Practicing social distancing, now rounding its fourth week for many of us, means finding creative ways to work out without access to a gym. But if it turns out that you've got some resistance bands left over from physical therapy after that shoulder injury, you're in luck.
At-home resistance band workouts can help you push away stress and maintain those gym gains, all at the same time.
"Resistance bands can in fact act like weights," says
Dr. James N. Gladstone, MD, chief of the Sports Medicine Service and associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Exercise bands are great to use to get some exercise in, keep your muscles twitching, build strength, and create movement, especially in these times where there’s nowhere to go and you are confined to smaller spaces."
Resistance bands come in all shapes and sizes, so you can think outside the box (erm... band) with these movements. "Every type of band typically has a different level of resistance based on its thickness and material — so just one or two different bands can provide a really great and versatile at-home workout," says Mary Johnson,
Strava strength training coach and founder of the coaching service Lift, Run, Perform.
Turn these 17 resistance band exercises into full workouts by picking five to eight moves at a time and cycle through each move one after the other, resting as needed. Doing at least 10-15 minutes of this kind of activity at least three or four times a week will help keep your heart healthy and your muscles strong.
Stevica Mrdja / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images
Take note of how you're sitting right now — even if you pride yourself on posture, staring at a screen all day probably has you hunched at least a little forward.
Resistance band pull aparts will help your body stand straight again, working your traps, upper lats, arms, and core as a bonus.
If you have a
long resistance band, fold it onto itself and grasp it in front of your chest. If you have a short resistance band, loop it around your wrists. Stand with your elbows locked out in front of you (think straight zombie arms).
Imagine someone is touching your upper back and you're trying to pinch their hand with your shoulder blades. Bring your hands as far apart as they'll go with the band. Come back to the center with slow control. Go for three sets of 12 steady repetitions.
Resistance Band Hip Hinge
Anchor the band to something solid and near the ground (think under the leg of your sturdiest table or your bed frame). Tug on the band to make sure it won't slip out when you put pressure on it.
Facing away from the anchor with your feet hip-width apart, grasp the band in both hands. Stand up tall with the band between your legs.
(The band will creep up near your crotch, so adjust your position for comfort.) Keep your back neutral and your knees soft but not bent. Send your hips back like you're trying to touch an imaginary wall behind you with your butt. Hinge down until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. When you do, come back to standing. That's one rep. Three sets of 10-12 reps will help this movement feel more natural, working out your hamstrings and glutes.
If you've got a longer band, loop it gently around itself until it's small enough to tug when fitted around your thighs. Step into a smaller band and adjust it above your knees. My thighs are too thick for that to be even remotely comfortable, so I do these with the band around my calves instead.
Hold your arms out in front of you for balance, and squat like you're going to sit down on a very, very low chair. Keep your torso as upright as you can, but don't feel the need to squat
all the way down. Just go as far as your body wants to today. The band will tug your knees in toward each other, but as you're moving through your squat, think "push my knees out." Three sets of 12-15 reps will strengthen your entire lower body.
planks are evil. But you don't have to do them for very long to build core stability and strength. Get into a pushup position (hands and feet on the floor, with your palms under your shoulders), but keep your belly on the ground until you set up the band.
Put one loop of the band under your palms and shimmy around to get the rest of the band settled around your shoulders. Press yourself up into a full plank (arms locked out beneath you). Squeeze your glutes and quads. This will engage your core and protect your lower back from hyperextending. Breathe
and hold the position for as long as you can. Complete three sets to failure, and remember that holding a plank for five seconds is just as cool as holding a plank for a whole minute.
Loop the resistance band around your calves or thighs (whatever's comfortable). Get into a plank position. Imagine there's a water bottle balanced on your low back and you don't want to let it slide off. Slowly lift your left leg up toward the ceiling, trying to keep it straight. With control, bring that foot down to the ground and switch legs. Try for three sets of six or eight full reps (AKA per side) to work out your core, glutes, and quads.
Side Lying Banded Leg Lifts
Keep that resistance friend where it is, but this time, roll over to your side. Lean up on your elbow and stack your feet on top of each other. Raise your hips off the ground to get yourself into a
side plank position. It's OK if you have to put spread your feet to find balance. Once you're set, raise your top foot toward the ceiling and bring it down with steady control, resisting the dark side of the Force (AKA the band's tug). Bring your hips down as often as needed to rest, and aim for three sets of six or eight reps per side.
Banded Overhead Tricep Press
If you've got a longer band, step on it so it traces up the side of your body. Grasp the other end of the loop and press it over your head, keeping your upper arm as close to your ear as you can. Carefully bend your elbow so that your hand travels back toward your shoulder, while your upper arm stays in the same position. Only move from your elbow to your hand. Press back up to lock out your arm, and that's one rep.
If your band is smaller and you're doing a
tricep press with your left arm, anchor the band with your right hand (instead of your feet), in front of your chest near your left armpit. Three sets of eight to 12 reps will have your triceps working hard. South_agency/E+/Getty Images
If your band is big enough, step on one end with your right foot and hold the other with your right hand. Keep your upper arm locked next to your rib cage. Bend at the elbow to curl your forearm and hand up until your palm is near your shoulder. The band will try to yank you down, but move nice and slow on the
journey back to long arms.
If your band is tiny, try sitting down with the band looped around your thigh. Do your
bicep curls from that seated position, bracing your elbow near your inner thigh. Make a goal of three sets of eight to 12 steady reps per side.
Get back into plank position and set up the band so it's braced behind your shoulders and under your palms. Squeeze your glutes and quads. Lower yourself down, keeping your elbows tucked as close as you can to your rib cage (try to avoid "chicken-winging" your elbows out to the side). Press up, and you've got yourself a resistance banded pushup!
Can't do a pushup yet? No problem. Hang out on your knees and press up from there. It'll still be an effective exercise. Three sets to failure will have you breathing hard, with a set of two pushups from your knees being just as awesome as a set of 15 full pushups.
Standing Chest Band Press
Keep the band in the same basic position (looped around your shoulders, held by your hands) but stand up. Brace your quads and glutes, then press the band out in front of you until your elbows lock out. If your band is small, partial reps are OK.
If your band is bigger and you want an extra challenge, try anchoring it behind you at about chest height (a closed door can be useful if you test it for stability). With the band's anchor farther away from you, the same motion will be extra tricky. Three sets of 12 reps will
strengthen and stretch your chest at the same time.
Kneeling Banded Shoulder Press
Kneel and anchor the band firmly under your knees (tug to check for stability!). Take the other end of the band in both hands, palms facing up or out in front of you, and press toward the ceiling. Keep your glutes and quads locked. Exhale as you press to lock out your arms, and lower slowly back to shoulder level.
If you've got a small band, recruit your roommate. Have them anchor the band with both hands a little bit in front of your chest. For three sets of eight reps, you'll both get a
If you've got a small band, ask your roommate to anchor the band in the same position. If you've got a bigger band, you can try these
lateral raises kneeling (with the band anchored under your knees) or standing (under your feet).
Keep your elbows soft but not bent. Hold an end of the band in both hands, relaxed at your sides to start. (Do only one side at a time with a small band.) Raise your arms out like you're flapping your wings until the resistance is too much or your hands reach ear level. Slowly lower back down. Three sets of 15 reps will be a lot harder than you think, but in a good way.
Remember the hip hinge you practiced earlier? Do that again, trying to bend until your back is almost parallel to the floor (but don't strain your hamstrings). Step on your band with both feet and hold the other end with both hands. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and drag your elbows back alongside your sides until your hands reach your rib cage. Don't let the band yank you back to starting position for three sets of 10 reps of this
posterior chain (AKA your back, glutes, and hamstrings) move.
Lying Straight Arm Banded Pull Down
Find an anchor that's low to the ground. Lay on your back with your feet facing away from the anchor. If you've got no shoulder injuries, grasp the band above your head with both hands. Pull your arms to eye level. If your band is long enough, continue the movement so that your hands travel all the way down to your hips. Bring your hands back to starting position slowly.
Imagine that your
arms are levers for your core so your abs and lats are doing most of the work. If it makes you more stable, keep your knees bent but your feet planted on the ground. Aim for three sets of 15.
Stay on your back, but use your hands as your anchor. Hold the band firmly above your chest, folding it over if it's long. Bend your knees like you're about to hug them to your belly or chest. Loop the band around your feet and test it to make sure
it won't slip off and snap back toward your face.
Keep your shoulder blades on the ground. Keeping your knees bent, use your core to lower your feet toward the ground. Gently tap your heels down and crunch back to starting position. Celebrate yourself, because you've just done a banded
reverse crunch. Three sets of 15-20 reps will have your core sore in all the best ways.
Single-Leg Banded Deadlifts
single-leg deadlift, put the band under your right foot and hold it in front of you. Send your butt back with a neutral spine and lift your left leg up behind you. Balance will be a challenge, so feel free to brace yourself on a chair, the couch, or your roommate. Hinge until you feel a stretch in your right hamstring, then stand it back up. Try for three sets of eight to 12 reps per side, and always remember to breathe.
Banded Pull Apart Holds
isometric (staying in one place) holds might be your new best friend during long days at your computer. Grab the band and pinch your shoulder blades together behind you, pulling the band to maximum resistance. Stay there. Breathe through the hold, keeping the tension for as long as you can. Three sets of holding for as many seconds as possible will give your chest a much-needed stretch and strengthen your upper back, which is what your body needs when you're working from home every day. Experts: Dr. James N. Gladstone, MD, chief of the Sports Medicine Service and associate professor of orthopedic surgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Mary Johnson, Strava strength training coach, founder of Lift, Run, Perform