If we told you we'd discovered the world's most effective body sculpting workout - one that could make zipping up your skinny jeans a breeze in just 3 weeks, without hoisting a single dumbbell - would that be enough to change your entire exercise routine? Well, have we got a plan for you!
Prevention tested five ways to get strong - weights, resistance balls and bands, Pilates, yoga, and body-weight moves like push-ups - on 18 sedentary women to find out which could deliver a leaner, firmer figure the fastest. We were amazed by the winner: exercise bands. They have the undeserved rep of being "second best" to bulky weights or complex moves, but they pack a powerful workout. After 12 weeks, the women in our band group shaved 30% more inches off their bellies, hips, arms, and thighs, averaging a total loss of 15 inches. They also dropped 18% more weight--averaging 6 pounds each--while one of them built enough shapely muscle to rev up her metabolism by about 120 calories a day.
The secret? Band users exercised more. Lightweight, packable bands are easy to use at home or on the road, and they deliver what experts call "functional training" - mimicking real-life actions, such as taking out the garbage, and targeting more muscles in the process. The result:: Everyday tasks are easier, and you shape up quickly.
What you need: One resistance band with handles (about $10). Choose light resistance if you're new to strength-training, medium if you're already working out. Available at sporting goods stores or spriproducts.com. (For a 20% discount until the end of the year, use the promo code PREV071231 when ordering.)
How to do it: Follow the 35-minute Winning Workout on 3 nonconsecutive days a week, doing 2 sets of 15 reps of each exercise, unless otherwise noted. Do 45 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise (walking, biking, swimming, or elliptical machine) 3 to 5 times a week, and follow a healthy diet.
For maximum toning: Before beginning a move, make sure the band is taut, not sagging, by wrapping it around your hands or moving farther away from the anchor point. Use controlled movements, keeping even tension throughout each exercise. If a move is too difficult, try doing it without the band.