Whether you’re traveling for summer break or are city hopping for work, take your workout with you. This program, which uses both compound and single-joint movements for maximum effectiveness, can be done indoors or out, in a hotel room or in a park – with the same effectiveness and intensity as a typical gym workout.
Before you dumbbell devotees pooh-pooh the effectiveness of resistance bands, consider this: Bands offer continual resistance throughout your entire range of motion because you’re working against the tension of the band, not against gravity. Your muscles have no idea if you’re lifting iron or rubber; they only know that they are working against resistance and will respond with increases in strength and size. A Danish study conducted on women found that exercises performed with free weights and resistance bands elicit similarly high levels of muscular activity, depending on the level of resistance. The best part: Bands are lightweight, cheap and fit perfectly into your carry-on. Not convinced yet? Try this workout and you’ll join “band camp” for sure!
How do I know what band to use?
Typically, the color of a band indicates its “weight,” but color-coding varies between brands. Instead, consult its thickness: The thicker the band, the more difficult it is to stretch, and the “heavier” it is. Be sure to buy a few different bands, since different muscle groups require different levels of resistance. While it’s difficult to determine how much weight you’re lifting in pounds, it’s easy to adjust the band tension to make a move more challenging. To create more tension when anchoring from the floor, loop the band and step on the spot where the band crosses itself. The bigger the loop, the shorter the band and the greater the tension. When anchoring to an object, step farther away from the anchor to increase resistance.
Keep in mind that the resistance offered by your band is dependent on two things: Its thickness and the distance you stretch it. Your lightest band, for example, may only provide you with 1.1 pounds of resistance if you lengthen it by 25 percent, but stretch it to two-and-a-half times its original length and it can give back up to 5.8 pounds of resistance. Many band manufacturers provide conversion charts with their products or on their websites.
There are several ways to anchor your resistance bands or tubes safely:
- Loop the band around the doorknob on the opposite side of a door, then shut firmly. You can also use a band anchor, available at sporting goods stores, to prevent damage to your equipment.
- Stand on the band with the ball of your foot or your heel, not your arch, to prevent slipping.
- Anchor to a firm, stationary object outdoors such as a park bench, street sign or large tree. If your anchor has a rough surface, wrap a towel lightly around the spot that the band will meet the tree or post to prevent band erosion.