Amp up your workout with a single $10 upgrade — mini resistance bands. You can take these a small, circular resistance bands with you anywhere. At the office? Secure it to your chair and try a few leg extensions. Traveling? Throw this into your suitcase and you won't have to sacrifice space or weight.
And while it's pretty obvious you can wrap one just above or below your knees or on your ankles and do banded walks (great for your hip flexors, by the way), you may be surprised at just how versatile this little band is. Here are 14 of the best exercises to add a resistance loop to.
1. Glute Bridge March
1. Loop the band around the arches of your feet and lie on your back with your feet on a weight bench. Extend your arms along your sides.
2. Press into your heels and lift your butt and lower back off the floor. Your weight should be in your feet, arms and shoulders.
3. Lift your right foot off the bench and bring your right knee toward you.
4. Place that foot back on the bench and switch legs. You'll look like you're marching.
Hands down, glute bridges are the best low-impact move for your booty. Throw in some marching and a mini band, and you have a super-effective core exercise.
2. Mountain Climber
1. Start with the band around your feet and get into a plank supported by your hands. Your body should be in a straight line from head to toe.
2. Bring one knee up toward your chest and back down to meet the other.
3. Then repeat on the opposite side.
4. Continue alternating as quickly as you can while maintaining good form.
Mountain climbers not only get your heart rate up quickly while working your core, but adding a mini band ups the intensity and incorporates your quads more.
3. Bicycle Crunch
1. Loop the band around your feet and lie on your back.
2. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows out to either side.
3. Lift both feet and both shoulders a few inches off the ground to engage your abs.
4. Now, bring your right knee to meet your left elbow, twisting across your body.
5. Untwist back to the start, then repeat on the other side.
The bicycle crunch is one of the best exercises you can do for you abdominals — specifically your obliques. And adding a resistance loop increases the challenge for your hip flexors.
Read more: 3 Ab Exercises That Aren't Worth Your Time
4. Squat With Leg Lift
1. Place the band around your ankles (or anywhere below your knees) and stand with feet hip-width apart.
2. Hinge at the hips and sit back and down into a squat.
3. Stand back up and lift your right leg out to the side.
4. Lower back down and repeat, but this time lift your left leg after you squat.
5. Push-Up Walk
1. Start in a plank with the band around your wrists (or anywhere below your elbows).
2. Walk one hand out to the side several inches, then do a push-up.
3. Once you're back up in a plank, walk your hand back to the start and repeat on the other side.
The great thing about the mini band is how it helps you target smaller stabilizer muscles that you wouldn't have ordinarily used in the standard version of an exercise. Case in point: push-up walks. While standard push-ups work just about every major muscle in the upper body, the band is great for targeting more of your shoulder muscles.
6. Single-Arm Row
1. Start in a lunge with your back knee resting on the ground.
2. Loop the band around your front foot.
3. With your opposite-side hand, grab the band and row it back, keeping your elbow in close to your side.
4. Lower the band back to the start slowly and with control.
5. Do all your reps on one side before switching to the other.
You can do this exercise with a dumbbell, but if you're traveling and don't want to lug around a pair, this variation is the perfect solution.
7. Side Plank With Leg Lift
1. Place the band around your ankles and get into a side plank, resting on your bottom forearm. You can either stack your feet one on top of the other or stagger one in front for more support.
2. Keeping your hips lifted, raise the top foot several inches off the ground.
3. Hold for a second before lowering it back to the ground with control.
4. Repeat all your reps on one side before doing the same thing on the other side.
Channel your inner '80s Jazzerciser and give this exercise a try. But be warned: This isn't your mama's leg lift. It's much harder.
8. Squat Jack
1. With the band around your ankles, stand with your feet wide enough apart so the band is taut.
2. Squat down a few inches (but not all the way into a full squat).
3. Then, jump your feet out to the sides, keeping your squat stance.
4. Jump them back toward each other, careful not to let the band come loose.
5. Continue jumping your feet in and out, staying in a semi-squat the whole time.
9. Leg Pull-Apart
1. Lie on your stomach with the band around your ankles. Rest your head on your folded arms.
2. Engage your glutes to lift your legs a few inches off the ground.
3. Once lifted, pull your feet away from each other.
4. Slowly bring them back together.
5. From here, you can either continue kicking them in and out or, if you need a break, you can lower your feet down briefly in between reps.
If you haven't already noticed, the most well-known mini band exercises target the outer hips, thighs and glutes. From that standpoint, this one is no different. However, because you're using your glutes to keep your legs raised, it's a really great exercise for your backside.
10. Triceps Extension
1. Anchor the band behind your left shoulder by holding it with your left hand. Grab the other end behind your back with your right hand.
2. Extend your right arm above your head, feeling the resistance of the band in the back of your arm.
3. Continue raising and lowering your arm for all your reps before switching sides.
Read more: 8 Exercises to Tone Your Triceps
11. Lat Pulldown
1. Hold one end of the band above your head. Grab the other end with your other hand and pull it down to your shoulder, keeping the first arm straight.
2. Focus on using your lats (the broad muscles that span the width of your back) as you pull the band down.
3. Then raise it back to the start with control.
4. Do all your reps on one side before repeating on the other side.
Think you can only do lat pulldowns in the gym? Think again! Although you'll only be able to work one side at a time with a band, you're still getting all the benefits of the gym version — wherever you are!
12. Plank Jacks
1. With the band around your ankles, start in a plank, balancing on your hands and feet.
2. Keep your hips level and core tight as you jump your feet out to the side.
3. Then jump your feet back together, careful to keep the band taut around your ankles.
Not only are you going to get your heart racing up and sweat flowing, but you'll also be working your outer hips and glutes too.
13. Standing March
1. Stand with the band around your feet and your feet hip-width apart.
2. Then, one side at a time, lift your knee up as close as you can toward your chest.
3. Lower that foot slowly back to the ground and do the same thing with the opposite leg. Keep your core engaged the entire time so that you're not leaning backward or forward.
4. Continue marching like this until you lose proper form.
Don't be fooled by this exercise! It's not as easy as it looks. And if it is, then choose a tighter band for more resistance.
14. Biceps Curl
1. Start seated with the band looped around your right thigh. Grab the other end with your right hand.
2. With control, raise your right hand to your right shoulder, and then slowly lower it back down to your knee.
3. Keep going for all your reps on one side before doing the other side.
If you can't make it to the gym, but also can't skip your arm workout, use this curl variation to work your biceps.