Become an exercise band-it

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

I am a true creature of habit. I tend to favor the same foods week after week, teach the same amazing crowd of students in my aerobics classes 4 days a week, and of course, look forward to working out each day.  For many of my clients, strength training has become an integral part of their weekly schedules.  Dedication and hard work have caused them to appreciate their results, and also to understand the link between staying active and staying healthy.

When faced with a two-week family vacation, clients often become concerned about their fitness levels: will their hard-earned results take a nosedive while they are out of town?  Those who know me well can probably predict the next sentence, which is what I always remind these individuals: “There’s always a way!”

Most hotels and resorts now offer exercise areas, and these may range from adequate to deluxe.  Cardio equipment is always included, as are dumbbells and a flat bench or two.  Often you may find a stability ball and mats, or a cable-assisted multi-functional machine.  There is generally no additional cost to the guests, unless a specialized spa service is rendered.

However, what if your family has decided to camp and hike in the great outdoors this summer?  Such family bonding vacations are increasing in popularity these days.  In the absence of a hotel gym, how can one’s precious lean muscle mass be preserved?  The solution is to become an exercise “bandit.”

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Exercise bands have been in use for a very long time.  They can be found in a variety of tensile strengths, and the choices are dependent upon one’s resistance abilities.  The advantages to using resistance bands seem endless. The most significant with regard to traveling is that bands are easy to tuck into any sized suitcase, unlike free weights. The mechanical advantage of these bands is that resistance is maintained through every part of the motion being performed.  During a band bicep curl, for example, both the concentric and eccentric movements involved in the exercise confer resistance, resulting in complete muscle fiber stimulation and increased range of motion strength. 

In the name of maintaining consistency while away from the gym, here is a basic guideline for selecting appropriate band strength:

• Medium Resistance bands require 4.5 pounds of “pull” to stretch the band from 12 to 24 inches.

• Extra Heavy bands require the equivalent of 7.5 pounds of “pull” to achieve full extension.

• For the bodybuilder, a Super Heavy band requires 15 pounds of “pull” to go the distance.

Ready to go?  Here are some easy ideas to get you going:

• Stand on the band with both feet, holding one end in each hand.  Bring hands up to shoulders and keep them there while performing squats.

• While sitting on the floor (or campground, as the case may be!), extend legs in front and wrap the center of the band around the soles of the foot.  Holding an end in each hand, squeeze shoulder blades together as you pull your elbows toward your body.

• Standing up again, both feet on the band and an end in each hand, slowly curl your arms toward your shoulders, stopping the motion when the bicep is fully contracted.  Hold, release, and repeat.

These are just a few of many creative moves that can be performed with 12” of band.  See if you can come up with some more of your own! In this one case, escaping out of town with a valuable, versatile commodity — being an exercise bandit — is not against the law!