The Carry-On-Approved Workout Accessory To Take Everywhere This Summer
Whether or not you work out year-round, now that summer is finally here, sticking to a fitness routine amid all the good eats, good drinks, and fun travel can be challenging. Luckily, all you need is a resistance band to take fitness on-the-go and keep things hassle-free—no gym required.
As a certified personal trainer and Barre instructor, if I know that I have my resistance band on hand, I have no excuse to miss even the shortest sweat session. Resistance bands also keep me motivated because of the versatility in the types of exercises possible. Want to find your resistance band routine? Try these quick and effective exercises for a full-body vacation workout.
1. Shoulders and Biceps
- Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart and parallel; softly bend both knees. Pull the lower abdominals in toward the spine until you feel your lower back lengthen and your tailbone drop toward the floor. Shoulders should be stacked directly over the hips. Press your weight slightly forward into your toes (to avoid leaning back).
- Start with the resistance band in each of your hands with palms facing upward. Lift your arms toward shoulder height and take a tiny bend to the elbows. Draw the shoulders away from the ears, toward each other, and down the back. Start with small pulls out on the band, pulling the band apart (hands move just about an inch farther away from each other). As you pull out on the band, feel the biceps muscles engaging. Repeat 10 times.
- Add a lift with the arms. Combine one pullout on the band with one lift of the arms (moving the band out an inch and then lift up an inch). Repeat 10 times.
- Hold the pullout on the band, creating a strong resistance, and lift the band up an inch and down an inch. Focus on feeling the biceps really working. Repeat 10 times.
- Bend the elbows to 90 degrees with wrists aligned directly over the elbows. Pull the band apart (arms separating just about an inch out to each side). Make sure the abdominal muscles are engaged throughout the entire exercise.
- Add the lift-up; to do this, pull the band out an inch and then arms lift up an inch. Hold the pull on the band and just lift the arms up an inch and then down an inch.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Stand with your feet hip-width distance and parallel; softly bend your knees. Hold the band in each hand behind your back with palms facing upward, toward the ceiling. Hinge forward from the waist with a flat back until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle. Engage the abdominal muscles to support the lower back.
- Draw the shoulders away from the ears and firm the triceps muscles (top of the back of the arms) inward toward the midline of the body.
- Engage the triceps muscles to lift arms up just an inch or two above the hips (if you need more challenge, lift the arms slightly higher). Start by pulling the band apart so that the arms move farther from each other (just about an inch out to each side). You should feel the triceps muscles engage. Try to focus on the movement being initiated in the triceps, rather than in the wrists. Repeat pulling the band apart 10 times.
- Add a lift up to the pullout. The movement will be one pullout an inch out to the side, and then arms will lift up an inch. Repeat 10 times.
- Hold the pull/resistance on the band and focus on just lifting the arms up an inch and down an inch. Repeat 10 times.
- Hold the band at your highest point and add a small bend stretch upward. You should imagine a tiny bend and big lengthen to the back of the arms. Repeat 10 times.
3. Triceps & Upper Back
- Stand with your feet hip-width distance and parallel; softly bend both knees. Take one end of the resistance band and place it under the back of your left foot. Press your left heel firmly into the band to hold it in place.
- Lift the other end of the band up and over your head, and hold on to the band with both hands (adjust your position on the band to create your desired level of resistance). Make sure that your elbows are pointing forward and biceps are aligned with the ears. Relax the shoulders down the back and pull the abdominal muscles in.
- Lift the hands upward toward the ceiling until arms are almost straight or until you feel the triceps muscles engage (important to avoid fully extending the arms and locking out or hyperextending the elbows; keep a slight bend to the elbows).
- Bend the elbows lowering hands downward behind your head until wrists are in line with your elbows. Engage the triceps to re-straighten the arms back over your head. Be mindful to keep the shoulders drawing down and away from the ears as you move the arms. Repeat 10 times.
- For an added challenge, you can add on the next two exercise variations. Variation 1: Slow down the movement by lowering the hands down for 2 counts and then lifting hands up over the head for 2 counts. Repeat 10 times. Variation 2: Hold the hands over the head (until arms are almost straight) and then bend the elbows, lowering hands behind your head just an inch and then lift the arms back up an inch. This small and controlled movement will deepen the muscle contraction. Repeat 10 times.
4. Glutes & Hamstrings
- Set up with the resistance band in a tabletop position. Fold the band in half; loop the band around the right foot (just below the ball of the foot); flex the right foot and then take both sides of the band into the right hand; pull on the band until the right hand is below the right shoulder, and press the band into the floor. Press the right palm down firmly to hold the band in place. Start with the right toes resting on the floor or your mat. (Note: If this exercise causes any strain to the wrists you can always lower yourself down onto the forearms.)
- Stack the shoulders over the wrists and make sure the knees are set up directly below the hips. Level off the hips so that the right hip is in the same line as the left hip. Keep the hips level and firmly pull the abdominal muscles in and upward toward the spine to support the lower back.
- Activate the glute muscles to lift the right leg up toward hip height. With control, slowly lower the right leg back down, allowing right toes to touch the floor. Activate gluteal muscles again to lift the right leg back up toward hip height. Repeat 10 times.
- Hold the right leg up toward hip height; engage the glutes to lift the right leg up and hold (lift and hold the leg above the hip just an inch or two). Repeat 10 times.
- Hold the right leg up toward hip height, and start to bend and stretch the right knee. Try to maintain the height of the right leg while just focusing on a small bend and big stretch/lengthen as you extend the right leg back to straight. As you straighten the right leg, press into the right heel. Repeat 10 times.
- Repeat the entire exercise sequence on the left leg.
- This exercise targets the outer/side glute muscles. Tie the band in half to make a smaller circle with the band (tie the band small enough to create your desired level of resistance). Lie down on the floor with the band placed around both shins. Walk your feet slightly wider than hip distance.
- Rest the palms by your side and flat on the floor and draw the lower abdominals in toward the spine. Keep the abdominal muscles active and engaged for the entire exercise.
- Curl your tailbone up and off the mat while tilting your pelvis slightly toward the ceiling. Engage all the glute muscles to lift the entire seat and tailbone 2 to 3 inches off the floor. Keep the back of the rib cage on the floor as much as possible. Lift and lower the glutes up and down 10 to 20 times.
- Hold your hips off the floor and start to press knees out (just a ½ inch to an inch out to the side). As you press out, you should feel the side of your glute muscles engage. Repeat 10 times.
- Combine the press out with a lift of the hips. Press the knees out against the band and then lift hips up just an inch. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
- Option to repeat the entire sequence with heels lifted off the floor.
5. Inner Thighs
- Lie down on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Wrap the band around the ball of your right foot; extend the right leg straight up and about 2 inches out to the side (to the right); flex the right foot. Slightly externally rotate the right leg so that the right inner thigh is facing you.
- With your left hand, grab firmly onto both sides of the band, pulling the band across the body toward the left hip. Hold firmly onto the band to create your desired level of resistance.
- Move the right leg out to the side (to the right) an inch and then back toward the midline an inch. You should feel the right inner thigh engage. Repeat 10 times.
- Take a slight bend to the right knee and then restraighten the right leg pressing into the right heel. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
- Repeat the entire sequence on the left leg.
6. Inner/Outer Thighs & Obliques
- Step your feet apart so that they're wider than the hips, similar to the ballet second position. Bend the knees to lower your hips toward the floor a few inches. Make sure that the knees are above the ankles and the knees are in line with the middle toes. You should feel the outer and inner thigh muscles start to engage.
- Draw abdominal muscles in and activate the glutes. Keep the shoulders stacked over the hips and shoulders drawing down, away from the ears.
- Reach your arms with the band straight out in front of you and lift the arms up toward hip height. Hold the arms still and start to lower just the hips down a few inches toward knee height and then up a few inches (you can increase the intensity of this exercise by challenging the depth you lower the hips. However, do not let the hips go below the knees). Repeat moving down and up 10 to 20 times, working the outer and inner thighs.
- Hold a bend to the knees and take a small twist to the left, engaging the left oblique/core muscles as you twist. Repeat the tiny twist to the left 10 times.
- Hold the twist to the left and start to pull the left hand/band farther to the left just a few inches. Exhale as you pull the band and focus on drawing the left core muscles in deeper toward the midline with every pull. Repeat 10 times.
- Repeat the entire exercise on the right side.
- Sit on the floor, knees bent, hip-distance apart, and parallel; feet are flat, pressing into the ground.
- Lengthen the spine, lifting the body up and out of the waist; relax the shoulders away from the ears; draw the shoulder blades toward each other and down the back; pull the abdominal muscles in and up. Note: If you need more support for the lower back, you can place a pillow or small exercise block behind the lower back.
- Hold on to the resistance band with both hands and extend the arms straight out in front of the body; lift arms up toward shoulder height.
- Focus on breathing the belly in toward the spine, deep inhales and exhales. The goal of this movement is to see/feel the abdominal muscles moving with the breath, strengthening and toning the core muscles. Hold in this position breathing in and out for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Start to pull the band apart just an inch or two. As you pull out on the band, try to draw the core muscles inward and together (in toward the midline). Imagine knitting the base of the rib cage together and cinching the waist. Inhale and exhale through this exercise. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
- Hold the core engagement and start to lower arms down toward the knees and then return the arms back up toward shoulder height. Focus on engaging the core as you lower and lift the arms. Repeat 10 to 20 times.