Lifting weights can be intimidating, especially if your local gym is full of would-be bodybuilders. But you don’t need heavy weights or expensive machines to start toning your muscles. Exercise bands, such as the figure 8 band, are a handy way to tone up wherever and whenever you have the time.
Figure 8 Bands
Exercise bands come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Figure 8 exercise bands get their name from their shape. They usually feature a length of tubing in the shape of an 8. Unlike a lot of other bands, they include soft handles at each end that can help make many moves easier to maneuver. You can use figure 8 bands for an upper-body or lower-body workout.
For an upper-body workout, use the figure 8 band to do chest presses. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold onto both handles and place the band behind your back. Make sure it is positioned just below your shoulders at chest level. Keep your wrists straight and raise your elbows to chest level. Push forward away from your body, extending your arms and stretching the band. Avoid locking your elbows once your arms are fully extended. Return your arms to the starting position and repeat up to 20 times.
Use a figure 8 band to tone the back of your arms by doing tricep extensions. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grip the band's handles and place one hand behind your lower back with the back of your hand against your waist. Place your other hand behind your neck so the band is extending along your back. With your top hand, pull the band upward while keeping your thumb pointed down. Make sure you lower hand remains securely at your waist. Keep your shoulders stationary and extend slowly at the elbow until your upper arm is straight. Hold for two seconds and then slowly lower your arm to the starting position. Switch hands and repeat. Do up to 20 repetitions on each side.
Partner Standing Row
If you have a friend with a figure 8 exercise band, you can team up to do a move called the standing row. It works your arms as well as your back and glutes. Cross your bands together to form an X pattern. Face each other and grip your respective handles. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and bend slightly at the knees. Make sure your palms are down and your arms are extended in front your body. Pull the handles back slowly at the same time as your partner. Pull toward the sides of your chest. Slowly release your right arm at the same time as your partner in a punching motion toward each other. Pull your right arm back and release your left arm in a punching motion at the same time as your partner. Make sure to keep your abs engaged throughout this exercise. Aim for two or three sets of up to 12 repetitions on each arm.
You can train your lower body by doing squats with a figure 8 band. Stand with your feet on the band and place your legs shoulder-width apart. Grab onto the handles of the band and keep your arms at your sides. Keep your chest upright and slowly bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Avoid letting your knees go over your toes. Slowly stand up and pull on the handles of the band as you go. Repeat this move up to 20 times.
Elizabeth Peterson has been a reporter since 2005, working in television, radio and online. Specializing in health and environmental coverage, she has contributed to MSNBC and several local affiliates. Peterson earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism.