Weights aren’t the only way to get sculpted: Resistance bands are powerful (and portable) tools for strength training anywhere. These low-tech, lightweight fitness props are perfect for at-home workouts or tossing into your suitcase. (Maybe that’s why so many celebs, including Jessica Biel and Sofia Vergara, use them when they’re on the road.)
Bands have other advantages, too. They’re great for targeting multiple muscles at once and give you a greater range of motion than other kinds of equipment. Plus, “by creating resistance in multiple directions, your core has to stabilize to maintain the correct movement pattern,” says Dennys Lozada, personal trainer and instructor at The Fhitting Room in New York City. As a result, your body builds more muscle fiber and burns more calories both during and after exercise.
Perhaps the best thing about resistance bands, though, is how adaptable they are to any fitness level. “You are the one who dictates how much tension there will be when you’re pushing or pulling,” Lozada says. A set of flat, looped bands of varying resistance levels (light, medium and heavy) will give you the most versatility, he adds; start with the light band and move up from there. Here are five multitasking exercises to try:
The Workout: Do 20 reps of each move, with a light-resistance looped band. Do 4 to 5 sets, 3 times a week.
1. Squat & Press: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, band under middle of feet. Hold band with palms up at chest level so band forms a rectangle between hands and feet. Keeping weight on heels, lower into a squat until thighs are parallel to floor. Stand and thrust arms overhead. Return to start.
2. Leg Raise: Start on hands and knees with band looped around thumbs and right foot. Extend right leg straight back, foot flexed, toes to floor. Lift foot to hip level. Lower and repeat. Do reps. Switch sides; repeat.
3. Band Push-Up: Start in a high plank, wrists under shoulders, band stretched across back (just below shoulder blades) and looped around thumbs. Bend elbows to lower toward floor. Press back to start.
4. Bent-Over Row: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, band under middle of feet, knees soft. Hinge forward, keeping back flat, and grab band on both sides at knee level. Hold elbows close to body as you pull hands to chest, squeezing shoulder blades at top of each row. Return to start.
5. Core Twist: Securely loop one end of band around a door handle, the other around your hands. Stand a few feet from door with left side facing it so band is taut. Extend arms in front of you, palms together. Engaging abs, rotate upper body 45 degrees toward door, lessening tension. Twist back to start. Do reps. Switch sides; repeat.
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