Tackle those tough thigh workouts, hamstring stretches and quad strengtheners the easy way for maximum fitness returns with the help of elastic. Flex bands, also called resistance bands or yoga bands, are flexible tubing cords or latex ribbons that let you target specific muscle groups and work them through full range of movement. The bands are inexpensive, very portable, simple to use and effective for both stretching and strengthening.
Squats and Lunges
You'll notice the thigh burn less when you focus on correct position with flex bands for squats and lunges. To work the full leg and your butt, stand on the band with feet shoulder-width apart and grab the handles or ends of the band with both hands at shoulder height. Keep hands at the level of your shoulders as you squat and stand for about 15 repetitions. Do two or three sets. Increase or decrease repetitions based on the heavy or light resistance of the band. For lunges, keep your back straight and abs contracted as you place the band under your front foot, hold the ends steady at waist or chest height, opposite leg back, and lower until the front thigh is parallel to the floor. Follow the same number of reps you use for squats.
Choose your hamstring repetitions, standing or lying down, depending on which muscles you want to work out. For legs and thighs, lie face-down on a mat, feet hip-width apart with flex band attached to a stable object and your ankle. Keeping your foot flexed and thigh on the mat, exhale and bring your heel to your butt. Inhale and slowly release your leg to the floor. Don't let your hips move or your back curve as you repeat from 12 to 15 times and switch legs. Stand for hamstring curls that hit your obliques and transverse abdominus muscle as well as your hamstrings. Face the flex band anchor, attach the band to your ankle, engage your core, place hands on hips and bring your heel to your butt slowly as you balance on the opposite leg. Do the same number of reps on each side.
Adductions and Abductions
Work your abs, glutes, hips and thighs, including the inner and outer thighs, with standing abductions and adductions. Using a chair for balance and maintaining erect posture throughout, make a loop of your flex band and position it around both ankles. Stand on the foot closest to the chair and lift the opposite leg to the side as far as you can without tilting your upper body. Raise and lower the leg smoothly, keeping your tailbone tucked and abs contracted. Then shift your weight to the leg away from the chair and swing your opposite leg in front of and across your standing leg, feeling the tension in the band and leading with your heel. Finish your abduction and adduction reps on both legs, shift position so your other arm holds the chair for support, and repeat both exercises.
Ankles, Calves and Shins
An easy ankle flex will exercise your ankles, calves and shins to tone and strengthen your lower legs. Sit on a mat with the flex band anchored to a stable object in front of you, extend one leg and wrap the band securely around the ball of your foot. There should be tension pulling your foot forward. Bend the opposite knee and place that foot on the mat as you lean back, supporting yourself on your hands while keeping your back straight. Point the foot wrapped in the band and then slowly flex it and point again, maintaining a flowing movement and moving only your ankle. Do a dozen or so reps -- determine the ideal number for you as your ankle becomes fatigued. Then wrap the opposite foot with the band and resume.
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