While you may be used to hoisting barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells around during your workout, resistance bands are a lot more effective than you may think. Especially if you're working out at home, they're a great way to add a more, well, resistance to standard body-weight exercises.
When training with bands, work based on your rate of perceived exertion, says K. Aleisha Fetters, CSCS. During each rest periods, pause and rate your effort on a scale of 1 (very easy) to 10 (feels impossible to sustain). Ideally, you'll be between a 7 and 8.
"Aim to work hard, but still have a couple good reps in the tank, with each set," Fetters says. "If you can do a ton of reps, add resistance to the band by increasing its stretch, putting your hands closer to each other."
Ready to give a resistance-band workout a try? Fetters has crafted this 20-minute sequence that will work your entire body. The only equipment you'll need is a long, looped resistance band and a few feet of space.
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Move 1: Band Pull-Apart
- Stand with the ends of the band in each hand. Extend your arms out in front of your body.
- Keeping your arms straight, pull the two ends of the band away from one another.
- When the resistance is at its highest, pause and hold for 30 seconds.
- Then, bring your arms back together in front of your body.
Reps: 2 sets
Keep your shoulders in mind while you perform this exercise. "The movement should all come from the shoulders," Fetters says. "Don't let your lower back dip and focus on core control."
Move 2: Band-Resisted Hip Hinge
- Loop one end of the resistance band around the leg of a couch or table. Stand a few feet away from the anchored end to create tension on the band.
- Facing away from the couch, place the other end of the band around your hips, allowing it to lie across your hip bones.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold your arms out in front of you.
- Push your hips back, bending at knees. Keep your back flat.
- Then push your hips forward and return to standing.
Reps: 3 sets of 8
Move 3: Hollow-Body With Band Press
- Once again, anchor the band round the leg of a couch or table.
- Lie flat on the ground a foot or two away from the anchor point, creating a little tension on the band. Your head should be pointing in the direction of the anchor.
- Keeping the small of your back in contact with the floor, extend your legs a few feet off the ground.
- Hold the free end of the band in your hands and extends your arms straight above your body.
- Keeping arms straight and legs extended, lower your arms toward your hips.
- Then, bring the arms back above your body.
Reps: 2 sets of 7
Once you finish the warm-up exercises (and any additional stretches you may need), you're ready to begin the main part of this resistance-band workout. Perform each exercise for 3 sets of 8 reps, taking a 30-second pause between sets.
Move 1: Band-Resisted Glute Bridge
- Lie on the ground, facing up, feet flat on the floor about a few inches away from your glutes.
- Place the resistance band across your hips and loop each end of the band around your feet, creating tension.
- Planting your heels firmly in the ground, raise your hips up toward the ceiling.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top and lower back to the ground.
Move 2: Band-Resisted Chest Press
- Loop the band behind your back and hold each end of the band in a hand.
- Lie flat your back so that the band is under your mid back, against the floor.
- Bring your arms out to your sides, bending at 90 degrees, palms facing the sky.
- On an exhale, press the two ends of the band up toward the ceiling until your arms are fully extended.
- Then, bring your arms back down to 90 degrees, elbow brushing the ground before you go to the next rep.
Move 3: Band-Resisted Squat
- Loop one end of the band around your neck. Then, with the band in front of your body, place the other end of the band under your feet.
- Stand with your feet at about shoulder-width apart.
- Shoot your hips back and bend at the knees, keeping your chest up and out, shoulders back.
- Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Then, press through your heels, push your hips forward and return to standing.
If you feel the band losing resistance at the bottom of the squat, you can hold the sides of the band and pull up a little. This will help add a little tension to the bottom of the reps, Fetters says.
Move 4: Band-Resisted Horizontal Row
- Anchor one end of the band to a doorknob or cabinet, so that the anchor is at or just below chest height. Hold the other end of the band and step a few feet away from the anchor to create tension.
- Facing the anchored end of the band, extend your arms in front of your body about at about shoulder width.
- On an exhale, row the free end of the band toward your chest, palms facing down.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together behind you and pause when your fists align with your chest.
- Extend your arms back in front of you, returning to the starting position.
Move 5: Band-Resisted Pallof Press
- Again, anchor one end of the band to a doorknob or cabinet, choosing an anchor point that's at chest height.
- Free end of the band in hand, stand a few feet away from the anchor, creating a tension in the band.
- For this exercise, stand sideways, left shoulder facing the anchor.
- Hold the band in clasped hands right below your chest.
- On an exhale, press the band away from your body, fully extending your arms.
- Then, bring the hands back to your body.
- Once you finish the reps on this side, repeat the exercise with your right shoulder closest to the anchor.
"If you don't have a high anchor point, you can do this on your knees with the band around a couch leg," Fetters says. "Whatever the position, focus on keeping your pelvis tucked, back flat, glutes tight and ribs pointing straight down to the floor."