Mini bands are some of the simplest pieces of exercise equipment on the market. But what these small, closed-loop resistance bands lack in size, they more than make up for in benefits.
“The best thing about mini bands is how portable they are. You can do mini-band workouts literally anywhere,” says Life Time personal-training manager Jennifer Blake, RKC-II. Just toss a couple in your bag for gym and travel workouts or keep a set handy at home for days when you can’t get to the club.
The other perk of mini bands is that they’re surprisingly versatile — you can do both upper- and lower-body exercises with them.
Blake designed the following mini-band workout with the goal of strengthening your whole body. It’s challenging and ideal for any setting.
To do it, you’ll need two bands: one lighter and one heavier. Blake notes that you may want to test out different mini bands before you begin the workout to make sure you’ve picked the right ones.
“You want enough tension [on the band] that it’s hard when you do the exercise, but you don’t want so much tension that you have to shorten your range of motion,” Blake says.
Complete three rounds of this full-body circuit. Perform as many repetitions of an exercise as you can manage with good form for one minute. Rest for 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.
1. Glute Bridge
The addition of a mini band to a standard glute bridge increases the resistance, forcing your gluteus maximus and abdominal muscles to work harder. It also causes your gluteus medius (side-butt muscles) to kick in at the top of the movement to prevent your knees from collapsing under the weight of the band.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip width apart on the floor. Loop the heavier mini band around your legs, just above your knees. Let your arms rest at your sides.
- Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the floor until your shoulders, hips, and knees are aligned. Resist the urge to let your knees collapse inward.
- Lower your hips to the floor with control to complete the rep. Repeat for one minute.
2. Plank Jack
Like a classic plank, this exercise recruits your core muscles, while the banded hop gets your heart rate up.
- Begin in a plank position with the medium-resistance mini band looped around your ankles and your feet hip width apart.
- While maintaining the plank position (head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles in a straight line) jump your feet out to shoulder width and back to hip width to complete the rep. Keep your core engaged to prevent your hips from dropping toward the floor. Repeat for one minute.
3. Four-Way Glute Walk
This exercise hits your hips from every direction: forward, backward, and side to side. You’ll also work your quads (the muscles in the front of your thighs) and hamstrings (the muscles in the back of your thighs).
- Stand tall. Loop the heavier mini band around your legs just above the knees and lower into a quarter-squat. Your feet should be hip width apart and knees pointed over your toes. Aim to maintain this position throughout the exercise.
- Step your right foot to the right so your feet are shoulder width apart, then follow with your left foot to return to hip width position. Repeat until you’ve completed five steps to the right, five steps to the left, five steps forward (you’ll keep your feet hip width apart and simply step forward), and five steps backward (keep your feet hip width apart and take backward steps).
- Continue taking five steps in every direction for one minute.
If you struggle with body-weight pushups, adding a mini band can help you complete the rep once you push away from the floor. You’ll still feel this move in your chest, triceps, and core.
- Begin in a straight-arm plank with the heavier band looped around both arms just above the elbows. Your hands should be roughly shoulder width apart on the floor.
- Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Then bend at the elbows to lower yourself until your arms create 90-degree angles. Your elbows should flare out no more than 45 degrees from your body.
- Push back up to the starting position. Complete as many reps as you can with good form for one minute.
- To make the exercise easier, elevate your hands on a box or bench. To make it harder, use a lighter resistance band.
5. Triceps Kickback
This exercise primarily targets your triceps, but you’ll also hit your biceps when you bring your arms back to the starting position.
- Stand tall. Grip one end of the lighter mini band in each hand, your left hand positioned in front of your breastbone and your right hand near your bellybutton.
- Hinge forward at the hips so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
- Keeping your left hand at your breastbone, extend your right arm to bring your right hand to your right hip.
- Return your right hand to the start position. Continue for 30 seconds before switching the position of your hands: Your right hand will grip one end of the band in front of your breastbone, while your left hand will grip the other end near your bellybutton. Finish out the minute by repeatedly extending your left hand toward your left hip.
6. Standing Kickback
Strengthen your glutes and challenge your balance with this single-leg exercise.
- Loop the heavier mini band around your legs just above your ankles and assume a tall, athletic stance. Place your hand on a wall for balance, if needed.
- With most of your weight on your left leg, extend your right leg behind you and let your right toes rest on the floor.
- Keeping your right leg straight, squeeze your glutes to kick your right leg back and up.
- Return your right foot to the floor beside your left foot and repeat the movement on the opposite leg. Continue alternating legs for one minute.
7. Star Jump
The mini-band star jump will send your heart rate soaring while also strengthening the glutes and abdominals.
- Stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms close to your sides. Loop the medium-resistance mini band around both legs just above the ankles.
- Lower down to a half-squat, then explode up, extending your arms and legs to either side so your body creates a star shape.
- Return to a half-squat on the descent and immediately repeat. Continue the exercise for one minute.
Watch all the moves at “The Mini-Band Workout (Video)“.
This article originally appeared as “Small Bands, Big Strength” in the December 2021 issue of Experience Life.