Using Resistance Bands

Resistance bands for senior fitness
…You have to make sure also that those bands are in good condition. Because after use, it’s like a rubber band, it breaks.
– Lori Michiel on Senior Fitness Safety, AirTalk with Larry Mantle
Listen to full interview.

Click on a topic below and read Lori’s article “Resistance Bands – what is the best choice for you?” and her video “Resistance Bands to Strength Train”.

 

Choosing and Using Resistance Bands

When it comes to strength training, most of us stick to what is familiar to us: free weights or machines. What you don’t see a lot of is work with resistance bands or tubing. We’re often confused about what resistance bands do and how to use them, but they’re a great way to work out while you travel or to add variety to your usual routine.

Resisting Resistance Bands

Some of the problems people often have with resistance bands include:

  • The resistance feels different. When you use free weights, gravity decides where the weight comes from, so you get more resistance during one part of the movement (such as the upswing of a bicep curl) than the other (the downswing). With bands, the tension is constant, which makes it feel harder. But, think of it like a cable machine, because it works the same way, only cheaper.
  • Resistance bands aren’t as challenging as machines or dumbbells. With weights, you know exactly how much you’re lifting. With bands, you can only go by how it feels and the tension on the band. That doesn’t mean you’re not getting a good workout, though. If you use good form and the right level of tension, your muscle fibers won’t know the difference between weights or bands. Plus, bands offer more variety because you can create the resistance from all directions–the side, overhead, below, etc.
  • You don’t know how to use them. It can be confusing trying to figure out how to use a band. Keep in mind that you can perform the same exercises as you do with free weights–the difference lies in positioning the band. For example, you can stand on the band and grip the handles for bicep curls or overhead presses. You can attach it to a door and do lat pull downs or tricep pushdowns. You can wrap the band around a pole for chest exercises or shoulder rotations. The possibilities are endless and you’ll find there are a number of exercises and workouts available.

Why You Should Try Resistance Bands

  • They travel well. You can easily pack them in your suitcase for travel and do exercises in the car or in your hotel room.
  • They increase coordination. Because there’s tension throughout the exercises, you have to stabilize your body. This helps with coordination, balance and it also helps you involve more muscle groups.
  • They add variety. With weights, you’re often limited as to how many exercises you can do. But, the resistance band allows you to change your positioning in multiple ways. This changes how your body works and how an exercise feels.
  • They’re cheap. Bands range anywhere from $6 to $20, depending on how many you get and where you buy them, which is nice for the budget-conscious exerciser.
  • They’re great for all fitness levels. Depending on how you use them, bands can be great for beginners as well as more advanced exercisers. You can use them for basic moves or to add intensity to traditional moves.

Choosing the Right Band for You

There are a variety of resistance bands (flat and ones with handles – also called tubing) that are available at discount stores, at most sporting goods stores or online.

Tips for buying bands:

  • Buy a variety of bands. Most bands are color-coded according to tension level (e.g., light, medium, heavy, very heavy). It’s best to have at least three – light, medium and heavy since different muscle groups will require different levels of resistance.
  • Buy comfortable, easy-to-use-bands. Try to buy bands with padded handles and make sure you don’t have to change them out.
  • Buy accessories. One key to using bands is having different ways to attach them. If you have a sturdy stair or chair (if choosing to do seated exercises) in your house to wrap the band around for exercises, you may not need much more than bands. But, if you don’t, you may want a door attachment.
  • Keep it simple. If you’re just getting started, stick with your basic long tube with handles. Once you figure out how to use it, you may want to buy other types later for variety.

Resistance Band Workout for Beginners

This resistance band workout targets the entire body – chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs. These are basic exercises suitable for beginner or intermediate exercisers. If you’re new to strength training and/or resistance bands, take your time with each move and perfect your form. Start with one set of 8 to 16 repetitions of each exercise using a light or medium resistance band, adding sets gradually. For each move, there are suggested band levels – light, medium, or heavy. Some exercises may require a heavier band while upper body moves may require a lighter band. For many exercises, you can control the tension by your positioning and/or by where you grab onto the band.

  • Warm up with five to 10 minutes of some type of cardio exercise
  • Cool down by stretching
  • Do this workout two to three nonconsecutive days a week
  • Do this in addition to your regular cardio exercise for best results
  • Exercises do not have to be performed on a stability ball

Chest Press

Wrap the band around a sturdy object behind you and hold handles in each hand, beginning the move with elbows bent and arms parallel to the ground. Squeeze the chest and press the arms out without locking elbows. Return to start and repeat.

Seated Row

Wrap the band around a sturdy object in front of you, arms extended and palms face each other. Squeeze the back to pull the elbows in just a bit past the torso, keeping them close to the body. Release and repeat. (Seniors should sit on a sturdy chair.)

Rear Delt Fly

Hold band with arms straight out, hands a few inches apart (adjust hands on the band to change resistance). Squeeze the shoulder blades together and pull band so that arms are out to the sides like an airplane. Return to start and repeat, keeping tension on the band the entire time. (Seniors should sit on a sturdy chair.)

Lat Pulls

Begin with arms straight up overhead, holding the band towards the middle. Adjust hands closer to increase tension. Contract the back and pull the band out while bringing the elbows towards the rib cage. Raise back up and repeat. (Seniors should sit on a sturdy chair.)

Tricep Extensions

Hold the band in both hands at shoulder level with right arms bent in front of the chest. Keeping the left hand stationary, contract the triceps to straighten the right arm out to the side. Return to start and repeat before switching sides. (Seniors should sit on a sturdy chair.)

Bicep Curls

Stand on the band and hold handles with palms facing out. Keeping abs in and knees slightly bent, bend arms and bring palms toward shoulders in a bicep curl. Position feet wider for more tension. Return to start and repeat. (Seniors can sit on a sturdy chair rather than stand.)

Keep in mind that if you have any injuries or unique physical requirements, some exercises may need to be altered.

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