By Lisa James
Resistance bands may just be the most versatile workout gear you can own. Light and eminently packable, you can use them at work or while traveling. They are also perfect for home use, especially if you live in a small apartment. What’s more, you can get an entire set (in different colors indicating different levels of resistance) for well under 50 bucks.
For something that looks so underwhelming—a flat or round piece of rubber, with handles or looped—a resistance band punches above its weight in terms of the workout it provides. Like free weights, resistance bands allow you to work the stabilizer muscles that hold your body in position as you go through a range of motion. But unlike weights, bands do so without stressing your joints.
Here’s a seven-exercise program that will work both your upper and lower body as well as your core. If it’s been a while since you worked out, start with a single set of five reps for each exercise, and increase reps and/or sets—or move to bands of increasingly stronger resistance—as you gain strength.
- Stand straight up holding a resistance band with both hands (roughly a foot apart) in front of you at shoulder height.
- Keeping your hands at shoulder height, engage your core and slowly pull the band apart as far as you can before returning to the start position. This completes one rep.
- Attach one end of a resistance band to a secure support above your head.
- Stand to one side of the band (body perpendicular to the support) and pick up the band in both hands, holding it by the shoulder closest to the support.
- Pull the band across your body and down towards the opposite hip, twisting your lower torso as you do so.
- Slowly return to the start position. This completes one rep; do all the reps on one side before switching sides.
- Place a resistance band on the floor and step onto it, feet hip-distance apart.
- Bend down and pick up the band with both hands, then stand.
- Lower your body by hinging at the hips and slightly bending your knees until your hands are at the level of your upper calves; slowly return to the start position. This completes one rep.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, resistance band either around your thighs (for more of a walk) or above your ankles (for more of a shuffle). Lower into a half-squat.
- Engage your abdominal and leg muscles, then walk/shuffle two steps to the right, two steps to the left. This completes one rep.
- Place a resistance band around your ankles, feet roughly hip-distance apart. Stand upright.
- Extend one leg back, toes on the ground, then lift it backwards until roughly six inches off the ground. Ensure your core is engaged and your hips stay square.
- Keeping tension in the band, return your toes to the ground. This completes one rep; do all the reps on one side before switching sides.
- Lie down on your back and place a resistance band around your thighs just above the knees. Keep your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor; your arms should be at your sides, palms facing down.
- Engage your core, press into your heels and lift your glutes up until your body makes a straight line from your knees down to your shoulders. Engage your arm muscles to help your legs lift.
- Hold for a two-count then slowly return to the start position. This completes one rep.
- Lie on your side, resistance band around your thighs, and prop yourself up with your forearm. Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle, feet behind you and together.
- Lift your top knee as far as you can before returning to the start position. This completes one rep; do all the reps on one side before switching sides.