Strengthen and Sculpt Your Body Plan

Add exercise bands to your workout for a leaner, stronger physique.

Medically reviewed in December 2019

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Flex Your Muscles

Feel like you're getting weaker? If you're not already including strength training in your workouts, you're missing more than feeling strong. Working your muscles increases blood flow and keeps your system clog-free. Plus, it can help you fight off health bullies ranging from arthritis and diabetes to osteoporosis and heart disease. Ready to make your body even stronger from head to toe? Put this plan in action.

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Start With a Warm-Up

Warming up your muscles before your workout helps your muscles adjust to the exercises that you'll be doing, and it's a great way to slowly increase your heart rate. Your warm-up could include taking a brisk walk or bike ride, or simply marching or jogging in place, or doing some jumping jacks for 1 to 3 minutes.

Next: Work your shoulders 

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Lateral Side-Raises

Standing with your feet together, place the band under the arches of your feet and hold the handles of your resistance band. With your hands at your sides and your palms facing down, lift your arms straight out to your sides 25 times. The slower you raise and lower your arms, the more you work your muscles. Tip: Always lead with your elbows -- not your wrists -- to prevent injury. To make it harder: After finishing the set, lift your arms straight one more time, and hold for 30 seconds.

Next: Strengthen your rotator cuff muscles

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Lateral Circles

While standing on the band and holding the handles, reach your arms out to your sides and bring your hands as high as you can -- but not more than shoulder height. Rotate arms clockwise in small circles (about the size of a cantaloupe) 25 times, then switch direction and rotate arms counterclockwise 25 times.

Next: Stretch your shoulders 

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Chicken Wing

Place the back side of your right hand just above your right hip. Standing up straight, clasp your right elbow with your left hand (if you can't do this, slide your right hand behind your lower back until you can reach your elbow). Gently pull your elbow toward your belly button and take five deep breaths into your upper chest, then exhale slowly. Keep your chest lifted and shoulders even. Do the same on the other side.

Next: Strengthen your upper back and arms

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Lateral Pull-Down

Stand with your feet together. Wrap the band around each hand three times and lift your hands above your head with your palms facing forward. With straight arms, pull your hands away from each other 25 times, keeping the band taut throughout. To make it harder: Do 25 reps balancing on your left foot with your right knee in line with your right hip; switch sides and repeat.

Next: Build stamina

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Lateral Hold

Stand with your feet together. Hold the band above your head with your hands apart for 25 seconds (with the band as tight as possible). Don't tighten your face or scrunch your shoulders. To make it harder: Do the exercise while balancing on your toes.

Next: Work your upper back and arms

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Shoulder Height

Stand up straight with your feet together. Holding the handles, bring the band right in front of you at shoulder height. Pull your hands away from each other 25 times.

Next: Open up your upper back

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Palms Out Stretch

Stand with your feet together. Without the band, interweave your fingers and turn your palms away from your body so you're looking at your knuckles. Reach your palms as far away from yourself as you can as you hunch your back and curl your tailbone under. Take five deep breaths, expanding your rib cage.

Next: Warm up your chest and arms

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Standing Chest Press

Grab each handle of the band and wrap the tubing around each hand to shorten it. Place the band behind your back, just underneath your shoulder blades. With your hands out to your sides at shoulder height, as if hugging a tree, bring your hands together in front of you on the exhale (keeping elbows straight). Inhale and bring your hands back to your sides. Do 25 reps. To make it harder: Do 50 and work your calves by rising up on the balls of your feet as you bring your arms together.

Next: Strengthen your chest and arms

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Tubing Row

Place tubing around a fixed object and pull back. Stand with your feet pointed straight ahead and placed shoulder-width apart. Hold the handles with your arms extended at chest level. With your knees slightly bent, row by bringing your thumbs toward your armpits, contracting your shoulder blades together. Be careful not to shrug your shoulders or jut your head forward. Hold the contracted position and then return to the starting position.

Next: Stretch out your chest and arms

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Chest Opener

Leave the band loosely in your hands and interweave your fingers behind your head without touching your head. While standing upright, act as if there are strings on your elbows and hands, pulling them directly behind you as you take five deep breaths.

Next: Work your triceps

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Side Triceps Extensions

Wrap the band around your left hand, hold the handle in your right hand, and stretch both hands out to your sides to shoulder height. Hold them there. Next, leaving your elbow stationary, bring your right hand (palm facing forward) toward your chest 25 times. Switch and wrap the band around your right hand. Do 25 reps on the left. To make it harder: Balance on one foot and wrap the band around one more time in each hand.

Next: Work your biceps

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Side Biceps Curls

Stand with your feet together and place the band under the arches of your feet. With hands down to your sides, hold the band handles and turn your palms out until your thumbs are as far back as feels comfortable. Curl your arms up 25 times. Resist bringing your arms to the front. Tip: If doing both arms at the same time is too difficult, try doing one arm at a time. To make it harder: Do 50 reps in double-time.

Next: Stretch your shoulders

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Standing Chest Stretch

This stretch can be performed against any stable object such as a doorway, wall, pole, etc. Perform the stretch by following the technique described below. Start by standing with the forearm in a vertical position against a stable object with the elbow and shoulder bent at 90-degree angles. Next, place the feet in a staggered stance position so that the leg in back is the same side as the chest muscle being stretched. Lastly, slowly shift your body weight forward until a stretch is felt in front toward the front of the shoulder and chest; hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.

Next: Work your legs and butt

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With the band under both feet and your feet shoulder-width apart -- or together -- hold the handles in front of you. Squat down as far as feels comfortable (keeping your core tight), as if you were sitting in a chair. As you squat, reach your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height. This will help you work on balance. Come all the way back up to slightly bent knees. Do 25 reps. To make it harder: While in squatting position, pulse 25 times.

Next: Stretch your leg muscles

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Cross-Leg Drop Stretch

Without the band, cross your left foot over your right. Ideally you want your big toes in line, but go to where you feel comfortable balancing. Slowly walk your hands down your legs as far as feels comfortable. Really relax your neck, as if your head were a bowling ball elongating your spine, and take three deep breaths. Slowly come all the way back up to the starting position, cross your right foot over your left, and repeat.


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Enjoy the Payoff

Doing a workout like this one that involves your body pushing and pulling against resistance adds to your body's lean muscle mass, builds bone, and burns fat. How much fat? A pound of fat burns 1 to 3 calories per day while a pound of muscle incinerates 50 to 150. Maintaining and building muscle takes just 10 minutes, three times a week. So, put your resistance bands to work and enjoy getting 'pumped up.'


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