Looking to up your game when working out? Grab some resistance bands and use them to get the lean and sculpted body you’re yearning for. They’re the perfect exercise tool: light-weight, easy to travel with, and they offer diverse ways to train your muscles.
If you plan on doing a resistance band routine at the gym, start by getting two different bands, a lighter one and a medium to heavier resistance. They’re often color coded to let you know what the resistance level is (e.g. yellow typically denotes a light resistance level). If you want to exercise at home and don’t already own bands, you can easily buy them online or purchase them at your local sporting goods store. Make sure you buy ones that come with a door attachment which will hold the bands in place while you do a variety of moves. Here are 5 of my favorite ways to incorporate resistance bands into your workout:
The Move: Squat to Overhead Press
What it works: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Shoulders, Triceps, Abdominals
How to do it: Begin by standing on your resistance band, holding a handle in each hand with elbows bent and palms facing away from you at chest level. As you inhale, sit into a squat (the bands will become slack) and as you exhale come to standing while pressing your arms straight up in the air to complete an overhead press. You can control the resistance by manipulating the tension of the band. If the exercise begins to feel easy, use the same resistance band but hold the band itself to make it shorter.
Safety tip: Press through your heels to stand up from the squat and keep a strong core as you press overhead.
The Move: Lat Pulldown
What it works: Back, Shoulders, Biceps, Glutes, Quadriceps
How to do it: Begin by hooking your resistance band in the top of a door or around a high banister. Sit in a low squat as if you’re resting in an imaginary chair. Hold a handle in each hand with palms facing away from you and arms straight overhead. On an exhale, pull the handles down to either side of your chest by pulling your shoulder blades down towards your hips and bending your elbows to engage your biceps. For more resistance squat further away from the door, creating more tension in the band.
Safety tips: Keep a long, extended spine throughout the exercise. Focus on scapular (shoulder blade) depression, shrugging your shoulders away from your ears as you pull on the bands.
The Move: Chest Press
What it works: Chest, Triceps, Shoulders
How to do it: Begin by looping your resistance band around a pole or in a door slightly higher than chest height. Stand facing away from the band in a staggered stance with a handle in each hand, elbows bent at 90 degrees and palms facing the ground. On an exhale extend both arms, pressing the handles forward, and way from you, aiming both hands towards center. As you exhale return to your starting position with elbows bent. Maintain a strong core throughout the exercise with hips squared to the front. For more resistance stand further away from the door, creating more tension in the band.
Safety tip: Keep your elbows level to or slightly higher than your wrists.
The Move: Row
What it works: Back, Shoulder Biceps, Glutes, Quadriceps
How to do it: Begin by looping your resistance band around a pole of in a door at slightly higher than chest height. Sit in a squat as if resting in an imaginary chair. Squat facing the resistance bands with a handle in each hand and palms facing each other. As you exhale squeeze your shoulder blades together and bend your elbows to pull the bands back to either side of your ribcage.
Safety tip: Make sure that your are pulling from your mid-back and rear shoulder blade and not creating tension in your neck. Think of pointing your elbows down towards the ground as you pull.
The Move: Lateral Raises
What it works: Shoulders, Triceps
How to do it: Begin by standing on the resistance band with a handle in each hand and arms by your side, palms facing each other. On an exhale, lift both arms up to the side just past parallel. Contract your deltoids and use your back muscles to stabilize.
Safety tip: Maintain a feeling of scapular depression (pulling your shoulders away from your ears) to keep tension out of your neck.
Jennifer Lutz is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor. Every other Wednesday she writes “KnowMore Moves,” a column that focuses on a different piece of fitness equipment and shows you how to safely do 3 to 5 moves that will get you the results you want. She trains private clients around New York City and at Equinox Fitness. It’s her goal to help women live healthier, happier lives. Follow her on Twitter at @JLutzFitness.