10 Ways to Use Exercise Bands to Tone and Tighten
The band squat adds resistance to the squat in lieu of free weights. This exercise strengthens your butt, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Use caution if you’re prone to lower-back, hip, or knee pain.
Getting set: Hold the end of a band in each hand and stand on top of the center of the band so that your feet are hip-width apart and your hands are at your sides. Stand tall with your abdominals pulled in and shoulders square.
The exercise: Sit back and down, as if you’re sitting on a chair. Bend your knees and lower yourself as far as you can without leaning your upper body more than a few inches forward. Never go lower than the point at which your thighs are parallel to the floor, and don’t allow your knees to move out in front of your toes.
After you feel your upper body fold forward over your thighs, stand back up, pushing through your heels and taking care not to lock your knees. Throughout the exercise, keep your shoulders relaxed, head up, and your eyes focused directly in front of you.
Band butt blaster
The band butt blaster does a better job of working your butt than many of the butt machines you find in gyms. Use caution if you have lower-back problems.
Getting set: Tie a 1-foot-long band in a circle and place it around both feet at the instep. Next, kneel on your elbows and knees. Flex your left foot. Pull your abdominals in.
The exercise: Keeping your knee bent, lift your right leg and raise your knee to hip height. Slowly lower your leg back down, taking care not to let the band go slack. Your knee should almost, but not quite, touch the floor between repetitions. Do the same number of repetitions with each leg.
Band outer-thigh lift
The band outer-thigh lift is a challenging exercise that specifically targets your outer-thigh muscles.
Getting set: Tie an exercise band (between 1 and 2 feet long) in a circle. Lie on the floor on your left side with your legs a few inches in front of you, knees slightly bent, and head resting on your outstretched arm. Place the band around your thighs, just above your knees.
Bend your right arm and place your palm on the floor in front of your chest for support. Align your right hip directly over your left hip and pull your abdominals in so your back isn’t arched.
The exercise: Keeping your knee slightly bent, raise your left leg until your foot reaches shoulder height. Hold the position for a moment, and then slowly lower your leg back down, keeping tension on the band the entire time. Repeat. Switch sides and do the same number of repetitions with both legs.
Band hamstrings stretch
Tight hamstrings are often related to improper stretching or tight quadriceps (front of your thighs). This exercise helps you gain flexibility in the back of your legs and relieve tightness in the lower back.
Getting set: Lie down on the floor with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent, with your arms to your sides.
The exercise: Bring your right foot toward your chest and wrap an exercise band around the arch of your foot. Exhale as you extend your right leg toward the ceiling. Repeat on the other side.
Band lat pull-down
The band lat pull-down mimics the lat pull-down you do on a machine. Like the machine version, the band lat pull-down works your upper-back muscles with some emphasis on your shoulders and biceps.
Getting set: Sit in a chair or stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold an end of the exercise band in each hand. Raise your arms over your head with your left palm facing in and your right palm facing forward just above shoulder level. Your elbows should be slightly bent. Stand tall with your abdominals pulled in and your knees relaxed.
The exercise: Keep your left arm still. Bend your right elbow down and out to the side, as if you’re shooting an arrow straight up into the air. Keeping your wrist straight, pull the band until your right hand is to the side of your right shoulder, the band is tight, and your right elbow points down. Slowly straighten your arm. Switch sides, alternating arms as you complete the set.
Band one-arm shoulder press
The band one-arm shoulder press strengthens your entire shoulder muscle, with additional emphasis on your triceps.
Getting set: Stand on top of one end of the band near the handle so that your feet are hip-width apart. Hold the other handle in your right hand and place your left hand on your hip, right palm facing forward.
Raise your right hand to shoulder height so that your elbow is bent, your upper arm is parallel to the floor, and your palm is facing forward. Keep your head centered between your shoulders, pull your abdominals in, and relax your knees.
The exercise: Straighten your arm overhead and then slowly bend your arm until your elbow is slightly below shoulder height, but no lower. After you’ve completed a set with your right arm, do an equal number of reps with your left arm.
Band external rotation
The band external rotation strengthens the rotator cuff muscles.
Getting set: Tie a band around a stable object. Stand with your left side toward the tied-off end of the band. Hold the other end of the band in your right hand with your palm facing in. Bend your elbow 90 degrees.
The exercise: Keeping your elbow in place, move your hand a few inches away from you to increase tension in the band and then slowly move it back to the starting position. After you’ve completed a set with your right arm, turn around and do an equal number of reps with your left arm.
Band internal rotation
The internal rotation exercise strengthens the rotator cuff muscles and helps to prevent shoulder injuries.
Getting set: Tie a band around a stable object. Stand with your right side toward the tied-off end of the band. Hold the other end of the band in your right hand with your palm facing in. Bend your elbow 90 degrees.
The exercise: Pull your arm toward you to create more tension. Move your arm out again. After you’ve completed a set with your right arm, turn around and do an equal number of reps with your left arm.
Band shoulder stretch
You will feel this stretch all around your shoulder but particularly in the front of your deltoid.
Getting set: Stand up very tall, feet about hip-width apart, holding both ends of the band in front of your thighs.
The exercise: Inhale as you straighten your arms and raise them overhead. As you exhale, move your arms farther behind your head, but don’t arch your back.
Band triceps extension
As you might guess, the band triceps extension strengthens your triceps muscles. It’s important to train your triceps because there are very few everyday life tasks that challenge these muscles.
Go easy on this exercise if you experience elbow discomfort.
Getting set: While holding onto one end of the band with your left hand, stand with your feet as wide as your hips and place your left palm over the front of your right shoulder. Hold the other end of the band in your right hand with your palm facing inward.
Bend your right elbow so that it’s at waist level and pointing behind you. You can lean slightly forward from your hips if you find that position comfortable, but always keep your abdominals in and your knees relaxed).
The exercise: Keeping your elbow stationary, straighten your right arm out behind you so the band gets tighter as you go, but don’t allow your elbow to lock. Then bend your elbow so your hand travels back to your waist. Reposition the band to work your left triceps.