Some call them toning bands while others say resistance bands or elastic tubing. An exercise band by any other name is just as effective, and that we which we call a band provides a sweet abdominal workout and finely-toned tummy muscles. By adding challenge and variety to your ab program, toning bands bust burnout and take your training to a new and exciting level.
Bands provide resistance when you secure them to a stable object and perform movements that pull away from the attachment point. Some bands come with attachment devices that fit around door jambs. Resistance increases when you move farther away from the attachment point. Tell friends and family why you've closed the door, lest some unsuspecting person opens the door in the middle of an exercise. If you don't have an attachment device, securing the band around one or both feet also works for many exercises.
Standing Side Bends for Obliques
Doing standing side bends with your exercise band works your external obliques, which perform rotation and side-bending movements. To use the band for standing side bends, attach the band under one foot and bend at the waist in the opposite direction. Perform this exercise in front of a mirror and monitor your alignment. Stabilize your hips and bend at your waist. When performed correctly, your hips do not twist and your upper torso moves sideways not forward.
Kneeling Ab Crunch
The kneeling ab crunch provides effective ab training for anyone uncomfortable in the supine position. Secure the band to the upper part of the door jamb. Kneel down, grab both ends of the bands with both hands, placing them behind the top of your head. Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, draw your belly in and flex your spine against the resistance of the band. This exercise works your largest ab muscle, the rectus abdominis. Adding the exhalation engages your deep core team player called the transverse abdominal muscle.
Oblique Rotation Exercise
When sitting upright on a balance ball, your deeper core muscles stabilize your spine. Add a resistance band rotation and your obliques join the fun. Place one end of the band under the outside of your left foot and hold the other end with both hands, in alignment with your navel. Rotate your waist to the right, imagining your spine as a barber poll and your ribs as the stripes spiraling around the straight central axis. Do 15 reps each side.
Standing Oblique Exercise
Performed in a standing position, the two woodchopper variations provide sport-specific oblique exercise. Secure the band to the upper door jamb, rotate your upper torso and reach up for the band. Turn your left foot out to the side and reach your right arm upward and your left arm across your body to grasp the band. Pivoting your right foot, rotate your waist and reach diagonally down toward your left foot. Unravel and repeat. Complete one set of 10 to 15 reps on each side, then secure the band to the lower door jamb and repeat the movement pattern, starting in the flexed position, then spiraling diagonally upward toward the opposite shoulder.
Eccentric Band Training
Every exercise has an eccentric and concentric phase. The concentric movement, such as the rolling up phase of a sit-up, shortens the muscle. The eccentric movement, such as the rolling back phase, lengthens the muscle. Most people find the eccentric phase of the sit-up easier than the concentric. By wrapping the band around your feet, holding the ends and rolling backward toward the floor, you increase the resistance during the eccentric phase of the sit-up. During the concentric phase, the band assists the movement and pulls you upward. Acclaimed body builder Charles Poliquin explains that increasing resistance during the eccentric phase of an exercise eventually increases your concentric strength.
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.