The Best Resistance Band Workouts
Top trainers weigh in on how to tone up at home.
These days, when we are battling a polar vortex coupled with the pandemic, our indoor workouts may require a little variety. Besides high-quality apparel and footwear, investing in lightweight, versatile equipment is one key to success. We’re not talking about dumbbells and stationary bikes (though if you have the space, go wild) but pieces that take up minimal space and provide maximum results. By these metrics, perhaps no other piece of exercise equipment is as effective as resistance bands.
We’ve all seen the brightly-colored bands hanging by hooks on the walls of our local gyms and Pilates studios. These powerful pieces of equipment build muscular strength and improve mobility. But just because you’re not going to the studio as much as you used to, doesn’t mean you can’t tone up the same way at home.
According to one study, the global resistance band market was valued at $712.8 million in 2018 and has shown year-over-year growth since. What’s all the hype about? We’ve got the details (and the workouts) that will get you into top shape this winter – no gym required.
Home is Where the Heat is
Before the pandemic, we relied on classes, gyms and trainers to motivate us to get a sweat going. With many of these places closed and, in some areas of the world, a blizzard swirling outside, we’ve had to figure out how to make indoor workouts just as fun and effective.
“It can be extremely difficult to find motivation to workout at home right now,” says Lagree Certified Pilates Instructor Cara Talty. “The great thing about resistance band exercises is that they spice up any workout. So when you're not feeling motivated or only have time for a twenty-minute workout, you can grab a band, wrap it around your thighs, squeeze your butt and boom. You just did a quick and really effective workout without even realizing it.”
Almost anyone can benefit from an at-home resistance band workout. “Resistance band exercises are great for maintaining fitness and building muscle,” says NASM-Certified Personal Trainer and Co-Founder of Flipside New YorkBrooke Ashley Mullen. “They’re great for stability, isometric work, hypertrophy, strength building and even power and agility.”
Another plus? Resistance bands take up little to no space in your closet. They’re perfect for all fitness levels and portable enough to move from room to room.
Get the Right Gear
One look at the virtual resistance band aisle and you’ll soon realize that options are plentiful. “There is no right or wrong type of resistance band,” says Mullen, “but choosing the right band should be based on the style of exercise you most enjoy.” She says that both long bands with handles and giant loop bands provide more tension for muscles, making a great at-home replacement for weights. Any normal full-body workout—think squat thrusters, bicep curls and lat pulls—can be turned into a killer strength training session with larger loops. For those who like to do more circuit training and high rep-style workouts, your best bet is a mini-band set. These sort of traditional small loop bands are great for glute bridges and outer thighs.
“My favorite thing about resistance band workouts is how the tension works,” Mullen says. “No matter what exercise you’re doing, you have tension during the entire range of motion. Resistance band workouts are especially great for strengthening muscles right around your joints.”
Resistance band exercises tend to be gentler on muscles. While traditional free weights rely on momentum, resistance band exercises require more isolated movements with consistent resistance. “In the long run, this prevents injury and joint pain,” says Talty. “Just make sure you buy good quality resistance bands. Cheaper versions might slip or rip, which can cause unintended injuries.”
A Total Body Workout
With the right exercises, resistance band workouts can tone and strengthen every single muscle in your body. From large regions like quads and hamstrings to smaller muscle fibers surrounding those areas, a good resistance band workout will leave you sore all over.
Ready to get started? Choose your workout below:
● Plank Arm Row (Talty): Grab a light/medium resistance band. Get into plank position, looping one side of the resistance band under your left hand. With your right hand, grab the other side of the band and pull back, squeezing your elbows towards your ribcage. Keep your core engaged the whole time. Do 10-12 reps and switch.
● Banded Single-Arm Eccentric Seated Row (Mullen): Seated with your legs out in front of you, place a medium/heavy band around your left foot and hold it with your right hand. Pull your belly button up towards your spine, sit up as tall as you can and keep your chin tucked back. On your exhale, pull your elbow straight back, keeping your chest open and squeezing your shoulder blades behind you. Hold this position, then slowly release and inhale for a count of three.
● Bicycle Crunch (Talty): Lay on your back. Wrap a light/medium resistance band around your feet. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor. Straighten your legs and raise them to 45 degrees. Pull your left knee in towards your chest while keeping your right leg straight and hovering above the mat. Hold for 60 seconds and then switch legs.
● Deadlift (Talty): Grab a medium/heavy band. Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart with the band underneath your feet. Grab the band with both hands. Keeping your arms straight, close your legs, press your hips back and hinge your torso forward. Drive through your heels and come back to standing, keeping a slight bend in your knees. Squeeze your glutes at the top and repeat for 15 reps.
● Banded Curtsy Lunge (Mullen): Stand with your feet together. Place a medium/heavy resistance band around both legs, just above your knees. Take your right foot and cross it behind you into a 'curtsy.’ Your hips should hinge back, your back straight with the majority of your weight on your left heel. Bend all the way down until your right knee lightly taps the ground. Push through your left heel to return to the starting position with your right foot off the ground.