Bands certainly look unintimidating, don’t they? Just a stringy piece of tube with two cushy handles attached — upon first glance, you’re probably thinking, “How could someone like me, someone more dedicated to her heavy-lifting program than Kristen Stewart is to scowling, benefit from these measly things?” Add to that it’s a piece of equipment you can toss in your bag? Too good to be true; must be a gimmick.
To all the doubting Toms (or, rather, Thomasinas) out there — those who love to get a good pump going and won’t stop until they better their one-rep max — research doesn’t lie. A 2010 study on young women showed that an eight-week elastic resistance-training program resulted in nearly identical benefits as machine or free-weight training. Translation: even if you love to hoist iron, getting stretchy with it will help you maintain your gains in a pinch — and maybe even surpass them.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: excuses? What excuses?
Can’t make it to the gym? This workout is designed to be done in small spaces (the apartment you can’t wait to move out of), on the road (you know the hotel gym is subpar, anyway), or in the great outdoors (grab a couple of friends, and you’ve got an instant boot camp).
How To: These exercises are arranged specifically so that you can move easily from one to the next. Do three sets of 20 reps of each exercise (per side, where applicable), pulling and releasing the resistance slowly and resting no more than 30 seconds between sets. If by the time you get to the end of your set and you feel you can do more, move up to a “heavier” (i.e. thicker) band, fold it in half, or choke up a bit on it.
Squat with Overhead Arc
Targets: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, deltoids, lats
Anchor your resistance band to a low point in front of you. Hold the handle, move your feet just wide of your shoulders, and extend your arms in front of you. Push your hips back as you bend your knees to squat, bringing your thighs level with the ground. As you rise, pressing through the soles of your feet, raise your arms overhead, keeping your elbows straight. Lower your arms to the start, and repeat.
Stiff-Legged Deadlift to Row
Targets: Hamstrings, glutes, lats, rhomboids, lower back
Stand on the middle of a resistance band with your feet about hip-width apart, one end of the band in each hand. Lean forward from the hips, keeping your back straight and only bending your knees slightly. When your torso comes parallel to the ground, pull the handles up toward your sides. Pause, contracting your back muscles, and hold the row position until you stand. Release, then go into your next rep.
Side Lunge with Front Raise
Targets: Glutes, outer thighs, deltoids
Begin by standing with one foot on the middle of the band. Hold one end in each hand. Take a big step out to the side using your other foot; bend the knee of your stationary leg to lower into a side lunge, keeping your stepping leg straight. Maintain this position as you raise the handles in front of you to shoulder level; lower, step back, and repeat. (You may need to gather some slack under your foot or in your hands to make this move effective, so try a few reps beforehand to determine how much resistance you need.) When complete, switch sides.
Lunge with Triceps Extension
Targets: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, triceps
Hold one end of the resistance band behind your lower back; the other end should be in your hand just behind the nape of your neck. (You can fold the band to increase the resistance if needed.) Step forward with one foot and lunge. As you bend your legs, simultaneously pull the band from either end until your arms are straight. Return your feet and your hands to the start, complete all reps, then switch arm positions and work your opposite leg.
Targets: Abdominals, deltoids
Place one end of the band under your foot and step your other foot out wide; hold the handle with both hands. Beginning with your arms in the direction of the anchored side, keep your elbows straight as you move through the waist to lift the handles up and over your opposite shoulder. Hold momentarily, then reverse. Finish up your set, then work your other side.
Bridge with Leg Press
Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, abdominals
Lie face up on a mat, legs bent and feet flat on the ground. Lift one leg and loop the middle of the resistance band under the sole of your foot; take up some of the slack in the your hands to tighten the band. Raise your hips from the ground and extend your leg, pressing against the band. Complete all reps before lowering and switching legs.
Lie on your back on a mat, legs bent and feet lifted, with the band over your knees and anchored at your sides. Using one motion, pull your knees toward your chest, lifting your hips, while raising your shoulders from the ground. Hold, reverse, and repeat.