When you think of resistance bands, what comes to mind? Stretching, warming up, physical therapy? All are valid answers. But, did you know that bands are actually very effective tools for building muscle? Andrea Fornarola Hunsberger, professional dancer, personal trainer, and founder and director of barre and dance studio Elements Fitness, uses bands to help her clients with strength training. “Bands help to build muscle because they create resistance without adding dead weight (like with a weight or kettle bell),” explains Fornarola Hunsberger. Since bands do not have this “dead weight,” they are easy to use and also do not come with the injury risk of heavy weight training. So, if you need a change of pace—always good in the fitness routine of any guy—put down the dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells for a day (or even a week), and give some of Fornarola Hunsberger's exercise recommendations a try.
You can sprinkle these moves into your exisiting bodyweight or weighted routine. Or, you can do them all back-to-back as part of one workout. If you choose to do them as a workout, shoot for two sets of 20 to 30 reps each. It sounds like a lot of reps, but there's science behind it: “These exercises are based on the principle of muscle overload," says Fornarola Hunsberger. "Twenty to 30 reps works the muscle fibers to the point of fatigue—then the idea is to switch once the muscle group is overloaded. It's best to time each exercise one right after the other to yield the most effective results." So, rest as little as possible between exercises.
Standing in a squat with the legs parallel, bend the knees over the toes and draw the glutes down to knee level. Double up your band to create extra resistance, and hold each end with two straight arms at chest-level. Begin to pulse the legs by bending and stretching the knees down 2" and up 2". Finding a steady rhythm, begin to draw the band up overhead and down to chest-level, keeping the abdominals engaged and the arms strong. Remember to always keep the knees bent and the arms in line with the shoulders. (Note: Changing the rhythm of the pulse will help to increase the burn in the legs and in the glutes—for example, quick pulses or down 1", up 1".)
Complete 20 to 30 reps.
Overhead shoulder presses & leg lunges
Standing with one foot placed in front of the other, bend both knees to form a 90° angle so you are standing in lunge position. Holding the resistance band with two straight arms, draw the band overhead. Begin to bend and stretch the legs, keeping the knees over the toes, the legs parallel, and the abdominals engaged. Then begin to draw the arms down and up as if you were doing a shoulder press as you lunge. Sequence the knee bends and the shoulder presses together, bending the knees down and drawing the arms down at the same time.
Repeat on the same leg for 20 to 30 reps, and then switch to the opposite leg.
Sitting in the center of the mat, hold the resistance band at chest-level with two straight arms. Slowly curl the body down, feeling the abs engage and the spine making a C curve to form the position. Slowly curl the body up an inch and down an inch, exhaling on the up and inhaling as the body curls down. Add variations twisting side-to-side and squeezing the band out to work the obliques. Think about wringing out the waistline as you wring out water from a towel.
Repeat this for 20 to 30 reps in each position to work the abdominals as you sculpt and tone the shoulders and arms.
Standing with the legs wider than the hips in a parallel position, hold the resistance band in front of the chest with two straight arms, and begin to twist from side to side. Starting the movement from the waist, squeeze the belly as you twist, working either side of the abdominal wall.
Repeat this for 20 to 30 reps.
Standing with legs in parallel position hip-distance apart, stand on the center of the resistance band and double up the other ends of the band around the wrists; keeping the arms close to the body, begin to lift and lower the band slowly up and down. As you curl the arms up, squeeze the biceps.
Repeat this for 20 to 30 reps.
Tricep kick backs
Standing with the legs in a parallel position, hip-distance apart, stand on the center of the resistance band and double up the other ends of band around the wrists, keeping the arms close to the body. Squeeze the shoulder blades, and begin to squeeze the arms back as you would in a dumbbell kick back, using the band, squeezing from the top of the arm.
Repeat this for 20 to 30 reps slowly, and 20 to 30 quickly.
Standing with the resistance band under both feet take a wide step out so the legs are wider than hips. Keeping the knees bent, bend at the waistline and hold the resistance band in either hand so that it crosses in front of the legs. Holding the band in either hand, row the bands back while in the bentover stance.
Repeat for 20 to 30 reps.