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Fitness is at the front of a lot of people's minds this time of year. With so many diets and workouts out there, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. A lot of folks jump right into intense cardio routines because they think that cardio will help them see and feel the quickest results, but strength training is actually a smarter place to see the results you want.
Strength training is often thought of as a means of improving athletic performance or gaining muscle mass. In reality, though, strength training is a great way to prevent injuries. When your muscles are strong, they are better able to move your joints — and protect them. Plus, more defined muscles are easier to see. So, if you want to look toned, strength training is necessary.
Improving strength is important for everyone, not just athletes or body builders. With stronger muscles, you decrease your chance of injury on a day-to-day basis and having strong muscles makes doing everyday things easier. Imagine if everything you had to carry felt a little bit lighter. Wouldn't that be nice? Strength training can make that possible.
But many of us are intimidated by strength training. The idea of going into a gym full of already fit health nuts can be kind of scary. That's why when I work with clients who are just getting started with strength work, I love to recommend resistance bands. Resistance bands are an easy, accessible workout tool that you can use at home — or wherever.
Resistance bands are less expensive, more portable and more versatile than dumbbells. If you’re looking for a way to tone your muscles and get a more defined look without expensive equipment, resistance bands are a great option. Plus, they offer a unique form of strength training that also works your stabilizing muscles, which adds an additional core challenge. And, let's be honest, toning your abs while you're exercising other parts of your body is a pretty major bonus.
Do resistance band workouts really work?
It's easy to assume that you need giant weights to get strong, but that's just a myth. In fact, there are some things that resistance bands can do for you that weights simply can't. Resistance band workouts really work because there is constant tension throughout the entire movement of an exercise. With dumbbells and body weight, there's only tension on the exertion portion of the movement.
For example, when you do a bicep curl with a resistance band, there is tension on the way up to curl and also on the way down as you return to starting position. When you use dumbbells, there's only resistance on the biceps on the way up — and that resistance is what creates strength.
Resistance bands also make it easier to target smaller muscles. Because larger muscles frequently take over when you use weights or your body weight, resistance bands can be used by people in rehabilitation or physical therapy to help safely activate all of the smaller muscles — as well as the larger muscles.
How long should a resistance band workout be?
I recommend starting with a 10 minute resistance band workout and seeing how you feel. This can be your entire workout, or part of a longer workout. You can also continue doing exercises beyond 10 minutes if your fitness level is more advanced.
Each workout in the challenge should take about 10 minutes. If it takes you more or less time, you can adjust the number of repetitions you do to add or subtract time if you need to.
Is it OK to do a resistance band workout everyday?
Working the arms one day and the legs the next day with resistance bands are great. But I do not recommend working the same body parts two days in a row with resistance bands, which follows my general recommendation for strength training big muscle groups!
Who are resistance band workouts for?
I recommend resistance band workouts to:
- Feel balanced and coordinated.
- Travel and need to pack something that takes little space.
- Work out at home and want an inexpensive piece of equipment.
I don't recommend resistance bands for people who feel uncoordinated because resistance band exercises can be more complicated than dumbbell or body weight exercises. There's no reason to needlessly frustrate yourself if resistance bands make you feel unstable!
31-day resistance band workout plan
You can use resistance bands to target every major muscle group — and that's exactly what we're going to do! I’ve devised this 31-day resistance band routine to strengthen the upper body, lower body and core — plus give you a cardio workout, too. On rest days, make sure to stretch — you can even use the resistance band to help!
Once you have the moves down, try doing them along to the beat of your favorite song. Music can really help you stay motivated while you're working out. If you don't have any go-to playlists, don't worry, we have a selection of playlists curated by Al Roker and some of our favorite fitness instructors.
Download a printable calendar here.
Upper body workout
For the upper body exercises you will utilize a resistance band with handles.
Hold one handle in each hand. With your feet hips-width apart, step on the center of the band with both feet. Slightly bend your knees and pull your abs in. Keeping your upper arms glued to your sides, pull the band up toward your shoulders into a bicep curl, then release back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Bent over reverse fly
Hold one handle in each hand. Step one foot forward and the other foot back behind you into a high lunge. Anchor the band under your front foot. Bend the front knee at almost a 90-degree angle and keep a slight bend in the back knee as well. Hinge at your waist, leaning forward to a 45-degree angle, and let your arms reach down toward the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, pulling the band out to the sides as high as your shoulders. Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times.
Start in the same position as the last exercise, with one foot forward, standing on top of the band, and the other foot back behind you. Switch your grip, grabbing the handles from underneath so that your palms are facing forward, away from you. Hold the handles at shoulder height. Press the band up over your head, extending both arms fully. Release back down to the starting position and repeat 10 times.
Horizontal rear delt flys
Grab the tubing of the band with both hands. Hold it in front of your chest with your hands as wide as your shoulders, letting the handles dangle. Make sure there is a little bit of tension on the band from this position; you don’t want any slack. Then, keep the shoulders down and engage the upper back as you pull your arms straight out to the sides, wider than your shoulders. Come back to center and repeat 10 times.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your back straight. Wrap the resistance band around the bottom of your feet, holding one handle in each hand. Keeping good posture, pull the ends of the band toward your chest. Repeat 10 times.
Lower body workout
For the lower body exercises you will utilize a resistance band loop.
Standing side taps
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and the resistance band around your ankles. Slightly bend your knees and shift your weight so that you are standing on your right leg; press down through the heel. Then, lift the left leg out to the side so that it is completely straight, tapping the toe on the ground. Bring it back to center. Repeat 10 times and then switch to the right side.
Standing glute kickbacks
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and the resistance band around your ankles; bend your knees slightly. Shift your weight so that you are standing on your right leg. Step the left leg back behind you and straighten the leg, reaching through the heel. Then bring it back to center. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.
This move works both the glutes and the legs by combining the squat with the jumping jack. Place the resistance band around your thighs just above your knees. In a slight squat position with your feet hip-width apart, jump both feet out toward opposite sides of the room and then back together. Repeat 10 times.
Side lying hip abduction
Lie on your right side with your right hip and right leg on the ground, and your left leg stacked on top. Wrap the resistance band around both legs, just above your knees. Pull your knees apart by raising your upper leg toward the ceiling. Squeeze your glutes throughout the move, holding your legs apart for a few seconds before returning the left leg to meet the right again. Repeat 10 times before switching sides.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Wrap the resistance band around both legs just above your knees. Keeping your heels on the ground, lift your hips up toward the ceiling, forming a straight line with your body from your knees to your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and maintain tension on the band by pressing your knees outward. Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times.
Core and cardio workout
Core open and close
Lie on your back with the resistance band wrapped around the upper thighs. Reach the legs up toward the ceiling and then lower down to a 45-degree angle. From there, open the legs as wide as the shoulders, feeling the outer hips working against the resistance of the band, and then close the legs back together. Repeat this 10 times, making sure to pull the naval in toward the spine and press the low back into the ground.
With your feet hip-width apart, fold your resistance band in half and hold it straight out in front of you, keeping your arms straight. Lift your right knee toward your left hand until your knee touches the band. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Lying leg raise
Lie down on the floor and wrap the resistance band around your ankles. Keep your hands on the floor or under your butt and your legs straight. Lift one leg up while keeping the other on the floor. Alternate legs, kicking up and down. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Standing on top of your band with your feet hip width apart, hold one handle of the band in each hand. Bend down into a half squat or full squat position. When you stand back up, shift your weight onto your right leg and straighten your left leg out to the side pushing against the resistance of the band. Return to a squat position and repeat on the opposite side. Do as many as possible for one minute.
Opposition cardio jacks
Instead of performing a jumping jack with your hands moving over your head, perform one with your hands moving in front of you. Fold the band in half, holding one side in each hand. With your feet together, pull the bands apart. When you jump your feet apart, release your hands back together, performing the opposite movement of a traditional jumping jack. Repeat as fast as you can for one minute.