Resistance bands are arguably the simplest piece of exercise equipment, but simple doesn’t mean easy. Made of rubber, bands are inexpensive and come in a variety of different resistance levels from light to heavy (as well as different sizes, too) to get an amazing total-body workout.
The most popular types of bands are tubes with handles on the sides, therapy bands (which are typically much thinner and can be tied in knots), and loop bands — which look like extra large-format rubber bands.
“I’m resistance band obsessed because they are a great form of strength training and muscle activation and so insanely versatile,” says Bec Donlan, a holistic health coach and trainer based in New York City, who uses bands as a key component to her workouts (she even makes them herself). “An added perk is that they can travel as much as you do because they are so compact, making squeezing in a workout while on vacay or a business trip an attainable thing.”
Justin Norris, co-founder of Los Angeles-based LIT Method is a huge fan of the training tool for its rehabilitation potential. “We get a lot of clients coming into the studio after getting hurt — whether it be doing a sport they love or training elsewhere — but they still want to work out,” he says. “These bands are a huge part of our philosophy, helping us rehab injuries, fix muscle imbalances and increase mobility.”
Give the easy-to-carry training tool a try with this easy intro workout. Before jumping into the resistance band routine below, consult with a personal trainer about the best type of band for you. As with any at-home or on-the-road workout, it’s important you get the basics down on use and form before cranking out reps.
Turn the below resistance band moves into a total-body workout by doing three sets. Rest 30 seconds between each.
BAND SQUAT TO OVERHEAD PRESS
“I love this compound exercise as it really serves as a strength and cardio movement. It provides continuous resistance to help strengthen your legs, shoulders and core,” says Norris.
The move: Stand in the middle of a resistance band with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold handles or ends at shoulder height, with palms facing away from you and elbows bent. Squat down, sending your glutes back. Push through your heels to return to the start, and simultaneously press your arms up overhead. Biceps should be by your ears with the arms fully extended at the top of the movement. That’s one rep.
BAND BENT-OVER ROW
“This exercise is used to strengthen your back, shoulders and biceps. When performed correctly, it will help retract your shoulders and fix your posture,” says Norris.
The move: Stand in the middle of a resistance band, hinging forward at the hips, maintaining a flat black, holding both handles or ends just under your knees. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift both ends of the band toward your rib cage, bringing the elbows behind the body. Lower back to the start for one rep.
BAND MONSTER WALK
“This exercise is guaranteed to strengthen your glutes, hamstrings and increase hip mobility. It’s also great for rehabbing hip extensors and abductors post injury,” says Norris.
The move: Start with your feet at shoulder-width distance and loop the band below your knees (you can loop it above knees for less tension). With your arms either by your sides or clasped together in front of your chest, step forward at a 45-degree angle with your right foot, keeping a slight bend in your knees and tension on the band. Repeat on the opposite side.
“Since resistance bands provide constant tension throughout the movement, these trunk rotations are a great exercise to strengthen your abs, obliques and lumbar,” says Norris.
The move: Anchor your resistance band at chest height. Stand with your feet at shoulder-width distance so your right side is closest to the band, then reach across your body to grasp the handle or end with your left hand first, then your right. Pushing through your right foot, straighten your arms and rotate your trunk toward the left side. Twist your trunk as far as possible. Slowly return to start for one rep. Repeat on opposite side.