Want to get in shape, but feel stretched for time? Using a resistance band can give you all the fitness flexibility you’re looking for — and more!This simple, rubberized training tool allow you to build strength and lean muscle without investing in fancy, space-hogging workout equipment or a pricey gym membership. Best of all, they make it possible to do lots of straightforward exercises right in the privacy of your own home.
Against-the-Wall Lateral Pulldown
This upper-body workout is tailor-made to target your lats and upper back muscles — minus the weights. How to do it:
- With your back against the wall, loop the resistance band around both thumbs or wrists, and stretch your arms straight up over your head.
- Bend your arms at the elbows to a 90 degree angle, stretching the band as you bring your shoulder blades together.
- Raise your arms back up to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times.
If you have shoulder issues, such as problems with your rotator cuff, be very careful with this exercise and don’t bring your elbows below shoulder height.
This exercise tones your glutes, hips, lower back and core muscles for a workout that really kicks butt. Note: You’ll need an extra-long band and a gym or yoga mat for this one. How to do it:
- Get down on your hands and knees. Loop the resistance band around the sole of your left foot and use both hands to anchor the other end of the band in place on the floor with your body weight.
- Kick your left leg straight back, focusing on pushing away from the body, not up.
- Bend your knee back toward you, and return your leg to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch sides.
As with the fire hydrant exercise, make sure your back stays neutral the whole time. If your low back curves toward the mat, do a different exercise.
Side Plank Leg Lift
Got love handles you’re not so in love with? This exercise works your abs, obliques, and quadriceps. The obliques are vital stabilizers that help keep you strong and balanced. How to do it:
- Lie down on a gym or yoga mat with the resistance band looped around both ankles.
- Lift your left hand off the floor and roll over to your right side, using your right elbow and the side of your right foot to balance your body weight in the side plank pose. Your head, back, glutes, knees and ankles should make a straight line (don’t drop your head or crank it toward your top shoulder).
- Use your core muscles to slowly raise your left leg to the ceiling and back down again. Repeat 10-15 times, then work the opposite side.
Modify this move by keeping your lower hip on the ground or returning it to the ground as you bring your feet back together each time.
Picture a dog lifting its leg to relieve itself against a fire hydrant, and it’s easy to see how this glute-toning move gets its name. How to do it:
- With the resistance band looped around your lower thighs, get down on all fours on a gym or yoga mat. Make sure your hands are positioned below your shoulders and your knees are below your hips.
- Keeping your knees bent, raise your right leg up and out to the side, hips and shoulders parallel to the floor.
- Lower your right leg back to the starting position without allowing your knee to touch the floor. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch to the opposite side.
Keep your core tight throughout the movement. If you notice your spine bends, letting your stomach dip, choose a different exercise, as this could hurt the low back.
5. Standing Abduction
The abductors on the outsides of your hips facilitate stepping out to the side, which we do a lot of. This exercise can help strengthen those important muscles. How to do it:
- Pull the resistance band just above your knees. Make sure your head is up and your spine is straight. Stand near a wall if you feel off-balance.
- With both feet facing forward, extend your left leg outward until there is tension in the band. Hold for a count, then slowly return your left leg to the starting position.
- After 10-15 reps, repeat with your right leg.
Keep your pelvis in neutral when doing this exercise (don’t tuck your butt cheeks down or poke your butt out). Your abductors are working as soon as there is resistance in the band, so you don’t need to try to bring your leg all the way up to the side — just go as far as is comfortable.
The resistance band takes basic squats to the next level.How to do it:
- Pull the resistance band up around your lower thighs and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor. You should feel some tension in the band.
- Lower yourself into the squat, ensuring the tension remains as you bend your knees. Keep your knees tracking over your toes — don’t let them fall in.
- Return to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times, moving slowly and with control.
Before you add any kind of resistance to a squat, be it a band or weights, make sure you can do a regular old squat with excellent form. Don’t come down too deep and keep your chest open. Your knees shouldn’t go too much over your toes, as this can harm the knee.
Spend more of your day sitting on your glutes than moving them? This workout strengthens your lower back and buttock muscles, improving posture and easing the aches and pains of a sedentary lifestyle. How to do it:
- Lie flat on your back on a gym or yoga mat with the resistance band looped just above your knees. With your arms resting by your sides, bend your knees with your feet firmly on the mat, hip-width apart. You should be able to brush your heels with your fingertips.
- Tuck your chin just a little so that the back of your neck is long.
- Press into your feet to raise your hips off the floor, as high as you can go, or until your body forms a straight line from your chin to your knees. Hold for a few seconds, then lower your hips back down. Repeat.
This easy exercise is sure to bring beginner band-users out of their shells. It enhances hip mobility as it tones thigh muscles. How to do it:
- Lay on your left side with the resistance band looped around your upper thighs. Rest your head on your left arm.
- Bend both knees into a loose fetal position, ensuring your feet are aligned below your buttocks and your hips are stacked on top of one another.
- Using your hips as a hinge, slowly raise your right knee, then lower it back down to the starting position. After 10-15 reps, roll over and repeat the exercise on the opposite side.
Don’t arch your back with the movement. If anything but your top leg is moving, don’t go as high or choose a band with less resistance.
Bent Over Row
You’ll need a long band with handles for this stand-up rowing exercise, which works your lats, middle back, abs and biceps. How to do it:
- Step onto the resistance band with your feet shoulder-width apart, grabbing the handles with both hands. Bend your knees so you’re at about a 45-degree angle to the floor.
- Draw the ends of the resistance band back toward your hips, bending at the elbow and drawing the shoulder blades together. Hold for a count, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat.
You can also do this move one arm at a time. Stagger your feet so you’re in a bent-over lunge position and step on the band with the front foot. Holding the other arm out to the side or placing it on your hip, draw the band back with one arm. Make sure the hips and chest point forward and don’t tip to the side.
Benefits of Using a Resistance Band
- It’s convenient. Resistance bands are inexpensive and perfectly portable, allowing you to maintain your fitness goals anytime, anywhere.
- It’s user-friendly. Resistance bands come in a wide range of strengths and can be adapted to any fitness level. Unlike dumbbells, three or five different levels of resistance will fit in your drawer!
- It’s low-impact. You get benefits of weight training with much less wear and tear on your joints and spine, as long as you do the exercises right.
- Lots of variety. Resistance bands allow you to work on a variety of muscle groups without a roomful of gym equipment.
- Decreased risk of injury. Warming up with resistance training improves cardiac performance and primes your muscles for a workout. It also improves stability and core body strength.