Elastic exercise bands don’t offer the same machismo factor as barbells and dumbbells, but it’s a mistake to think that they’re just useless accessories scattered around your gym floor. Lifting with bands can actually be harder than hoisting iron, because bands accommodate resistance.

Here’s what we mean: when you do a barbell or dumbbell curl, the weight actually feels easier to lift the closer you get to the top of the movement. That’s because your leverage improves, reducing the muscular tension. Try the same movement with a band, however, and the higher your forearms point the more the elastic will stretch, increasing the resistance — and thus the difficulty of the exercise. By the same token, band exercises feel easier at the bottom of a rep, when the elastic tension is minimal. According to David Jack, creator of the Men’s Health Muscle After 40 program, this makes bands a great tool for older guys who may have some joint pain they need to work around.

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“Bands make exercises harder where you’re strong and easier where you’re weak,” says Jack.

In addition to accommodating resistance, bands offer unparalleled convenience for working out on the road, or if you don’t have a home gym. They weigh next to nothing, are easy to fold and fit into any travel bag, and require little to no setup. “You can anchor them to your own body,” says Jack. “Wrap the band around your back for presses, around your feet for rows, and over your shoulders for squats.”

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Below are 19 of our favorite band moves you can use to train your whole body. They work best with a continuous loop style of band (the oversized rubber band kind, not tubing) that’s about a half-inch wide.

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Directions

For a full-body workout, choose one exercise from each of the following categories (any order is OK) and complete them in sequence. Perform reps for one move for 40 seconds straight, going at your own pace. Rest 20 seconds, and then go on to the next exercise. Repeat for 2–3 total rounds. (If you like, change the exercises each round.) On exercises that are done one side at a time, work for 20 seconds on one side and then 20 seconds on the other.

CHEST

  • Quick Press
  • Single Arm Press

    BACK

    • Pull Apart
    • Single Arm Reverse Fly
    • Bent Over Row
    • Split Stance Single Arm Row
    • Iso Split Stance with Pull Apart
    • Seated Iso & Go Row

      SHOULDERS

      • Single Arm Figure 8
      • High Pull
      • Split Stance Single Arm Overhead Press

        LEGS/GLUTES

        • Unilateral Split Squat
        • Ready Set & Squat Hold
        • Front Squat
        • Banded Glute Bridge

          TRICEPS

          • Iso Kickback
          • Triceps Pushdown

            BICEPS

              CORE



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