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There are a few good candidates when it comes to a portable fitness tool that offer a variety of workout options. I am a big fan of a TRX suspension trainer, but it might not be in everyone’s travel budget. There are various sliders you can pack in your bag, but unless you are on carpet or a smooth floor, they won’t leave your bag. The old-school jump rope is a tried-and-true way to burn calories and fire up plenty of muscle groups, but bouncing for 10 minutes or more can get old.
So, what’s the winner? The one fitness tool or gym equipment that I recommend you take with you is the elastic band. Even better, take a set of three bands to get a range of resistance for different exercises. These are relatively inexpensive — a quick online search shows many sets for less than $25. I have had the same set for years, with relatively heavy use, so I know they last a long time. Bands are extremely portable, even with the handles, you can fold them up into a small footprint and shove them in any backpack.
But what’s most important is that bands enable you to train all the main muscle groups in your body, wherever you are! An elastic band with handles is basically a gym in a bag, so anyone can get a great workout, anywhere.
If you read last week’s article about the most effective way to train in 30 minutes or less, you can apply those same principles here, leveraging the bands to target the upper-body or lower-body muscle groups. Add in some type of running/walking/jumping and some core, and you have a fat-burning, muscle-building circuit workout that travels with you.
You can substitute an elastic band into most exercises to add some resistance. Refer to last week’s article for the videos with over 100 exercises that target the shoulders, chest, back, legs, and core muscle groups. Of course, an elastic band won’t replicate a heavy bench press or a loaded deadlift, but it can still tax your muscle fibers and force them to adapt and grow, while burning calories and helping you get leaner and meaner.
Some of my favorite exercises with bands include back rows, chest presses, squat to lateral raise, an overhead triceps extension, and a biceps curl. Incorporate these into a circuit workout or create your own routine using an elastic band.
Andy McDermott is a proponent of basic truths about health and wellness, based on lessons he’s learned personally over a lifetime of fitness. He got his first personal training certification in 1999 while working at Bally’s gym in Chicago. He completed the 40 Hour EXOS Sports Performance Mentorship, TRX Instructor certification, and earned his third-degree Black Belt in tae kwon do. While serving as a police officer on the Tactical Response Unit of the Phoenix Police Department, Andy served as Subject Matter Expert/Lead Instructor in Physical Training of all Arizona Law Enforcement. He’s won the National Championship at the US Police and Fire Games in the event called Toughest Competitor Alive. He played professional soccer for seven seasons after graduating from Northwestern University. He also holds the US Soccer National Coaching A License. Andy has published more than 100 articles and videos for national media publications. Andy posts fitness challenges on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.