Would you like to increase your metabolism so that your body will burn more calories throughout the day? Or maybe you are more interested in increasing the lean tissue on your body so that you can work harder, play longer, and have a decreased chance of a life-related injury. Strength training offers just that. But don’t let the lack of time for a gym visit or a hectic travel schedule keep you from reaping the benefits of building lean body tissue. Resistance bands may be what you are looking for!
When most people think of strength training, they visualize weight machines and dumbbells. However, resistance band exercises are very effective in building and toning muscle. During an exercise, they offer resistance throughout the full arc of motion, rather than lose tension at the end of a movement with traditional weights. For example, while performing bicep curls with free weights or a machine, the workload at the end of the movement decreases. When using resistance bands, the tension increases in a linear fashion, so the muscle is worked to its maximum potential. Also, because there is tension throughout the entire exercise, your body is developing balance and coordination as it helps stabilize your body.
Here are a few other benefits of resistance bands. First, they travel (and store) well. They take up very little space and weigh next to nothing. You can easily throw them in your suitcase for a quick workout in a hotel room and then stash them under the couch when you get home. They will be ready to provide a convenient workout at home while you watch your favorite TV show. Also, they are very inexpensive. The bands can range from less then $10 to around $40.
Regardless of if you are a beginner or a veteran fitness buff and are looking for something more convenient, this piece of equipment can be adapted to meet your needs. There are various brand names available, all color coded based on difficulty. For those with latex sensitivity, non-latex brands are available as well.
So what exercises can you do with resistance bands? The great thing is that you are limited only by your imagination. Here are some of our favorites!
Lunge and push
START: While standing, place band around your back with handles in front. Grasp each handle with palms facing each other. ACTION: Lunge forward with your LEFT foot in front and your RIGHT knee bent, as if going into a half-kneeling position. At the same time, press your hands forward, stretching the band around your ribs. Return to the standing position and relax the band back to its original length. Repeat with each leg in front. (This is an advanced move, so begin with simply mastering the lunge portion, and add the band presses as you feel comfortable.) RESULTS: Simulates chasing a tennis serve that’s almost out of reach. Great for quads, hamstrings, and a major glute blaster. Also works the chest and triceps, and overall balance sense.
START: Stand on the band with feet shoulder width apart, leaving roughly 2/3 of the band loose on the ground on your left side. Reach across with your LEFT hand and grasp the handle on your RIGHT side. Use your RIGHT hand to cup and support your LEFT fist. Slightly bend at the knees and hips in the “ready” position. ACTION: Pull your LEFT arm across your body in a diagonal pattern toward your LEFT shoulder, while simultaneously pushing and assisting with your RIGHT arm. Pause, then return to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner. (Make sure to adjust the cord length and tension to allow you to complete the full movement) RESULTS: Simulates lifting a large ax to chop wood (not that you will be doing this chore, but it is still a great move!). Works the back of your shoulders, rhomboids in the back, abdominals, obliques, and glutes.
START: Lie on your back with knees bent at a 90 degrees right angle. Pull the band across your hips, anchoring either side with your hands. ACTION: Lift your hips off the mat, while holding the band down with your hands. RESULTS: Glutes and paraspinals (the often-neglected low back muscles) do most of the work. Posterior deltoids and triceps feel the burn from holding the resistance band down.
About the Blogger:
Mandy Conrad is a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer specializing in weight loss and health promotion.