BANDS AND BALLS: A WORKOUT FOR HOME AND GYM
By Dave Hawk
While free weights and weight machines are great, exercise balls and elastic bands are a low-tech way to get a great workout. Here’s how to get started
On a Roll: Exercise Balls
Sometimes called stability balls or Bosu balls, these large, durable air-filled balls come in different sizes and colors. While most people use them for ab training, many incorporate free weights with ball training, using the ball as an unstable surface to strengthen the core muscles while working other body parts. It can be utilized for so many different workouts, everyone from boxers to the elderly use exercise balls.
Advantages: Works stabilizing and core muscles in unique ways. Forces your whole body to be involved as you try to remain on the surface of the ball. The challenging and versatile nature of ball exercises makes the workout more interesting, particularly if you get bored easily from free-weight and machines movements. Allows you to use a wider range of motion when doing weight exercises on the ball. For those who like to stretch their backs, balls offer the type of rounded, smooth surface that allows for gradual and safe stretching.
Watch Out for… The most obvious risk with balls is falling off while trying a tricky maneuver. Besides looking less than dignified, you can twist a joint or bang your head if you’re not careful. Don’t try to be a circus performer on the ball, especially if you’re handling weights — use common sense. As with all new equipment, ask a personal trainer in your fitness center for assistance.
Sample Exercise: Dumbbell Press
Choose a pair of light-weight dumbbells, lighter than you’d use for a regular bench press. Lie with your back on the ball, your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your shoulders square, press the dumbbells upward as you would in a traditional bench press. Concentrate on keeping the ball as still as possible, using your core to stabilize your position as you raise and lower the weights.
WORKOUTS WITH PULL: ELASTIC BANDS
Exercise bands are amazingly versatile in that they increase resistance as you extend your limbs, something free weights can’t do. They also allow you to move in a natural and functional manner to really copy the way you move when you’re performing other sports or physical activities. Rotational movements with angular momentum can help strengthen muscles used in the exact way you’d work them in a tennis match, a golf swing or throwing motion.
Advantages: Bands are very portable and can be used easily at home as well as the gym. You can work all of your limbs in multiple ways. You can work with a partner or alone by slipping one band handle on a door or other fixture. You don’t need a lot of room at the gym to do effective movements with bands.
Sample Exercise: Lateral Shoulder Raise
Place one end of the band underneath your feet. Stand on the band firmly, making sure you leave about a half-foot of band from the handle to your feet. Hold the other handle with a overhand grip. Make sure the band is secured by your bodyweight as you raise the handle toward your shoulder. Keep your elbow straight and don’t lift the handle above your shoulder. Repeat for 3 sets of 12 reps.
For more exercises: visit the Books-a-Million site through the Exchange Online Mall for books such as "Strength Band Training" (Human Kinetics, 2010) by Phillip Page and Todd S. Ellenbecker