And using bands is an excellent low-impact style of training that can be just as effective as free weights or a resistance machine at the gym. Plus, the best resistance bands make an excellent alternative to weights as they are easy to use, versatile, inexpensive, and travel-friendly.

We spoke to chartered physiotherapist Helen O'Leary to create this short, seven-move resistance band leg workout. "It's important to remember that for working the most powerful muscle groups in the lower body, you need a significant amount of resistance," says O'Leary. 

"Ideally, a heavy resistance band or even double up on resistance bands for something like a squat or deadlift. You can use lighter resistance for exercises that use a looped resistance band around the ankles or thighs, as you are targeting less powerful muscle groups," she adds. 

Headshot of Helen O'Leary
Helen O'Leary

Helen O'Leary is a director of Complete Pilates, a chartered physiotherapist, and Pilates instructor. Before launching Complete Pilates, she began her career as a physiotherapist in professional men's rugby and with Cirque du Soleil. 

Seven-move resistance band leg workout

Before taking on this resistance band leg workout, it's important to do a short warm-up, ideally around five minutes, to prepare your muscles for the routine. 

And if you add some stretching exercises into your post-workout routine, it'll help your body cool down, recover more efficiently, and help reduce the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness. 

1. Crab walks with mini-band

Woman performing resistance band crab walks

(Image credit: Helen O'Leary)

O'Leary, clinical director of Complete Pilates in London, U.K, says: "This exercise targets the side glutes — these muscles have a role in providing stability at the pelvis and are often neglected as our everyday movements tend to be moving forwards, not side to side."

"Working on the side glutes is a great way to prevent problems at the hip and knee, so we'll take a leaf out of a crab's book and get those lateral steps going," she adds.

If the exercise feels too easy, you can put the loop around your ankles or the outer borders of your feet. This means you are working with a longer lever, making the exercise more challenging.

  • Loop a mini-band (or tie a loop of a regular band) around your thighs, just above the knees.
  • Bend your knees into a quarter squat and lean forwards from the hips, keeping a flat back. 
  • Start with your feet hip-width apart. 
  • Step out to the side, pushing your leg into the resistance band. 
  • Step your other leg in, ensuring you always keep your feet hip-width apart (or slightly wider).  
  • Keep stepping to the side for 10 steps. 
  • Repeat the 10-repetition set in the other direction. 
  • Repeat this pattern for up to two minutes or until your muscles are fatigued and feel achy and burning. 

2. Resisted leg extension

Woman performing resistance band leg extensions

(Image credit: Helen O'Leary)

"This exercise targets the quadriceps muscles (on the front of the thigh) in isolation," explains O'Leary. "The quads are one of the most powerful muscle groups in the body; weakness can lead to issues around the knees, especially the kneecap joints."

"[Your] quadriceps are important for any squat-type of action, but while a squat targets all the muscles of the body, this move allows you to focus on this muscle group and makes it easy to know if one leg is weaker than the other so you can balance both legs."

O'Leary adds, "since the quads are such a powerful muscle, you will need to use a heavy resistance band for this one."

  • Sit on a chair with a mini band looped around your ankles.  
  • Use one leg to anchor the band. 
  • Straighten the other leg at the knee as far as possible against the band's resistance. 
  • Hold for a count of three and then slowly lower. 
  • Repeat for three sets of 8 - 12 repetitions with up to two minutes of rest between sets.

3. Resisted hamstring curl

Woman performing resistance band hamstring curls

(Image credit: Helen O'Leary)

"This exercise targets the muscles on the back of the thigh — the hamstrings — in isolation. These muscles work in opposition to the quads and are also important in squats and step-ups," says O'Leary.

"Although they are not as strong as quads, they are often weaker than they should be as they are a neglected area that doesn't get a lot of use in everyday activities."

  • Lie on your front with a mini-band looped around your feet. You can put a pillow under your hips to make things more comfortable. 
  • Use one leg to secure the band.
  • Pull the other leg up towards your bottom against the band's resistance. Slowly lower. 
  • Repeat for three sets of 8 - 12 repetitions and rest for up to two minutes between sets.

4. Side leg lift with band

Woman performing resistance band side leg lifts

(Image credit: Helen O'Leary)

"This is another exercise that targets the side gluteal muscles," says O'Leary. "This time, we are working the muscle more in isolation, and some people find it a bit easier to perform this exercise properly."

  • Lie on your side.
  • Bend your bottom leg if it helps to give more stability.
  • Loop a mini band around your ankle or thigh. 
  • Lift and lower the top leg with control. 
  • Repeat for three sets of 12 - 15 repetitions and rest for one minute between sets. 

5. Wide leg bridge with resistance

Woman performing resistance band wide leg brides

(Image credit: Helen O'Leary)

"This exercise targets all the gluteal muscles together, as well as the hamstrings. The addition of the band to the bridge engages the side glutes more than a regular bridge," explains O'Leary. 

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent. 
  • Loop a mini band around your thighs, just above your knees. 
  • Take your legs wider than hip-width apart. 
  • You should feel some resistance from the band in this position. 
  • Lift your bottom off the floor. 
  • Hold for a count of three, maintaining your knee position. 
  • Don't let the band pull your knees together.  
  • Slowly lower.
  • Repeat three sets of 8 - 12 repetitions and rest for up to two minutes between sets. 

6. Squat with a resistance band

Woman performing resistance band squats

(Image credit: Helen O'Leary)

"A squat is what is known as a compound exercise — it works multiple joints and muscle groups [all at once]. You will need a heavy resistance band for this."

  • Stand with a double-looped resistance band underneath your feet. 
  • Keep your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. 
  • Grip the free ends of your band with your hands. 
  • Lower yourself down into a squat position. Aim to get your thighs parallel to the ground. 
  • Ensure your band is not too slack, and maintain your grip on the resistance band. 
  • Press your feet hard into the floor as you straighten your legs. 
  • You should feel this working your bottom, front, and back thighs and calf muscles.  
  • Repeat three sets of 8 - 12 repetitions and rest for up to two minutes between sets. 

7. Deadlift with resistance band / banded pull-through

Woman performing resistance band deadlifts

(Image credit: Helen O'Leary)

"Deadlifts are another great compound exercise for the legs. They target the glutes and hamstrings more than the squat — in which the quadriceps are more dominant. Since the leg muscles are strong, you will need a strong/heavy resistance band for this one."

  • Secure one end of your resistance band to an anchor like a table, tree, or door. 
  • Hold the other end of the band in between your thighs. 
  • Slightly bend your knees. 
  • Bend forwards from the crease at the front of the hips. Your bottom should go out behind you, and you must keep your back flat. 
  • To perform the lift, stand up from the hips again, and straighten your knees. 
  • Repeat for three sets of 8 - 12 repetitions and rest for up to two minutes between sets.

This seven-move resistance band leg workout is a great way to strengthen your lower body, but the best leg workouts are worth a look if you want to add some bodyweight lower-body exercises to your training. 

You may feel some post-workout soreness as your body repairs your muscles. You can help by ensuring you're getting enough protein in your diet, and blending a shake with the best protein powders for weight loss means you can stay topped up between meals. 

Maddy Biddulph

Maddy Biddulph is a freelance journalist specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. With 26 years in consumer media, she has worked as a writer and editor for some of the bestselling newspapers, magazines and websites in the US and UK. 

She is also a qualified L3 personal trainer and weight loss advisor, and helps women over 40 navigate menopause by improving their physical and mental strength. At Maddy Biddulph Personal Training, she runs one-to-one and small group training for menopausal women who want to get fit to ease symptoms and feel like themselves again.