Work Out with Exercise Bands

Exercise is recommended for lots of reasons: to lose weight; to prevent weight gain; to gain muscle; to improve balance and coordination; to reduce stress and improve mood; to lower insulin levels; to lower blood pressure and triglycerides; and even to sleep better. But it’s hard for some of us to fit in a daily exercise routine. We lead busy lives, and in those few precious hours between work and sleep, we’d rather talk to a friend or watch “Gray’s Anatomy” rather than do a workout.

Band exercising can be done almost anywhere. It is easy to do and beginners, people who have joint or muscle pain, those who are overweight and find it difficult to exercise, or even a fit person who needs a light workout for awhile will find exercising with bands beneficial. This type of exercise uses resistance. Basically you use a group of muscles to stretch a big rubber band in a controlled, repetitive fashion. Other resistance bands are made from rubber tubing, and called exercise tubes, but the workout is the same.

Initially, exercise bands were used by physical therapists to assist clients in regaining strength after surgery or an injury but they can be used to perform the same kinds of resistance training as using free weights or weight machines.Sometimes people who are used to other types of strength training feel that they won’t get a real workout with exercise bands. There are some differences between using free weights and the exercise bands.

The resistance does feel different when using the bands. When you use a free weight, gravity assists you in the motion, so the resistance is stronger during one part of the exercise. An example of stronger resistance would be the upswing of a bicep curl when using a free weight. With an exercise band, the tension should be constant throughout the movement.

You can easily “cheat” when using the resistance bands because you are in control of the tension. You can shorten or lengthen the band to make the movement or exercise easier. But the muscle is still getting a workout. Sometimes, the exercise bands can challenge the muscle even more than a free weight because the resistance is created from all sides.
It can be confusing to know exactly how to use exercise bands. You just need to know where to position the band to work the muscle group you need. For instance, you can wrap the band around your back and grab the two ends for a chest press. You can stand on the exercise band and grab the handles for a bicep curl. You can attach an exercise band to a door to do lat pulldowns or tricep pushdowns.

You can buy exercise bands or tubing at almost any sporting goods store. You can buy them at department stores like Sears, Wal-mart, or Target. It is a good idea to buy a set of bands to have a variety of resistance. It gives you a goal to work toward: as each band exercise becomes easy, you can graduate to a heavier band.

If you decide to use exercise bands, as with any physical activity, check with your doctor first. Then, as with any exercise, start by warming up your muscle groups by jogging or walking in place before starting. Maintain good posture. Keep your wrists straight, since pulling on the exercise bands is what creates the resistance. Breathe normally; don’t hold your breath. Use controlled movements; the controlled, continuous resistance of the exercise bands is what works your muscles.

The exercises should feel challenging but not painful. If anything hurts, stop. Try a different exercise or a lighter band. Most experts recommend doing 8-12 repetitions of each exercise, and 2-3 sets of repetitions every other day. Some people do the upper body movements with the exercise bands on one day, and concentrate on the lower body the next day. If you are just starting out, doing one set of repetitions each day might be helpful.

Using exercise bands is easy, cheap, portable, fun, and yes, it does work! In just a week or two, you will really notice a difference in your muscles and the way your body moves. In four weeks, you should be able to see more musculature if you continue using the exercise bands.

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