The mini resistance band is a small, but extremely mighty exercise tool. These colorful looped bands provide an effective, versatile, and convenient way to amp up your workouts. And though they’re commonly worn around the thighs or ankles as a way to fire up the muscles in your lower body, that’s not their only power. Not by any stretch.
Turns out, you can wear ’em on your arms for upper-body activation in a variety of moves. We found one prime example in an Instagram video that NYC-based celebrity-favorite gym Dogpound posted on Sunday, which shows how the mini band can be used to easily and effectively add upper-body work to the classic sit-up.
You can check out the video featuring model Yovanna Ventura demoing the move, via @dogpound, here:
Per the caption—“@yoventura SMASHING next level core & arms #LETSGOOO💪🏽🐶💪🏽”—this move is more challenging than the OG sit-up, thanks to the mini band. But an increased level of difficulty isn’t its only benefit. Here, we explain everything this move has to offer.
What the band does
There are several big perks of adding a mini resistance band to sit-ups in this way. The first: It can actually help improve your form, Andreina Marrero, ACE-certified personal trainer at Dogpound and mastermind behind this move, tells SELF.
Marrero explains it this way: Many people tend to do sit-ups incorrectly by leading the motion with their head first (versus their core) and over-rotating their upper back, which can cause the upper portion of the spine to curve. Performing a sit-up with your arms raised overhead, as this banded move demands, helps you to instead initiate the movement from your core, and then raise your chest, and then raise your arms, and then raise your head, says Marrero.
Another plus: The mini band adds upper-body work to this core-centric move.
Marrero is a “big advocate” of “bringing together multiple body parts to get an efficient workout,” and these banded sit-ups do just that. How? Well, they basically combine two separate movements—a sit-up and a lat exercise—into one. At the top of the movement, after you roll your torso up using your core, you pause and then press your arms against the resistance band to engage your lats, the broadest muscles on each side of your back. The lat activation during this portion of the move is comparable to that of a lat pull-down (though of course the two moves have different ranges of motion), says Marrero.
The fact that the exercise combines two separate moves into one makes it more challenging than a classic sit-up. “It does add a level of difficulty because now you’re working against that force versus having your arms down,” explains Marrero. This added difficulty means you’ll get more strengthening benefits with each rep, which makes this move an extra efficient use of your gym time.
How to do the mini band sit-up
Before you attempt the move, ask yourself: Do I have any tightness and/or discomfort in my lower back and/or neck? If the answer is yes, this probably isn’t the move for you, says Marrero. Otherwise, proceed by grabbing one mini resistance band. Marrero suggests using a band with light resistance to start.
- Position yourself next to a sturdy anchor under which you can hook your toes, like a piece of furniture.
- Lie face up, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, and hook your toes up under the anchor. Loop the mini band around your wrists, and raise your hands overhead so that your elbows are in line with your ears. Engage your core so that your back is flat (not arched or rounded).
- From here, drive through your feet to engage your legs, glutes, and core, and then use the strength of your core to lift your upper body up off the floor. As you raise yourself up, your core should lead, with your chest, then arms, then head following.
- Keep your shoulders down (don’t let them hunch up toward your ears) as your arms raise overhead.
- When your torso is about three-quarters of the way up, pause and then align your arms with your ears. From here, externally rotate your shoulders to press against the band and feel the resistance. Rotate your shoulders back in and then reverse the movement, rolling slowly back down (until your shoulder blades touch the floor) with your arms slightly in front of your torso. This is 1 rep.
- Try 10 to 15 reps, and then rest and repeat for 2 more sets of 10 to 15 reps each.
Take your time with these reps and really focus on engaging your core and lat muscles at the appropriate moments during the move. For example, as you roll up and lower down, concentrate on really bracing your core and using that muscle group to drive the movement. Then, at the top of the movement when you pause and press your hands out laterally, think about squeezing your lats.
When—and only when—you’ve nailed proper form, you can progress the move by selecting a stronger resistance band and/or increasing the number of reps by increments of five, says Marrero. However many reps you do, know that with each one, you’re working on good sit-up form and strengthening your core and lats in the process.