This flowing workout uses an inexpensive, everyday prop to tone every inch and burn calories in minimal time. Just make sure you have a towel handy…
By Kristin McGee • Edited by Amanda Altman
As a mother, spokeswoman, teacher, editor and television personality, I’m often traveling from one place to the next, so fitting in a workout takes some creativity. Enter the resistance band, which is super portable and easy to pack. When I add it to Pilates exercises, I get a much sweatier, more intense workout than when I do the matwork on its own. I find the band can also help mimic certain moves done on the equipment, and it really gets the heart rate going in standing work.
This workout delivers the extra toning, conditioning and intensity you’d get from using resistance, say on the Reformer, in the exercises. The muscles are also being constantly worked—on the exertion and the release—because there is always tension in the band. And by moving from one exercise to the next without resting, you can get an even bigger bang for your buck. Do this routine three to four times a week for more definition and strength in your arms, legs and abs. (They’re going to have to work extra hard to stabilize!)
The best thing about using the band is that you’re in control of your workout. You can up the intensity as much as you want to by choosing a heavier band, choking up on the band or double-looping it. If you’re a beginner, choose a lighter band, or hold the band toward the ends.
If you find the band slipping or curling over, take a second to reset, but make sure to spread the band open before placing it around your feet. Try not to break at your wrists when performing the arm exercises; hold the band firmly but without too much tension in your hands.
This workout is appropriate for all levels—even during pregnancy, just eliminate Swan and prop your torso up during Footwork if you start to feel dizzy. Have fun, listen to your body, and keep your breath steady and flowing unless otherwise indicated. Now, go get your cardio on! PS
Pilates Lunge with Arm Pull
Prop: resistance band
Purpose: sculpts the arms, abdominals and legs; promotes balance and precision
Setup: Stand tall, with your feet in Pilates stance (heels together, toes apart), while holding the band. Lift your arms out to your sides at shoulder height, straightening your right arm, palm down, and bending your left elbow. (Wrap the band around your left hand to create as much tension as you’d like.)
1. Step your right leg into a Pilates lunge, keeping your toes turned out, as you pull your left arm further back.
2. Return to the starting position. Do 12–15 reps.
3. On the last rep, do 12–15 little pulses.
4. Repeat the entire sequence on your other side.
Tips: Keep your core engaged and your shoulders relaxed throughout. Spring off your front foot as you step back from the lunge. Keep the band high, and think of elbowing someone behind you.
Modification: Omit the pulses, or decrease the reps.
Advanced: Go deeper in your lunge, and lift your leg up in the air before returning to the starting position.
Sumo Squat with Lat Pull
Prop: resistance band
Purpose: works the inner thighs, hips, buttocks, abdominals, arms and back
Setup: Stand with your toes turned out wider than hip-width apart, while holding the band wider than shoulder-width overhead.
1. Squat down as you pull the band open using the backs of your shoulders and your lats.
2. Return to the starting position. Do 15–20 reps.
3. On the last rep, stay low and do mini side-bends for 20 reps, alternating sides.
Tips: Keep your pelvic floor and abdominals engaged throughout.
Modification: Skip the side-bends.
Advanced: Squat as low as you can, really working your knees open, and do 30 side-bends.
Side-Lying Leg Lift
Prop: resistance band
Purpose: works the powerhouse; strengthens the outer hips, thighs and buttocks
Setup: Lie on your side propped up on your elbow, with your bottom knee bent and top leg straight and parallel. Loop the band around your top flexed foot, and hold onto the ends with your bottom hand. Place your top palm on the floor in front of you for support.
2. Lower your leg without resting it completely. Do 20–30 reps, then repeat on your other side.
Tips: Keep your abdominals engaged, hips stacked (the top hip likes to roll back), shoulders down the back, and your underside obliques engaged. Lengthen through your leg, leading with your outer heel as you lift your leg.
Modification: Decrease your range of motion and/or reps.
Advanced: Increase your reps and end with little pulses up.