The following is an excerpt from the exercise plan featured in the book Tone Every Inch: The Fastest Way to Sculpt Your Belly, Butt and Thighs.
By Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie
Bands are a home exerciser's best friend. They're small and inexpensive, and they allow you to do everything you could do with a big weight machine at the gym for a fraction of the price (or shelling out for monthly gym fees) and without dedicating a room in your house to working out. And above all, they work — arguably more so than those pricey space hogs because bands offer more "functional" training that mimics real-life movements. Here's your chance to get the hang of working out with bands as you start to tone and tighten those metabolism-maximizing muscles.
When Prevention magazine compared the effects of a resistance band workout similar to this one with workouts based on other equipment like stability balls and weights, the bands blew away the competition, helping testers to lose as many as 14 pounds (18% more than the runner-up routine) and trimming up to 9 inches from their waistlines (a boost of nearly one-third compared to other workouts) in 12 weeks. Not bad for something you can stick in your purse!
While I'd love to believe that there’s some magic ingredient in resistance bands that makes them so superior, it may be as simple as the fact that they're easier to have on hand so there are no excuses, just results. They're as simple to use in your living room, bedroom or even hotel room as they are at the gym, translating to fewer skipped workouts. And fewer missed sessions mean more pounds and inches — poof! — gone.
But don't get me wrong — bands do have a few standout features that help them to do their sculpting job so effectively. They offer a smoother and more consistent challenge for your muscles than dumbbells do, because when you lift something weighted like a dumbbell, it feels heaviest only during a small part of the exercise, explains Gary Sforzo, PhD, exercise physiologist and professor of exercise science at New York's Ithaca College. And you can make subtle adjustments even as you do the exercise to make it more or less challenging, for example, by choking up on the band to shorten the length that you're stretching, or by releasing some of the band to lessen the resistance. And because bands aren't gravity dependent like dumbbells, they open up all new movement options — whereas dumbbells only provide resistance up and down, bands allow you to work muscles in all different directions.
Whether you're doing the workout at a gym or in your living room, there are just three things you need to do to get it started. Here's a quick-start guide:
Bands are easy to use once you get into the swing of things, but a few helpful hints can make the difference between results that are ho-hum or huzzah!
One of my favorite features of bands is their ability to meet you where you are strength-wise. Unlike dumbbells, which jump in standard increments that can sometimes leave you between two weights, bands can truly be adjusted almost infinitely. Here's how:
Start warming up with about 5 minutes of easy cardio such as walking or marching in place. Add some forward and backward arm circles, and rotate your torso to the right and left as you walk to get your upper body loosened up as well. Then start the first move. Do each exercise 8 to 12 times, or 8 to 12 times per side where relevant. This will be one set. Without stopping for longer than it takes to transition (unless you need to), go on to the next exercise, or repeat the exercise on the opposite side if needed.
If you find that a move is too challenging at first, try the "Make It Easier" variation. Many of these options simplify the exercise by separating a combined movement (which is more efficient once you get the hang of it) into two separate exercises (which can be easier to figure out when you're starting out). A major component of strength training is strengthening the neuromuscular system, or the connections between the brain and the muscles necessary to coordinate a movement — and to push or pull against a resistance you're not used to. Don't worry; these nervous system adaptations happen quickly — even faster than you'll gain any actual muscle strength — so you'll be up to speed in no time. Here are three moves to get you started!
Continued on next page >