Resistance bands may be associated in your mind with yoga classes and rehab, so they're an unlikely muscle-building superhero. Bands don't have to be reserved for easy exercises or stretching-type drills -- you can mix them into your weight-training routine, incorporate them with body-weight workouts, or use them as your only form of resistance training to build lean muscle.
Lower Body Exercises
Adding bands to body-weight squats and lunges will make your lower body training more challenging. Bands can also torch your glutes. To activate your butt muscles and get those glutes working, try X-band walks, where you stand with both feet on a band, pull it tight and take 10 steps to your left, then 10 to your right to work the gluteus medius muscles at the side of your thighs. Band hip extensions, where you kneel on the floor, loop a band around your foot and kick your leg back, work the glutes and hamstrings and can substitute for a leg curl machine if you're training at home.
Upper Body Exercises
The number one way for women to use bands is to assist in doing chinups. Women often struggle with chinups, but with the help of bands you'll be there in no time. Loop one end of the band around a chinup bar and the other under your knees to support you, then perform chinups, advises trainer Rachel Cosgrove, of Results Fitness in California. Aim to increase the reps and gradually reduce tension on the band. Add bands to your pushups too: For band-assisted pushups, loop one end of the band under your torso and the other over a chinup bar to help you with pushups. For band-resisted ones, run the band under your hands and over your back to make pushups harder. You can use bands for the obligatory biceps curls, too.
The true role of the core is to stabilize your torso and prevent movement, according to strength coach Tony Gentilcore. Try band Pallof presses by securing your band around a pole and standing side on to it. Step away so there's tension on the band, and push your arms straight out in front while keeping your torso steady and resisting the urge to twist to the side. Pause briefly, then bring the band back in. You can also use your bands for woodchops and core rotations, as well as for adding resistance to situps and crunches.
Hit your whole body three times a week, with each session consisting of two or three upper body, two or three lower body and one or two core exercises. Start with four sets of 12 to 15 reps on each and gradually increase the sets and reps or use heavier bands as you get stronger and build muscle. Bands and body-weight moves should also be your go-to training whenever you're on vacation, advises powerlifter and trainer Nia Shanks. Not having a gym is no excuse for missing training, so make bands your new best buddies.
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