It can be tough to squeeze in a quality workout when you’re strapped for time and have limited fitness equipment. But if you have a full-body resistance band workout in your arsenal, you can actually accomplish a whole lot.
Resistance bands are a very effective piece of equipment, certified personal trainer Alicia Jamison, MA, coach at Bodyspace Fitness in New York City, tells SELF. Due to their lightweight, compact size, they’re “perfect for travel,” she adds, making them a no-brainer addition to your suitcase.
Moreover, when you use resistance bands, you have the unique ability to increase the load by simply stretching the band. The more you stretch the band, the heavier the resistance becomes, and vice versa. This means resistance bands provide “a lot more variability in your load” compared to free weights like kettlebells, dumbbells, or sandbags, where each weight is fixed and you’d have to pick up a different weight in order to adjust the load, explains Jamison. That makes resistance bands a really versatile tool—yet another reason to pack them along the next time you head out of town.
Curious to experience the awesomeness of resistance bands yourself? Try the below four-move workout that Jamison created for SELF. This routine is fast (it’ll take you 12 minutes or less to complete!) and effective, thanks to the combination of moves that smokes your entire body. First, you’ll work the back of your upper body with the pull-apart and then the back of your lower body with the deadlift. Next, you’ll engage the front side of your upper body with the overhead press, as well as the front side of your lower body (as well as some backside muscles too) with the sumo squat.
By alternating between upper body and lower body exercises, each muscle group gets some time to recover while your body is still working on the other. That’s why you’re able to get a whole lot of work done in not so much time.
This workout is designed to focus on strength, says Jamison, though you could always ramp up the pace at which you perform the moves (so long as you keep good form) to make it more of a cardio-oriented routine. Alternatively, if you want to amp up the strength challenge, you can slow your pace and increase the amount of time your muscles are under tension, specifically by holding for a few seconds when your muscles are in their most contracted position, says Jamison. In the pull- apart, for instance, this would mean pausing when your arms are fully extended to the sides.
In terms of frequency, you can do this routine as often as two to four days a week, says Jamison, who recommends waiting a day in between sessions to ensure your body has enough time to recover.
Before you get started with this routine, do a brief warm-up to help properly prime your body. Spending one or two minutes in the world’s greatest stretch is all you need, says Jamison.