Strengthen Your Upper Body
You don't have to lift a lot of heavy metal to get jiggle-free arms and shoulders. Research has shown you can boost muscle strength by up to 30 percent in six weeks with resistance bands. "The bands provide all the resistance you need on both the upward and downward phase of the exercise," says physical therapist Todd Ellenbecker, coauthor of Strength Band Training (Human Kinetics, 2005).
Bonus: The arm, chest, shoulder, and upper-back exercises here also tone your abs by incorporating a stability ball or balancing element. Do two or three sets of 10 to 12 reps per move. Try the workout twice a week and you'll be showing off an ultra-toned upper body.
1. Lat Pull-Down
Fitness Focus: Back, Chest, Shoulders
- Tie the band around a sturdy object just above shoulder height, wrapping one end around each hand.
- Sit on a stability ball, abs tight and knees bent 90 degrees. Extend arms toward band, elbows straight, and maintain tension in the band at all times.
- Slowly pull elbows back toward body until hands are even with chest; hold for 3 counts, then slowly return to starting position, maintaining some tension with the band.
- Keep wrists straight at all times.
- Note: If you don't have a ball, stand with feet staggered.
2. One-Legged Elbow Curl
Fitness Focus: Biceps, Shoulders
- Secure one end of the band around a sturdy object at forehead level. Wrap opposite end around right hand, keeping arm in front at shoulder height (you may need to take a big step back to feel resistance).
- Lift left foot behind body, balancing on right leg. Slowly curl hand toward you; hold for 3 counts. Slowly release and return to starting position.
- Do all reps on right arm, then switch arms and legs and repeat.
- To increase the challenge, stand with one foot on an inflatable disk.
3. Chest Pull-Over
Fitness Focus: Chest, Upper Back
- Tie the band around a sturdy object at waist height.
- Lie with your shoulders and upper back on a stability ball, facing away from the band, with hips lifted and knees bent 90 degrees.
- Extend arms behind your head, holding one end of band in each hand with palms up, and tighten the band until you feel resistance.
- Slowly pull arms toward chest, keeping elbows straight; hold for 3 seconds.
- Slowly return to starting position and repeat.
4. Lateral Raise
Fitness Focus: Shoulders
- Stand on the middle of the band, feet hip-width apart, abs engaged.
- Cross the band in front of knees so that it forms an X, wrapping ends around each hand (thumbs up) with palms at hip level.
- Slowly lift and lower arms 4 inches up and down, keeping elbows and wrists straight but not locked, shoulders down.
5. Ball Push-Up
Fitness Focus: Chest, Triceps, Shoulders, Back
- Lie facedown in a full push-up position with knees and shins pressed into a stability ball, hands on floor under shoulders.
- Place band across upper back and shoulders, wrapping one end around each hand to create additional resistance through the upper body.
- Bend elbows 4 inches and lower chest toward floor; push back up to starting position.
- To make the move easier, place upper thighs on the ball.
6. Seated Dip
Fitness Focus: Triceps, Shoulders
- Sit in a sturdy chair with hands on the edge of seat, legs extended in front of you with feet together and flexed.
- Wrap the band in front of your shoulders and behind your neck, securing one end under each hand.
- Scoot butt off the edge of the chair and straighten arms, keeping elbows close to your sides. Slowly bend elbows to 90 degrees, keeping lower back close to chair seat.
- Hold for 3 seconds, then push up to starting position.
- To modify, keep knees bent at 90 degrees with feet flat on floor.
Target Your Bra Bulges
Q&A: What's the best way to target annoying bra bulge?
"I like the kneeling external rotation, which zeroes in on the mid to upper back," says Todd Ellenbecker. "It's also great for the rotator cuff."
- Get on all fours with band mostly under left palm and opposite end around right hand, wrists straight.
- Bend elbows slightly, looking down.
- Keeping elbow soft, raise right arm diagonally to shoulder height.
- Hold for 3 counts, squeezing shoulders, then lower to waist height without touching floor.
- Do 12 reps; switch arms and repeat.
- Do 3 sets total.
6-Minute Butt and Thigh Booster
Target your lower body with this quickie workout. "Since the muscles of the lower body tend to be stronger, use thicker or heavier resistance bands," says physical therapist Todd Ellenbecker.
Minute 0:00-1:00 Band Bridge
- Lie on back with middle of band stretched around waist and crossed behind you under lower back, knees bent and feet on floor.
- Grasp each end of band with hands aligned under shoulders (fingers pointing toward butt).
- Lift hips, bringing thighs parallel to floor and abs tight; gaze straight ahead.
- Continuing pressing hips up, working against band's resistance, for 60 seconds.
Minute 1:00-2:00 Chair Pose
- Stand in a half squat and loop the band around backs of thighs (near your butt), wrapping an end around each hand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides.
- To increase the challenge, keep knees and feet together.
- Once you're crouching as low as you comfortably can, with body weight back in your heels, extend arms forward, palms down.
- Breathe deeply; hold for 60 seconds.
Minute 2:00-4:00 Single-Leg Bend
- Stand with the middle of the band under your right foot, right knee slightly bent, and lift left foot behind you.
- Hold one end of band in each hand at hip level.
- Slowly bend and straighten right knee 3 to 4 inches for 1 minute, keeping knee aligned with second toe, weight balanced over heel.
- Maintain tension in band throughout.
- Repeat for 1 minute; switch legs.
Minute 4:00-5:00 Repeat Band Bridge
Minute 5:00-6:00 Repeat Chair Pose
5 Sports to Sculpt Your Upper Body
|Tennis||Shoulders, biceps, triceps, upper back||648 (singles ) 405 (doubles)|
|Volleyball||Biceps, triceps, upper back, chest||243 (indoors); 648 (beach)|
|Cross-Country Skiing||Upper back, chest, triceps||567 (light effort); 700 (vigorous effort)|
|Swimming||Chest, upper back, shoulders, arms||486 (leisurely); 648 (moderate effort)|
|Rock Climbing||Shoulders, arms, chest, back||648 (rappelling); 891 (ascending)|
*All calorie counts are based on a 135-pound woman.