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Forget dumbbells — these 6 resistance band exercises build your arms without weights

image shows man working out with resistance bands
(Image credit: Getty)

Resistance bands are amazing pieces of equipment — they’re inexpensive, versatile, and highly effective. If you’re looking to use resistance bands to strength train from your living room, we’re here to help. We’ve compiled some of the best resistance band arm exercises so you can feel the burn, without having to head to the weights room at the gym. Before we begin, there are a couple of pointers to keep in mind throughout:

  • With bands, the resistance increases as you stretch them. Certain portions of an exercise might be too hard or too easy. Feel free to adjust the range according to your level and the precise strength of your band.  
  • To make any of the exercises harder or easier, you can simply change the resistance of the band, or change the tension of the band you’re using. To change the tension, put your hands closer to/further from the ‘secured’ end of your long resistance band or double/undouble the band i.e instead of looping the band around your feet, stand on the entire band and grab either end. 

If you’re looking to buy a set of resistance bands to work out from home, or add to your collection, check out our guide to the best resistance bands.

Looking for more workout inspiration? We've found the best ab workouts you can do for free, an exercise that’s better than squats at building your glutes, and the resistance band exercise that targets all of the muscles in your legs.

What are the best resistance band arm exercises? 

Most resistance band arm exercises will target the biceps or the triceps. 

The bicep primarily acts to bend the elbow, and the tricep’s main function is to straighten the elbow. Thus, the biceps and triceps are antagonist muscles as they perform opposite actions. Due to the Law of Reciprocal Inhibition, both muscles can’t be working at the same time, because when a certain muscle is contracting (i.e. working), its antagonist muscle cannot contract at the most fundamental neural level. 

With that in mind, any good arm workout needs separate exercises for the biceps and triceps. We've added suggestions for the number of reps to shoot for, but beginners should do one set of each exercise, or mix and match for a resistance band arm workout. The final two exercises in this list are the most challenging. 

Here are the best exercises to add to a resistance band arm workout: 

Single Arm Band Biceps Curl  

Standing on one end of your long looped resistance band, grab the other end in one hand with your palm facing forward. This is what we call a supinated palm position, and it is highly effective at engaging the biceps. Keeping your elbow glued to your side, bend your elbow to bring your hand towards your shoulder as high as you can without moving your elbow from your side, and return to the start.

Aim for three sets of 15 reps per arm.

Banded Triceps Pushdown 

Secure a long looped resistance band above head height (try putting the band on a strong door hook) and then grab each side of the band with your palms facing each other, and your elbows by your sides. Straighten your elbows to bring your hands towards the floor without leaning your torso.  

Aim for three sets of 15 reps. 

Reverse Grip Band Biceps Curl 

We’re changing the grip in this exercise to hit a few extra muscles. By reducing the biceps engagement just a little bit, we’re increasing the activation of the brachialis (opens in new tab) and brachioradialis (opens in new tab) which, while not as visible as the biceps, are important muscles to target if your goal is to grow your arm muscles.

Stand on a long resistance band and grab hold of the other end with both hands, palms facing towards your body. With your elbows by your sides, bend your elbows to bring your hands towards your shoulder as high as you can, and return to the start.

Aim for three sets of 10 reps. 

Banded Triceps Extension 

Raising your elbows during a Triceps Extension puts more of a stretch on the biggest part of your triceps, which is called the long head. 

There are two ways to perform Banded Triceps Extensions: 

  1. Standing on the band, reaching back behind your head to grab the band or 
  2. With the band securely attached to something behind you like a well-secured door, bannister handle, or foot of a couch/bed if you’re kneeling down, and reaching back behind your head to grab a hold.  

Either way, your elbows should be above your shoulders, and in line with your ears the entire time, and the only movement should be you straightening your elbows to reach up as high as you can. 

Aim for three sets of 10 reps. 

Bayesian Curl 

The Bayesian Curl is an unusual exercise, but is absolutely awesome for the biceps, as it puts them at a very long muscle length, and there is direct evidence that doing so is better for biceps growth, as demonstrated in Frontiers in Physiology (opens in new tab).

Secure one end of the band behind you, close to the floor. You can use a leg of a sofa, bottom of a door, or anything else stable. Grab the other end of the band in one hand, and keeping your elbow behind you (this part is very important), bend your elbow to bring your hand toward your shoulder.

Aim for three sets of 12 reps per arm. 

This exercise is brilliant at targeting the triceps. With the band secured above head height, grab the other end of the band in one hand, with your palm facing the ceiling, your elbow should be against your side. Keeping the elbow where it is, straighten the elbow to bring your hand towards the floor. This should allow for tremendous focus on the muscle, and make it easier to keep the elbow by the side to prevent other muscles from getting involved. 

Aim for three sets of 12 reps per arm. 

Looking for more workout inspiration? Here's how to do a kettlebell swing, and the exercise that sculpts your arms and abs using just your bodyweight. And check out how this TikTok trick will help you master a push-up.

Will McAuley is a London-based Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach who’s writing has appeared in Men’s Fitness and GQ magazine, covering exercise, nutrition and health. He has a Master’s degree in Strength & Conditioning from Middlesex University in London, is a published scientific author in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from Trinity College Dublin.