Small and lightweight, bands make it easy to fit in a muscle-building workout without a lot of space or equipment. Get started with this under-20-minute routine.

Micaela Young M.S.
August 17, 2020
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Strength training doesn’t always mean lifting weights or using fancy gym equipment. Resistance bands are just as useful in building strength, but they are lighter and easier to maneuver than traditional weights. Plus, they allow you to work your muscles and improve flexibility without putting too much stress on your joints. Once you are familiar with a few basic moves, this simple tool can make it easy to add some muscle-training sessions to your weekly routine. This complete workout shows you how resistance bands can be used to build muscle and amp up your heart rate too!

A good goal to start is to perform this workout with 2 or 3 rounds of the circuit (Step Two) up to three days per week, with at least one day between sessions.

What You'll Need

his workout is designed to use resistance bands that are about 5 feet in length. We like the TheraBand CLX non- latex bands ($11 & up, TheraBand.com) because they feature loops that you can slip your hands through for a better grip. TheraBands come in different resistance levels: yellow is equal to 3 lbs.; red, 3.7 lbs.; and green, 4.6 lbs. We suggest beginning with yellow or red. You’ll also need a sturdy chair and a clock or timer to track each 15-second interval.

Step One: Warmup

Start with 5 minutes of gentle movement. We suggest marching in place (standing or seated) for 4 minutes, then performing one repetition of each exercise on pages in the circuit without the bands.

Step Two: Strength-Training Circuit

This circuit is made up of four exercises, performed one right after the other. Each exercise lasts for 45 seconds, which is broken into three 15-second intervals:

  • Interval 1: 15 seconds of easy to moderate intensity
  • Interval 2: 15 seconds of faster movement at a high intensity
  • Interval 3: 15 seconds of recovery jogging to prepare for the next exercise

Work up to repeating the circuit a total of 2 or 3 times. At any time, if you’re unable to keep your form and move through the full range of motion, slow down, make the move smaller, or take a break.

Move 1: Sit, Stand & Lateral Raise

This full-body move builds power in your legs and the tops of your shoulders.

Begin seated in a sturdy chair with the band under your feet and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands in the last loops (or grasp the ends of the band) and place your elbows by your sides with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle (above). Roll your shoulders back and engage your core: gently tilt your pelvis toward your belly button and brace your stomach muscles as if for impact.

Push through your heels to stand as you simultaneously raise your elbows out to the sides and lift your hands up to the front of your chest; stop when your elbows and fists are at shoulder height (above). Keep your weight in your heels, your chin up, and your torso tall as you lower back down to sit. Repeat.

Move 2: Step-Out with Arm Curl

This move builds strength in the outsides of your legs and the front of your arms.

Stand on the band with your feet under your hips. Place your hands in the last loops (or grasp the ends of the band) and place your elbows by your sides with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle (above). Shift your weight to your left foot.

Step your right foot out to the side as you simultaneously bend your elbows and curl your fists up toward your shoulders (above). Then lower your hands and step your right foot back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side, stepping out and back with your left foot. Continue, alternating feet as you curl.

Move 3: Chest Press & Heel Kicks

Pushing the band with control strengthens your chest, while stepping with your legs builds agility.

Stand with your feet under your hips, with a slight bend in your knees. Wrap the band around your upper back, under your shoulders, and place your hands in the loops (or grasp the band) near your armpits (above). Roll your shoulders back and down and engage your core.

Keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, reach forward with both arms as you kick your right leg forward and tap your heel on the floor (above). Bring your arms and right leg back in to the starting position. Repeat with your other leg, reaching your arms forward as you kick your left leg out and tap your heel. Continue, alternating legs.

Move 4: Rock & Row

You’ll challenge your mind- muscle coordination as you work the muscles that build healthy posture.

Place the middle of the band under your right foot and slide your hands into the loops (or grasp the band) near knee level. Shift your weight to your right foot. Keep a bend in your knees as you step your left foot back 1 to 2 feet. Place your left toes on the floor, raise your chest up, and gaze forward (above).

From here, rock your upper body backward, shifting your weight to your back (left) foot and lifting your front (right) toes, and bend your elbows to pull your arms straight back into a row (above). As you row, keep your thumbs up, tuck your elbows close to your sides, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Continue, rocking forward and back as you row. After 45 seconds, switch your feet and repeat on the other side.

Step Three: Cool-Down

Improve flexibility and help your muscles recover by performing each move in this sequence. Gently hold each stretch for 20 seconds. Continue to breathe through any tightness.

Move 1: Hamstring Stretch

Sit in the middle of your chair with one foot flat on the floor and the other leg extended, heel resting on the ground. Place your hands on your hips and take a deep breath in.

As you exhale, lean your upper body forward, keeping your chest up and your shoulders and hips back. Feel the stretch in the back of your extended leg. Switch sides and repeat.

Move 2: Quadriceps Stretch

Stand slightly behind and to the side of your chair with your feet hip-width apart. Take an exaggerated step forward with one foot so you’re in a lunge position.

Rest one hand on the chair for support as you bend both knees and lower down further into your lunge. Press your back toes into the ground; you should feel the stretch in the front of your back leg up through your hip. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Move 3: Hip Stretch

Sit in the middle of your chair with your legs extended, knees bent slightly, and heels resting on the ground.

Raise one leg and place that ankle on your extended leg, near your ankle or knee. Feel the stretch in your bent leg’s hip. For a deeper stretch, lean your upper body forward slightly, or bend your extended leg in so your foot is flat on the floor, knee at a 90-degree angle. Repeat on the other side.

Move 4: Back Stretch

Sit tall in the middle of your seat with your feet flat on the floor. Relax your arms down by your sides and take a deep breath in.

As you exhale, bring your arms forward, arch your upper back, and relax your head so your ears are near your biceps. Deepen the stretch by turning your thumbs toward the floor. Reach forward and breathe.

Move 5: Chest Stretch

Sit tall in the middle of your seat with your feet flat on the floor; relax your arms down by your sides. Take a deep breath in and lift your arms overhead.

Relax your shoulders and tuck your chin slightly as you reach toward the ceiling, lifting your chest and lengthening your spine.

Bend your elbows out to the sides as you squeeze your shoulder blades together, stopping when your upper arms are parallel to the floor and your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Hold here.