Small yet mighty: Behold, the resistance band!
Resistance bands (a.k.a. exercise tubes) are an excellent tool to add to your fitness arsenal, particularly if you work out at home or if you tend to travel. Inexpensive and transportable, don’t be fooled by the small bands’ light weight; when used correctly, resistance bands make for a seriously challenging workout that will tone every muscle in your body.
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Here are some easy resistance band exercises to add to your fitness regime. Perform three sets of 15 reps for each exercise (15 for each side, where applicable) for a full-body workout.
Curls are an easy way to work your biceps, and you can perform them easily with a resistance band. To do this, get your resistance band and stand on it, holding the end of the band in one hand. Beginning with your arm pointing down, pull upward, flexing your elbow but keeping the rest of your body still. When you’ve nearly reached your shoulder, slowly lower your hand again, letting your arm straighten.
You can adjust the tension of your resistance band, and thus the difficulty of the exercise, by changing where you stand on the band. The shorter the length of band you use, the greater the tension will be, and the more challenging the exercise will be.
Resistance-Band Tricep Extensions
Stand on the middle of the band. Grip the ankle strap or handle with your arm and raise it until it is behind your head. Your upper arm should be perpendicular to the floor. Keep your head straight, back straight and your tummy tight. Raise the handle straight above your head, until your arm is almost totally straight. Try to keep your elbow pointed up during the entire range of motion. Then lower back down. You should feel the pressure in your tricep. Perform 15 reps on each arm.
Shoulder Internal Rotation
Many people when they first begin strength training end up with imbalances in the musculature of their chest, shoulders and back. This can lead to shoulder pain and poor posture. Rotation exercises done with resistance bands can help keep your shoulders happy and healthy.
Shut one end of your resistance band in a doorway, or tie it around a stationary object. (Make sure the band is very securely fastened. YouTube is littered with humorous videos of people getting snapped by their bands!) Take the other end of the exercise band in the hand nearest the doorway. Holding your elbow firmly against your side, pull inward, rotating your arm as though you were going to touch your hand to your ribs on the opposite side. Slowly release. You should feel this in the front of your shoulder.
Shoulder External Rotation
This exercise is very similar to the inward rotation exercise. However, here you’ll hold the resistance band in the hand furthest from the door. Holding your elbow against your side, rotate your arm outward. You should feel this in the back of your shoulder.
Resistance bands can also be used to make exercises you already perform more challenging. Assume a push-up position. Grasp one end of your resistance band in each hand, with the band running over your back at about shoulder-blade height. From here you can perform push-ups normally but with added difficulty from the resistance band.
Stand with your feet on the middle of your resistance band, with both hands gripping the ends of the band by your shoulders. Bend your knees and perform squats normally, keeping your back straight. Protect your knees by not allowing them to extend past your toes.
Resistance-Band Squat Presses
If you combine resistance-band squats and shoulder presses, you get one movement that works a lot of muscle groups for a lot of potential gain. Simply perform a squat, then at the top of your movement, press upward with your arms.
Resistance-Band Straight-Arm Front Raises
One challenging way to work your shoulders is with resistance-band straight-arm raises. Standing on the band, grip both ends in your hands. Keeping your arms straight and directly in front of you, bring them upward from your waist until they’re parallel with your shoulders. Then slowly lower them.
Resistance-Band Straight-Arm Lateral Raises
These are performed similarly to resistance-band straight-arm raises, but instead of going straight forward, raise your arms to the side. This changes the action of the exercise.
Resistance-Band Core Rotations
Finally, no workout is complete without core work. To work your core with an exercise band, shut the band in a doorway as you did in the shoulder girdle exercises. Then, gripping the band in both hands, rotate your body away from the door, working against the tension of the band. Keep your stomach tight throughout the exercise.
Resistance-Band Glute Kickbacks
Hold the resistance band in both your hands and get down on your hands and knees. Loop the band around your left foot, and make sure that it’s well secured (you do not want it slipping off your foot in the middle of your motion and snapping back at you!). Then, push backward with your foot in a motion like a horse kicking backward. Press back until your leg straight or nearly so, then return it to your starting position. Perform 15 repetitions on each leg.
In all these exercises, keep your motions controlled and slow, and be sure to perform sets on both sides. Happy exercising!