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Muscle Building on the Road - Cheap Resistance Bands for Travel

Updated on February 7, 2012

Don't forget the Exercise Bands

Except for your bodyweight, resistance bands and cables are the most effective piece of exercise equipment you can bring with you while traveling. They are cheap too. For as little as $9 dollars, Walmart sells a three pack of 'stretch bands' that can present a formidable workout.

Want something beefier? Spend between $20 and $60 dollars and you can get a 2 1/2"- 4" thick resistance loop with 200 lbs. of resistance.

The best part about resistance bands is they weigh next to nothing and take up about as much space as a magazine in your luggage. So once you have 'em, what do you do with them? I'm glad you asked. Read on...

In the interest of saving your time and your eyes, let's outline a whole body workout you might do from a hotel room, park or fencepost. Use any type of resistance band; your body does not know whether you went with the cheap stretch bands or more expensive exercise bands.

If you have the flat 'stretch' bands, increase the resistance by stacking them on top of each other. For even more, buy two packs or shorten the ones you have. The resistance band loops can be folded and tied to increase the 'weight' you are using.

With the closed loops, be sure to get the right length. A 41" band will stretch up to seven feet, which is great for legs or explosive jump work, but you will have to tie it off for greater resistance in small spaces.

Great, so find some space, do some jumping jacks, rotate your joints and grab those stretchy bands. If you have a pole, railing, beam or something else to wrap these around it can be handy, but it is not vital to this workout.

Do each exercise as 2-3 'giant' sets. Meaning, do all the repetitions listed, and keep going until they are complete. For example, set 1: 15-20 reps + 8-10 + 5-8 = 1 set. No rest in between, but rest between sets.

Great resistance bands with handles and anchoring attachments.
Great resistance bands with handles and anchoring attachments.
Powerlifting loops used by the pros, and great for anyone who wants a traveling gym.
Powerlifting loops used by the pros, and great for anyone who wants a traveling gym. | Source
Deadlift high pull with barbell; now substitute the resistance bands. Pull from the ground.
Deadlift high pull with barbell; now substitute the resistance bands. Pull from the ground. | Source
Chest press.
Chest press. | Source

-Deadlift High Pull: Just like a DL HP with a barbell, stand on the flat band and take a shoulder width stance. Unless you have extra long bands, you can't really take a sumo wide stance, but play with it and find your comfort level. Ironically, even if you are strong at this exercise, you may find yourself using only one band at first, and it might be the light to medium resistance!

No matter, keep your back straight, your shins vertical and your butt stuck out to maintain the natural lower spinal curvature. Squat down, and pull your hands up to shoulder level. Shoulders do not roll forward or back. Straight up with elbows out to the side, stop at your clavicle.

10 reps, 15? 20? Try easier reps to get started, then switch to more resistance and knock out a few more, then do it again. Rest a minute and repeat two more times. There, wasn't that fun? (Works your, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, lower back, trapezius, frontal/medial deltoids.)

Seated Rows: (Do these with the assistance of a pole or fence when available. Also can be done standing like bent over rows.)

Do you know how easy it is to sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, wrap a stretchy band around your feet and row? No? Really, really stupid easy. Or as some wiser man once said, "life is really simple..." ah never mind, let's get to it.

So there you are, on the floor, legs in front of you as if about to grab your toes and stretch. Wrap as many of your bands around the soles of your feet as you like. Grab the ends or bunch them and wrap it once around your hands. Work this out to your comfort level.

Now, without rounding your back (that's right, sit up straight,) stretch the arms forward and pull back until elbows are bent to 90 degrees. Repeat, just like above.

Start easy and go hard...that is pull hard; get the idea. So, the sets should look like this:

Easy x 15-20 repetitions, moderate x 10-12 reps, pulling an elephant x 5-8 reps (or less.) Gooood, goood! Now repeat that process two more times.

Finally! Finally we come to the end! Nah, only kidding. We still have two, maybe three exercises to go! Yeehah!

Next up!

The Front Squat. Now before you say it, yes I have tried this and yes it was effective. I am about 6'feet tall and although it was a little tricky, it was worth it. If you have a long closed loop band, it's not too difficult to make this happen, but for those going cheap (like me) the set up is important.

*(If you are really tall you could just pull the band around the opposite shoulder and switch sides after a few reps. I tried that too.)

Stand in a shoulder width stance, with one foot on either end of your band. I don't like grabbing the ends for resistance band squats, just a personal preference. Make sure it is secure and squat down as far as you need to in order to pass the middle of the band over your shoulders. Your hands will rest on your collarbone, flaring the elbows.

Now you are sitting with this thing stretched across your shoulders. Stand up in a slow motion (just to make sure it is secure under your feet,) and when ready, knock out 15-20 reps. As with the other exercises, start out light, go heavier. Repeat two more times.

Now we could stop there, but this is a traveling workout. How much time do you really want to spend in your room working out? Might as well kick your ass today and take a couple days off! That's the spirit!

Pushing Complex-Huh?

Yes, it is that time. Good for the chest, good for the breast, don't neglect your pushing exercises folks. An exercise, I might add, that takes on a new dimension when you add latex resistance across your back. So how does this work?

First, we stand. Wrap the band/s around your back and under, or at the level of your armpits (work this out to your comfort.)

Again I prefer to grab the ends and let the flat stretch over my knuckles, but it is a lot easier to just squeeze and wrap the end like a rope around your hands, just hurts more. If you have a looped resistance band like the Versa-Band, you can slip a pole of broomstick through it, or simply push against one side.

Start by pushing straight out in front of you. Squeeze your hands together at full extension if you like. This is a standing chest press/flye. Remember our first set is light, so 15-20 repetitions.

Next, shorten the bands to make it harder and hit the next two. A moderate set x10-12, a heavy set (make it shorter still,) for 5-8 (or less.)

*(Alternatively you can do pushups with the bands in the same position. If you have an occupational/athletic need to be good at pushups, doing these will help you make exponential improvements.)


Before you drop those silly bands and grab a margarita, take about two minutes to rest. Leave the bands in your hands...before you head for the sands...whoa. Sorry, I lost track for a second.

Ok then, prepare the bands just like you did for the chest press, but this time start pressing at an incline. Roughly 45 degrees to be exact, roughly.

As with the other exercises, torture yourself with three giant sets, each with descending repetitions; 15-20, 8-10, 5-8.

Now, if you don't slack off during this workout you should be able to finish in about 25 to 30 minutes. If you work hard, the pain, I mean pump, should be intense and your muscles will be fatigued. With any luck you won't need another intense strength/muscle building workout for a couple of days. Besides, you're traveling. What are you still doing in the hotel room. Shower off and get outta here!

On a serious-ish note...

-Warm up, warm up, warm up.

-Don't do more than you can handle. If your form is not perfect, you can't handle. The muscles do not care what kind of resistance is ripping them apart, they'll injure just the same.

-Seriously, don't snap yourself in the face with your latex, it's just not cool. Oh, and although they make great slingshots, these are EXERCISE bands, so don't... hmmm, yeah I'm having trouble selling that one. I wonder how far I can shoot a guava with these things...

-Stretch, stretch, stretch. Tight, stiff muscles tear.

I do hope you get a good workout, I know my body is sore just from testing this stuff out as I write! Yeah! Now for that margarita...

Just does not get any simpler, or space efficient, than this. But don't let the pretty colors fool you.
Just does not get any simpler, or space efficient, than this. But don't let the pretty colors fool you.

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