Whether you’ve just started exercising or are a seasoned fitness enthusiast, mini bands are a key tool to have and offer a wide variety of benefits. They are affordable, they don’t take up a lot of space, and they can be use in a variety of workouts such as: pre-hab exercises; activation exercises; mobility exercises; and stability exercises.
Any of the exercises below can be done for time (as many reps as possible in 30 seconds), or in numbers (such as 12 reps). To increase the intensity, you can: hold a position for time under tension; add another band; or add weight where applicable (dumbbell, barbell, kettlebell, etc.).
1. Bent over rows.
What it works: back and shoulder muscles.
How to do it: stand with feet hip-width apart and have a mini band around your wrists. Hinge at the hips so you are bent over while keeping a soft bend in the knees. With your arms fully extended, fingertips pointing to the ground and palms facing each other, begin the movement by pulling your elbows towards your ribs while keeping tension on the band, as though you want to pull it apart. Return to the starting position.
2. External rotation, curl and press.
What it works: shoulders.
How to do it: stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Place a mini band around your wrists, bend arms 90 degrees with your elbows close to your ribs. With your palms facing down, pull the band apart while keeping your elbows tucked. Next, raise your forearms by bending at the elbows and bringing the backs of your hands to your shoulders. Next, press the band overhead while keeping tension in it. Lower your arms and return to the starting position.
3. Triceps push down.
What it works: triceps.
How to do it: stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Loop the mini band around both hands and place your left hand on your right shoulder. Keep your shoulders back; don’t hunch them or round them forward. Make a fist with your right hand and bend your elbow 90 degrees, bringing your fist to shoulder. Press the band towards the floor while fully extending your arm. Return your fist to your shoulder.
4. Lat pull down.
What it works: back, shoulders and core.
How to do it: stand with feet shoulder-width apart. While keeping your low back neutral, and your core braced, loop the mini band around both hands and raise your arms overhead. Pull your arms down while also pushing against the bands, aiming your elbows towards your ribs. Return to the starting position.
This exercise can be made easier by keeping your hands closer together, or it can be made harder by moving your hands further apart.
5. Walking plank.
What it works: shoulders and core.
How to do it: Place a mini band around your wrists and get into a high plank position. Brace your core to keep your low back from sagging and keep your shoulders down and away from your ears. Walk one hand as far forward as you can, then walk the opposite hand forward to meet it. Walk that hand back, then walk the starting hand back to meet it. This is one rep.
1. Plank jacks.
What it works: glutes, core and shoulders.
How to do it: place a mini band around your ankles and get into a high plank position. You can also do this from a forearm plank position. Keep your wrists (or elbows) in line with your shoulders. While bracing your core, jump your feet out (laterally) and bring them back together. The hands remain stationary.
2. Fire hydrants.
What it works: glutes, core and shoulders.
How to do it: place a mini band around the ankles or knees and get into a quadruped position (on all fours). Make sure wrists are in line with your shoulders and knees are shoulder width apart. Brace your core to keep your low back from sagging. While keeping a neutral spine and keeping the leg bent at 90 degrees, use your glute to raise your knee as high as you can without rotating your torso. Lower back to the starting position.
3. Lateral kick out.
What it works: glutes, hip stabilizers and knee stabilizers.
How to do it: place a mini band around the ankles. From an athletic stance, drive your hips back to create a hinging motion and slightly lower the chest forward. With a small range of motion, kick your foot out to the side. You should only kick out as far as you can keep your hips stable and your standing knee stable (not caved in).
Your hips should not open or rotate to the side as you kick your leg out. Return to the starting position.
4. Lateral band walk.
What it works: glutes, quadriceps and hip stabilizers.
How to do it: place a mini band around your feet, ankles or knees. Take an athletic stance with a slight bend in the knee, such as a half squat. Shift your weight to one leg and step to the side with the opposite leg without letting your knees cave in (press against the band). Move the stationary leg to meet the moving leg while still maintaining your feet shoulder width distance.
5. Jump squat.
What it works: calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and core.
How to do it: place a mini band around your knees and stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Hinge at the hip, bend your knees and lower your body so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Raise both arms in front of you so they are also parallel to the ground. Jump up as high as you can while simultaneously swinging your arms behind you. Land, then reset.
Mini bands are an excellent accessory that can be used anywhere and packed on your travels without any compromise to space or weight. These are just a sample of things you can do when you don’t have access to other equipment or a lot of space to work with, and any of them can be progressed to make them harder if you’re seeking more of a challenge. Don’t let a lack of equipment get in the way of your health and fitness—mini bands can help you stay active.
Michele is a part time fitness and nutrition coach. Fitness has been a part of her life for the past 20 years as a requirement for her career, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. She is most passionate about strength training and defensive measures training. She believes in keeping things simple when it comes to wellness and committing to one change at a time. To follow Michele, check out her website and Instagram.
Main Photo Credit & Sixth Photo Credit: Olena Yakobchuk/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Ahturner/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Jon Osumi/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Dean Drobot/shutterstock.com; Fifth Photo Credit: g-stockstudio/shutterstock.com