If you've mustered up the motivation to get sweaty, you want to make the most of your time. Torch calories and build strong, lean muscle at the same time by adding resistance bands to plyometric exercises.
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Plyo moves (aka explosive, usually jumping, work) spike your heart rate pretty quickly, burning more calories in a shorter period of time than standard body-weight exercises. "It's very effective to maximize time," says Kat Wiersum, interval trainer at Studio Three in Chicago.
Plus, it works multiple muscle groups simultaneously and challenges your fast-twitch muscles fibers (the same ones you sprint with), she says. What's more, a May 2017 study in Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that doing plyometric movements helped reduce body fat and increase flexibility and muscle power levels in female athletes.
As for resistance bands, they up the intensity of any exercise, since you have to push harder to move your body against the band. "Resistance is what makes our muscles work," Wiersum says. "They resist against gravity, against the weight being held in your hand or against a band."
There are practical benefits, too. "They are amazing to travel with and take up virtually zero space and are not heavy to carry around. There are several types, and my fave is the mini band, a small little loop of a band that you can do tons with," she says.
How to Pair Plyo and Resistance Bands
While you can do plyo or use a resistance band by itself, double up and do both together for maximum benefits. If you add resistance to a plyo move, like a squat jump, you'll further accelerate your heart rate and fat burning, according to a June 2014 study published in Journal of Human Kinetics.
Here are a few power moves that do just that, so you can make the most of your workout time and really see some impressive progress.
1. Jump Squats With a Mini Band
- Grab a mini band (resistance loop) and put it on your legs above your knees.
- Bend your knees and hinge at your hips to take a deep squat with feet hip-width apart.
- Push off through your feet to jump into the air.
- Land softly with bent knees, then go directly into the next rep.
Fight the resistance band and don't let it pull your knees inward. "The band is forcing your abductors (outer part of your thighs/hips) to work harder in your squat and challenges your knee and ankle stability as you land," Weirsum says.
2. Plank Jacks With a Mini Band
- Loop the mini band around both legs above your knees or around your ankles.
- Start in a high plank. You want your back straight and core tight.
- Jump your feet out to the side wider than hip-width.
- Jump your feet back in. Keep your body solid and don't let your butt lift in the air.
- Continue hopping your feet in and out as if you were doing a jumping jack with just your lower body.
What makes this so great as a power move? "The band adds extra challenge to push out against to get your legs out to the jack and (again) works the stabilization of your knees and ankles. You also get some bonus adductor (inner thigh) work since your legs come back together with a little resistance," Wiersum says.
3. Mountain Climbers With a Mini Band
- Start in a high plank with a band looped around your feet.
- Draw your right knee up to your chest.
- As you're stepping it back into a plank, simultaneously bring your left knee up to your chest.
- Continue alternating legs as quickly as you can.
Adding the band challenges your hip flexors and hamstrings, says Wiersum. What's more, if you think your hip flexors are tight (and they probably are!), they're probably on the weaker side and could benefit from a little time with a resistance band. "You also get the benefit of the solid core work of a mountain climber with just a little extra resistance," she says.
4. Lunge Jumps With a Mini Band
- Place a resistance loop around the middle of you thighs.
- Bend both knees into a lunge.
- Press into your feet and jump up into the air.
- Switch your legs midair and land in a lunge with the opposite leg in front.
- Continue lunging and jumping, switching legs with each rep.
"Use your arms to give you more height in your jump and add movement to your workout," says Caleb Backe, CPT and fitness expert for Maple Holistics. "This move is a whole-body workout if you put enough energy into your arm movement and make sure that each jump is higher than the one before."
5. Lunge Jumps With a Long Band
Instead of placing a resistance loop above your knees, you can tie a longer band or loop to an object, like a bannister or doorknob, to work more of a core stability angle, Wiersum says.
- Secure your band around a sturdy object.
- Stand with the band at your side and hold it with your inside hand.
- Bend you knees into a lunge and jump without letting the band pull you in any direction.
- Switch legs midair and land with the opposite leg in front.
Remember: You are in control of these lunge jumps — that's how you increase stability. "Hold that tension on the band," Wiersum says. "This teaches your upper body to stabilize as the rest of your body is moving; really important for our overall balance and control."
6. Hop Push-Ups With a Band
What are hop push-ups? They're a beginner version of clap push-ups and can help you build up to that explosive force of plyo, Backe says. "In this case, a resistance band can also help to make sure that your form stays intact," he says.
- Place a resistance band on your upper arms and get into a high plank with your hands under your shoulders and you legs extended back.
- Bend your elbows and lower down into normal push-up.
- As soon as you reach the bottom of your push-up, straighten your arms to explode upward, lifting your hands off the ground.
- Land with elbows slightly bent and use your chest, shoulders and arms to slow yourself down as you go into another rep.
- Journal of Physical Therapy Science: Effects of short-term plyometric training on physical fitness parameters in female futsal athletes
- Journal of Human Kinetics: Effects of Strength Training Combined with Specific Plyometric exercises on body composition, vertical jump height and lower limb strength development in elite male handball players: a case study