Monday, September 13, 2010

10 Great Exercise Band Moves

                In a previous post found here I talked about building your home gym and one of the pieces of equipment I talked about were exercise bands. There are a few different types and styles, all are easy to use and can give you a great muscular endurance workout. One of the types of exercise or resistance bands are long and flat (like a lasagna noodle, I know that’s a dumb comparison but it’s true) and does not have handles on the ends. The other type are tube shaped (like a spaghetti noodle, I felt like throwing another bad comparison in here since I’m thinking about noodles…) and they do have handles on the ends. Each serve the same purpose with minor differences and both can be found at the Turbo Fit Store. If you’re only going to buy one type, borrow some from a friend to see which type you like best.
                Here’s a list of some great exercises you can do with resistance bands and I’ll list them according to the type of band you have to make them easier to look through if you only have one or the other. For the most part you can do all of these exercises with either band but you may have to adapt or you may discover that you prefer a different band for a different exercise. It’s all about you feeling comfortable and natural with the movement. I apologize for the lack of pictures, I hope to explain them clearly but please leave a comment at the end of the post if you have any questions.
                Both Types of Resistance Bands:
     1. Shoulder Press: Stand on one end of your band with your right foot and hold the other end in your right hand. The band should be coming out from the outside of your foot. Raise your arm so that it is at a 9o degree angle, elbow pointed away from your body. Press the band upward in a smooth, controlled manner, then return to 90 degrees. Do your preferred number of reps on one side and switch to the other. Be sure to stabilize yourself while pressing upward so that you are not leaning while pressing.
     2. Tricep Press: Set up for the tricep press the same way you would for the shoulder press only raise your arm all the way up until your upper arm is against your head, bending the elbow and allowing your hand to go behind you, keeping your elbow pointed upwards, not out to the side like in the shoulder press. Press upward using your triceps until your hand is extended all the way above your head. Be sure to lock your upper arm into place next to your head. A lot of people get lazy with this exercise and do a shoulder press instead. You want to focus on the back of your upper arm so if you’re not feeling it there, you’re probably doing a shoulder press and not a tricep press. Switch sides.
     3. Bicep Curl: Stand with both feet on the middle of the band while holding one end in each hand. If you’re using a flat band and it’s long enough, you can tie loops at the ends so you have something like a handle to hold on to. Keeping your elbow locked into your sides, pull upward on the band in a bicep curl. Be careful not to use your body as momentum. Keep your body still and focus on using your biceps (that’s the front part of your upper arm) to pull up on the band.
     4. Lateral Raise: Using the same set-up as the bicep curl, hold your arms straight at your sides with palms facing in toward your body. Raise both arms up straight at the same time until arms are parallel with the floor, then lower.
     5. Bent-Over Row and Bent-Over Lateral Raise: Set up as you would for the lateral raise or the bicep curl and bend forward at your waist. Be careful to keep your lower back strong and not put it in a position to cause pain or injury. For the row, pull up on the band as if you were rowing, bending your elbow as you pull and squeezing your shoulder blades together, release. For the lateral raise, keep arms straight and extend them outward until arms are parallel with the floor, release. The Bend-Over Lateral Raise strengthens the same muscles as the upright Lateral Raise in a different way.
     6. Chest Press: Lay on your back on a step or on the floor. If you are on a step, have your band threaded through the bottom space of the step. If you are lying on the floor, lay on top of the band. Take hold of one end of the band in each hand and press upwards. As you come back down, go all the way until your upper arm touches the floor. If you’re on a step, go until your upper arms are level with your chest.
                Tube-Shaped Bands with Handles:
     1. For inner and outer thighs: Lay on your back (preferable on a step but if you don’t have a sep it’s okay) with the band threaded through the space under the step (or under your back if you are not using a step). Hook the handles over the toes of your shoes and secure so they don’t snap off during the exercise. Lay back and put your feel straight into the air towards the ceiling. Slowly lower your legs out to the sides as far as you can and then bring them back together. This will work your inner thighs while your outer thighs work to stabilize. Staying in the same position, you can cross the bands on your feet (the handle coming from the right goes on your left foot, and the handle from the left goes on your right foot) and do the same motion. This will focus more on outer thighs as your inner thighs work to stabilize.
                Flat Bands with No Handles:
     1. Outer thighs: Tie your band at the ends to form a circle. Step into the band and pull it up around your knees. Take ten side steps to the right and ten to the left to work outer thighs. Lay on the ground on one side and do regular leg raises with the band to increase resistance.
     2. Lat Pull-Down/Tricep Pull-Down: Tie a knot in your band at the middle and throw the knot over a door. Shut the door with the knot on the other side and the two ends of the band hanging down on your side of the door. Kneel down and take one end in each hand. Pull down on the ends the same way you would on a lat pull-down machine at the gym. Stand up and lock your upper arms to your sides. Pull the ends down and squeeze your triceps for a tricep pull-down.
3. Internal and External Shoulder Rotation: Tie a knot in one end of the band, and a loop in the other. Close a door on the knot with the knot on the other side of the door and the loop on your side. Stand sideways to the door with the loop in one hand. Bend your arm at a 90 degree angle and keep your upper arm locked to your side. Rotate your forearm in towards your body (you should be meeting resistance with the band) and then back away from your body as far as you can go. Do not let your upper arm separate from your body. This is an internal shoulder rotation. Turn to face the other way so that as you rotate outward away from your body you meet resistance with the band. This is an external shoulder rotation. Both will strengthen your rotator cuff and prevent injury to the shoulder.

                You can use exercise bands to increase the intensity of other exercises as well. You can hold one end in each hand with the band going over your back while you do push-ups to get a little resistance on the way back up, or you could stand on a band, holding one end in each hand while you squat. Remember that you can always make the exercise harder by shortening the length of the band (when standing on the middle, spreading your feet apart to shorten the ends, or standing closer to the middle of the band when doing a one-arm exercise) or lengthening the band to make it easier (keeping feel closer together when standing on the middle, or standing closer to the end on a one-arm exercise).  Exercise bands are very versatile so get creative with your bands and experiment!

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