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Stretch Your Way to Better Strength: Resistance bands can help you maintain your muscles one stretch at a time.

When you think of strength training, working out with something akin to a large rubber band probably never enters your mind. But, exercise resistance bands are becoming a workout mainstay, whether you're a "gym rat" or a strength-training neophyte.

"For being able to work out wherever you are and being able to do a variety of exercises without needing a lot of equipment and being able to use them no matter what your fitness level, resistance bands are great to use," says Christopher Travers, MS, a Cleveland Clinic exercise physiologist.

Just as you do with any strength-training equipment, you need to know how to use resistance bands safely and effectively in order to gain their muscle-building benefits.

Flexibility Your Muscles Need

Resistance bands originally were used to improve conditioning in nursing home residents. Today, many more exercisers are discovering the advantages of these bands. For one, they're relatively inexpensive--a decent set costs about $25.

The exercise bands are easily adaptable so you can vary your workout on the fly by changing your movements to challenge your muscles in different ways, Travers says. And, they allow you to increase or decrease the resistance simply by shortening or lengthening the band.

One of the greatest advantages the bands offer over other strength-training equipment is that they fit easily into a suitcase, allowing you to continue your workout regimen in a hotel room when you can't get to a gym.

"Some guys who weightlift say they can't get anything out of the bands," Travers says. "I tell them that at least it's a way not to go more than four to seven days between your workouts, which is when you start to regress a little. It's a great way to keep you in your routine."

Things to Keep in Mind

Resistance bands range from simple, flat therapy bands to flat loops and tubing with interchangeable handles.

Choose a set of bands with a variety of resistances or tension levels. The greater the strength that's required in an exercise, the higher the resistance you'll need from the band--for instance, Travers notes, you'll need more resistance for a chest press than a bicep curl. Usually, the bands are color coded so that the tension level increases as the band colors get darker.

Also, consider the types of accessories that come with the bands, such as door attachments or ankle cuffs, and match them with the types of exercises you plan to do.

Although resistance bands are generally safe, be sure to check them for signs of wear or cracking before each time you use them. "If they've been exposed to a lot of sun or cold, they will crack a lot more," Travers advises. "Try not to overstretch them to get more resistance because that's what causes the band to snap and can lead to injuries."

Wear shoes whenever you use resistance bands. And, when you connect a band to a door, give it a good tug before you exercise to make sure it's secure.

Finally, practice good technique and continue to challenge yourself when you work out with resistance bands, Travers emphasizes.

"With any type of exercise, you have to maintain proper form and posture, just like you would if you were using an exercise machine," he adds. "And, the reps and resistance may change based on the individual, but to get the most out of a resistance training session, you need to take your muscles to fatigue."

4 STRETCHY WAYS TO BUILD MUSCLE

Try these exercises from Christopher Travers, MS. Perform two sets of 15 repetitions of each exercise once a day on at least two days of the week:

Bicep curl

While standing, step on the resistance band. With your arms at your side holding the band, draw up your hand by bending at the elbow and hold for one second. Keep your palms facing upward the entire time.

Elastic band row

Attach the resistance band securely to a door. Holding the band with both hands, draw back the band as you bend your elbows. Keep your elbows near the side of your body.

Chest press

Wrap the resistance band behind your back, holding both ends with your hands. Starting with your arms at your side and elbows bent, push the band out in front of you as you straighten your elbows, and hold for one second.

Squat

Stand on the resistance band and grab both ends with your hands. While standing in a squatted position and holding the band, extend your knees up to a standing position. Lower back down and repeat.
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Title Annotation:Exercise
Publication:Men's Health Advisor
Date:Aug 1, 2018
Words:761
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