As someone begins their journey into fitness, the biggest piece of advice I could give them as a trainer is to start with the exercises that appeal to them. Giving this piece of advice is extremely intentional on my part. I am looking, as someone’s trainer, at the bigger picture of establishing working out as a regular aspect of daily health.

I know that people will be more likely to initially show up if they know they will do something that inherently appeals to them. It reinforces the cycle of working out, feeling positive about the workout, and then working out on a more consistent basis.

However, as an individual becomes more established in their workout routine, it is equally as vital to step away from those exercises that are so appealing. At this point, I know that working out has become a habit, and I can confidently rely on the person working out regularly.

To avoid hitting plateaus in Cross-training, to continue to see an increase in muscle development as well as strength, and quite frankly to avoid getting bored, once a workout habit is firmly established, we can start introducing aspects of cross-training.

Cross-training does not mean that you give up on your initial modality of fitness. You can continue with that modality of fitness and continue to see progression by doing things like increasing weights, increasing reps, changing your interval sets, and even adding in exercises that challenge you. However, incorporating cross-training elements into your fitness routine has several benefits including:

  • Preventing injury
  • Increasing whole-body conditioning, not just certain muscle groups
  • Boosting mental strength
  • Improving recovery times
  • Improving posture and coordination
  • Increasing adaptability for your fitness routine. (if you cannot run because it is raining, you know you can lift weights instead)
  • Reduces boredom
fitness training
One of the easiest ways to incorporate aspects of cross-training into your fitness program is with resistance bands. The bands are small and easy to store, easy to find, and they are typically offered in different “weight” settings so you can easily vary the difficulty of any exercise you do.

Here is the breakdown of the 12 exercises I love using the resistance bands as well as some ideas of how to create workouts using those bands:

1. Lateral Squat Walks

Stand on the side of your mat and thread your legs into the band so it comes to rest above your knees on your thighs. Step out to the side into your squat position, complete a squat with your proper squat form, come to a stand, bring your trail foot in to meet your lead foot, and continue to the opposite side of your mat. Once you reach the opposite edge of your mat, head back the other way!

Pro Tip: the focus of a lateral squat is not just on the traditional squat muscles, but also on the lateral, stabilizing muscles. Be sure to make sure you complete an equal number of walks from one side of your mat to the other to ensure that you are creating symmetry in your muscle groups.
Want to kick it up a notch? Add in a jump squat when you get to each side of your mat.

2. Lateral Lunge with A Cross Body Row

Stand on one side of your mat with one end of the resistance band underneath your left foot and the other end of the resistance band in your right hand. Start with your right hand in line with your left hip. As you lunge to the right, pull the resistance band across your torso while bending your elbow until your right elbow is in line with your right shoulder. Repeat the same thing on the other side.

  • Want to Switch It Up? Take the same positioning with the band but start with your feet shoulder-width distance apart. Lunge to the left, while bringing the resistance band towards your left knee. As you stand, bend your right elbow until it is in line with your right shoulder. Complete the same movement on the other side.
lunges exercise

3. Deadlifts

Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart and the resistance band in both hands and underneath both arches of your feet. Make sure all ten of your toes point straight ahead, then hinge from the hips while keeping the knees soft. Draw your hands down your legs until you create a triangle shape with your spine, legs, and arms. Then stand back up.

  • Trainer tip: Be sure to not hyperextend through your hips and pelvis when you stand. You want to reach full extension through your legs and spine when you stand, without undue pressure in your low back.
  • Want To Kick It Up A Notch? Add in a balance component and do a single leg deadlift. The same principles apply, but the band is now under only one foot, with your opposite leg lifting behind you.

Want A Quick Lower Body Workout?

  • 3 rounds, 30 seconds each exercise
  • Deadlift
  • Single leg deadlift
  • Lateral squat walks

4. Clamshells

Lay on one side of your body with your head propped up in your bottom hand. Bend both of your knees with your heels in line with your glutes and thread the band above your knees on the outside of your thighs. Keeping your feet together, open, and close the top knee.

  • Watch Your Spinal Alignment: Make sure you feel a connection between your bottom rib and hip so your spine is in proper alignment. Talk about some awesome (and sneaky) core work!
  • Want To Kick It Up A Notch? Make sure your bottom elbow is pushing into the mat and not supporting your head. Push down into your bottom elbow, and as you open the top knee, lift your bottom hip off the ground.

5. Glute Bridge with a Hamstring Walk Out

Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-width distance apart. Thread the resistance band on the outside of your legs until it rests on the outside of your thighs above your knees. Draw your abs in, lift your hips, then walk your feet away from your body one at a time in small steps and then right back in.

  • Check out this mini bridge workout:
  • 3 Rounds
  • reps of each exercise
  • Bridge hip taps
  • Bridge Hamstring Walk Outs
  • Marching Bridge
Glute bridge

6. Bicycle Crunch

Lay on your back with your knees in tabletop, the band around the middle of your feet, and your hands behind your ears with your elbows wide. Lift your chest, and as you bend one knee in towards your chest, cross your opposite elbow towards it and extend your other leg out long.

  • Check out that spinal alignment! Whenever your legs are lifted, you are in an open kinetic chain which can increase pressure on your back. Make sure you are drawing your abs in without smashing your back into the mat.
  • Switch Up Your Pace: Bicycles can get boring after a while! Try switching up your speed to make it harder. Slow for two, and then fast for four is an awesome variation to try!

7. Plank to Bear Plank

Find your high plank with the band around the outside of your thighs right above your knees. Walk one foot in below your hip at a time and then walk them right back out.

Pro Tip: Make sure you are switching your leading leg. If you start on your right foot walking in, on the next rep, switch to your left!

Quick ladder:

  • 1 plank to bear plank
  • 1 push up
  • 2 planks to bear planks
  • 2 push-ups
  • 3 planks to bear planks
  • 3 push-ups
  • 4 planks to bear planks
  • 4 push-ups
  • planks to bear planks
  • 4 push-ups

8. Plank Toe Taps

Find a plank on your forearms or hands with the resistance band around your ankles. Step one foot out to the side of your mat, step it back in, and repeat on the other side.

  • Want to Kick It Up A Notch? When you take the foot out to the side, float your toes above the mat. You can also move the band up above your knees on the outside of your thighs.
  • Need a Little Assistance? Do the plank from your knees with the band above your knees on the outside of your thighs for an equally killer core workout that is a little nicer!

9. Seated Row

Sit up tall with your legs extended straight and long. Make sure your knees are soft and thread the band around the middle of your foot. Holding the band in your hands, with your palms facing down, bend your elbows to draw the band back towards you until your elbows are in line with your shoulders.

  • Switch up your variation! Try the same movement but one arm at a time or turn your palms to face each other and bend your elbows in narrow and low to your hips.
seated row

10. Overhead Tricep Presses

Kneel or stand with one hand behind your back reaching up towards your shoulders. Take the band in your other hand, above your head, and bring the band behind your head. Let the hand behind your back grab the band as well, and once it is secured in both hands, bend and extend the top elbow. Do the same number of reps on the other arm.

Trainer tip: check your core. A lot of times when we move and exercise overhead, we tend to arch our spines and compress our low back. Make sure your core remains engaged (hint: it should feel like you are bracing to cough, sneeze, or get punched in the gut).

Quick Full Body:

  • 3 rounds
  • 30 seconds each exercise
  • Lateral Lunge with a cross body row
  • Overhead tricep presses

11. External Rotation

Kneel or stand, take the band and turn it into a figure eight. Thread your hands into either side of the figure eight, bend your elbows and draw them in to touch your sides. Turn your palms to face the sky, then draw your thumbs out to the side and then back in towards your body.

Switch it up! Do one arm at a time and then both arms at the same time for a differing variation.

12. Push-Ups

Find your high plank with the band in either hand, threading across your back, and do a push-up!

  • Trainer tip: this is an awesome exercise with some definite added difficulty. Make sure you maintain proper integrity of form with your pushups and come down to your knees if your form starts to fail.

These are just a few ideas of all the variations and levels of difficulty you can add to your workout. Remember that if you are unsure of how to perform certain exercises if your form feels off, or you want to switch things up using the bands and are not sure how reach out to a trainer you trust to give you the tools you need to make the most out of your resistance band workouts.