Build a defined upper body using one resistance band and these eight exercises

Target your arms, back and shoulders with this affordable piece of equipment

Man doing bicep curls with resistance band
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want definition in your upper body, aka to build some muscle, then strength training (also known as resistance training) is the way to go. But, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s possible to do this without lifting really heavy weights. In fact, in just 20 minutes you can improve the definition in your total upper body using nothing but a long resistance band.

A question that’s often asked is: ‘are resistance bands as good as using a pair of dumbbells?’. Well, a 2019 study found that those who trained with resistance bands, actually had similar results to those who trained with dumbbells and weight machines. They’re also a lot more affordable than free weights and can be shoved in the cupboard when you’re done with them. The only thing we will say is that if you’re using resistance bands long-term, you just need to make sure you use one that challenges your muscles, because if it’s too easy you won’t build muscle. 

For this workout you can either two types of bands: a pull-up resistance band (one of the long looped ones) or tube resistance bands (the ones with handles). You've got eight exercises, which will target your biceps, triceps, shoulders and back, so it's a good full upper body session! Do each exercise for 10 reps, with a 30 second rest in between. Once you've done round round of the workout, rest for 45 seconds to a minute, then repeat it two more times. Here's your exercises:

  • Bent over rows
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep push backs
  • Upright rows
  • Pull downs
  • Wide bicep curls
  • Single arm tricep extensions
  • Banded pull aparts

Remember, if your resistance band isn't feeling challenging enough, step on some of it to reduce the length and increase its resistance. Want some more similar workouts? Check out this full-body banded workout, it targets the entire body and will take around 30 minutes. If it's lower body you'd rather focus on (having just done upper) here's a banded leg workout you can try. 

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.