Resistance bands are a low-cost, versatile workout option you can use to create qucik bodybuilding, cardio and muscular endurance workouts. Depending on how tightly you wrap them, resistance bands help you build muscle, elevate your heart rate or train for sports. Because you don’t need to change equipment during a resistance band workout, you can exercise your entire body in a matter of minutes.
Resistance Band Basics
Resistance bands, or cords, are thin strips of flexible material that become more difficult to stretch as you pull them. This creates resistance against your muscles, which helps create different exercises. If you start with them wrapped tightly, giving you less cord to work with as you try to perform a movement, you will experience more resistance. If you leave the cords longer, they will be easier to move, requiring less muscular effort so you can use them longer during each exercise. Some resistance bands come with simple grips like those on a jump rope, while others let you slip your hands through a handle for better stability. Products such as the Easy Shaper attach two cords to a metal bar, letting you perform a wider variety of exercises, similar to using barbells.
For a quick muscle-building routine, after your warmup, wrap the bands tightly, making it very difficult to perform your exercises. Create a 3 by 5 workout, performing five repetitions of an exercise (to failure), taking a two-minute break, then repeating two more sets of the exercise with a break in between. Take a break of two minutes before starting a new series of an exercise. Alternate between your upper and lower body. Include the following exercises: squats, biceps curls, lunges, chest presses, leg presses, triceps extensions and chest flyes. For a high-rep, low-volume workout, use enough resistance so that you can perform 10 to 12 reps with difficulty. You should fatigue to failure within 90 seconds if you want the maximum muscle-building benefit.
If you only have 10 to 15 minutes to exercise, raise your calorie burn by creating a circuit-training cardio workout with resistance. Wrap your bands to the point they create some resistance as you exercise, but loose enough that you won’t cramp or fatigue and have to take a break during your routine. Perform the exercises listed in the bodybuilding workout section above, but at a rapid pace, performing one- to two-minute sets of each exercise. Add shadowboxing, rows, kickbacks and adduction and abduction exercises, moving your legs from side to side. If you don’t know the names of specific exercises, be creative and move your arms and legs in various ways against the resistance to isolate and work different muscles. Check out the exercises in the Resources section below. Try new exercises slowly at first, and avoid any that place strain on your lower back, knees or shoulder.
To improve your muscular endurance, create a circuit-training routine with the resistance bands wrapped halfway to your maximum resistance. Perform 10 reps of an exercise, then move to a new exercise, moving from exercise to exercise with only one or two short breaks during your workout. Use the previously mentioned exercises, performing them at a speed between the slow pace of a bodybuilding rep and the quick, high-intensity movements associated with cardio workouts. Repeat each exercise once or twice during your circuit after you have performed the other exercises, alternating body areas.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Just because you want a quick workout doesn’t mean you have to skip your warmup and post-workout stretch. For all of these workouts, warm up without the resistance bands, or using very little resistance on the bands, to stretch your muscles. One to two minutes of moderately intense running in place, jumping jacks, arm circles and buttkicks will do the trick. After you are done with your workout, put the cords away walk around and raise and lower your arms for two minutes until your heart rate starts getting back to normal to let your body cool down. Finish with a good stretch.