Women standing by a river with an exercise band

Exercise bands—a cheap, easy, and portable way to stay in shape!

I travel a lot, and so do many of my patients. And one question I frequently hear is: “How can I get a good workout when I’m on the road?” It’s a good question, because many people don’t like using a hotel’s public gym facility—and obviously, lugging dumbbells in your suitcase isn’t a good option!

While you can keep your core and lower body toned with squats, lunges, and planks, keeping your upper body in shape is trickier when you don’t have weights. Luckily, I have the solution: Pack some exercise bands. These light-weight bands take up almost no room in your suitcase, and you can use them anywhere to get a quick resistance workout.

The least expensive bands are simply long, flat strips of latex (you can also get latex-free versions), often called therapy bands. I like these because it’s easy to adjust the length of the band by wrapping it around your hands. You can also get tube bands with handles, or “loop” bands that look like giant rubber bands. Bands come in different levels of resistance—light, medium, or strong—and they’re cheap and durable. In addition, exercise bands are simple to use.

Here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate them into an upper-body exercise routine:

BICEPS CURLS. Stand with your feet on the bands and the ends of the bands in your hands. Curl your forearms up, just as you would with weights, keeping your elbows by your sides. Hold at the top, then slowly lower your forearms to the starting position. Repeat. Here's a video on biceps curls with an exercise band.

FRENCH PRESS. Sit on a chair with the center of the band under your butt and the ends in your hands. Start with your arms overhead, bent at the elbows so your hands are behind your head. With your palms facing toward the ceiling, press your arms straight up, then bend your elbows so your hands are behind your head again. Repeat. Here's a video on doing a French press with an exercise band (just remember my instructions have you sitting on the band as you perform the press).

ROWS. Place the band under one foot, with the other foot slightly behind it. Bend at your waist at a 45-degree angle. Start with your arms hanging down and slightly forward and your palms facing in; then raise your elbows to the sides of your chest, squeezing your back muscles and making a “rowing” motion. Lower your arms to the starting position and repeat. Here's a video on doing bent rows with an exercise band.

LAT PULLDOWN. Stand with the band held in front of you. Raise both arms over your head, with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your right arm in place, bend your left elbow and pull your left arm down and in toward your side, repeating the movement until your arm is fatigued and then switching to the opposite side. Here's a video on the lat pulldown with an exercise band.

OVERHEAD PRESS. With the band under your feet and the ends of the band in your hands, raise your arms as if you’re lifting a barbell. Lower your hands, and repeat the movement. Here's a video on doing an overhead press with an exercise band.

BOW AND ARROW. Holding the band out to your sides, mimic drawing back a bow. Repeat several times, and then switch sides. Here's a video on the bow and arrow exercise with an exercise band.

The next time you’re traveling, toss a band or two in your suitcase and try these exercises. They’re safe no matter what your fitness level is, and they’re a hassle-free way to keep your upper body toned. What’s more, they’re great tension relievers after a long day of plane rides, TSA lines, and mad dashes through airports!

Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!