Whether you call them resistance bands, cords or tubes, elastic resistance exercise equipment add a fun factor to your leg and ab workouts. The bands allow movement in different body positions, boldly going where no machine has ever gone before to target your muscles from different angles. Use them on vacation, or when you can't get to the gym. They might become your workout tool of choice.
Elastic Tubing Resistance
Manufacturers color-code their tubing devices to indicate their level of resistance. To make minute adjustments, shorten the band or use a heavy resistance band in conjunction with a lighter one. Choosing the correct resistance requires trial and error. In general, if an exercise requires more than 20 repetitions before you feel it, you have probably meandered to the point of no returns. Choose a heavier cord. On the other hand, if the range of motion is too small, or if you feel referred tension in your neck or back, go with a lighter band.
Here are your choices: You can lie on your side and perform 25 outer thigh leg lifts, or you can get up and move around. The side stepping exercise takes the classic side-lying hip abduction exercise on the road, and perhaps burns some extra calories in the meantime. Some of your butt muscles will also come out to play during this compound exercise. Step on the tube with both feet, holding handles at your hips. Assume an upright position with your knees slightly bent. Step out 12 to 16 inches with your right left foot. Then, bring your right foot in to meet it. Perform eight steps in one direction and eight in the other. Three sets in each direction should do the job. Make it harder by bringing the handles up toward your shoulders.
The standing hip abduction exercise provides a more isolated outer thigh muscle workout. In most photos, the model performing the exercise is holding on to a stationary object. Try it that way at first, but once you get used to it, add a bit of core love by using a "look Ma -- no hands!" approach. Loop the tube around one ankle and step on the tubing with your opposite foot. Maintain an upright posture as you move your working leg away from your standing leg. Add challenge by moving the stabilizing foot closer to working leg.
After hours of performing supine ab workouts, you've probably memorized every crack in the ceiling. It's time for a change of perspective -- go prone. Stand on the center of the band with your feet hip-width apart on center of tube. Cross the tube in front of you, then hold each handle with each hand. Crouch down and carefully walk your hands forward until you are in a push-up position. Draw your belly in and bend your knees until they hover above the floor. Exert caution as you straighten your legs. If you don't feel it after 16 repetitions, you're either Wonder Woman, or you need a heavier band.
Can't afford a Pilates equipment workout? No worries. Resistance cords have a similar effect, especially during the double leg circle. Designed as as a challenging oblique and subtle hip exercise, the addition of the band ends all subtlety. Lie supine, crisscross the tube, hold each handle with each hand, and extend your legs to a 90-degree angle. Press the cord handles into the floor and sink the back of each hip into the exercise mat. No cheating! This only works if each hand and the back of each hip remains stable and pressed into the floor. Keep your feet together and your legs extended as you circle your legs to the right. As your legs descend toward the floor, check your lower back. It must maintain contact with the mat. Perform eight circles in each direction.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.