While you may think you need loads of fancy gym equipment to get stronger and burn fat, but that's certainly not the case. You can use resistance bands to put together an effective, creative, and challenging workout when equipment is limited, making them ideal to bring along when you're travelling. You can burn even more calories using resistance bands by training your whole body each time you train. Full body workouts maximize calorie burn and fat loss, according to strength coach Rachel Cosgrove, author of "The Female Body Breakthrough."
Lower Body Exercises
The easiest way to use bands to hit your lower body is to use them while doing body-weight exercises such as squats or lunges. Stand on the bands and hold the ends at shoulder height -- the tighter you pull the bands the more resistance you will add. For an exercise that hammers your glute muscles, try X-band walks. Stand with both feet on a band and hold the ends in your hands. Take 10 steps to the right and then 10 steps back. These activate the glute medius muscle at the sides of your butt, according to Tony Gentilcore, coach at Cressey Performance in Massachusetts.
Upper Body Exercises
Use bands to increase or decrease the difficulty of your push-ups to work the chest, shoulders and triceps. For band-assisted push-ups, tie the band around a chin-up bar overhead and loop the middle underneath your torso and then perform push-ups as usual. This assists you on the way up, making them easier than body-weight push-ups. For band-resisted push-ups, loop the band over your back and secure it under your hands and then do push-ups against the band tension. To train your back and arms, use a variety of rows and pulldowns with the band at varying heights.
Core Training and Extras
You may do regular crunches and sit-ups with the band held around your shoulders to make the exercises tougher. Bands are also an excellent replacement for cable machines, meaning you may do woodchops, core rotations and standing band crunches with them. You might want to include isolation exercises for your biceps, triceps and calves in your full body workout. However, according to Cosgrove, isolations aren't necessary if your goal is a lean, defined physique as a selection of compound exercise should suffice.
Guidelines and Progression
Do six exercises in each session -- two lower body, two upper body, one core and one isolation for a chosen body-part. Start with four sets of eight to 12 repetitions in each. Aim to perform a couple more reps or add an extra set to each exercise every session. Once you can complete four sets of 12 reps on an exercise, switch to a heavier resistance band. Stick with the same exercises for four to six weeks, and then vary them slightly. You could change from lunges with band tension to reverse lunges against bands, or change from band low rows to band face pulls, for instance.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.