Muscle Conditioning with Resistance Bands
Flexible bands have a benefit as they’re light and portable and come in many resistances. You can work lots of muscles with these bands, legs, arms, abdominal muscles pretty much all of them. You can also easily use them for a session in the office or on the road. As we’ve mentioned, short bursts of exercise throughout the day does make a difference. Here are three quick and simple ways to utilise these bands.
Grip the flex band loosely. Maintain straight wrists. Avoid wrapping the band around your hand. To increase the resistance, hold it closer to the middle. To lower the resistance, hold it closer to the ends. Stand up straight and draw your abdominals in. The basic breathing pattern for all exercises is inhale to prepare and exhale to lift.
Biceps curls and core power
Stand on the middle of the band with one end holding each hand. Standing tall, lift the band up slowly, and then slowly lower it down. Do 10 reps. Pause and repeat twice.
Side stretch and strength.
Stand on one end of the band with your right heel. Grasp the other end of the band with your right hand. The band should be taught as you lift it straight up, shoulder down (not up toward your ears). Side bend slowly to the left and slowly return to centre. Exhale as you bend to the side. Do five reps and then repeat on the other side.
Upper back opener and tricep strengthener
Hold the band behind your back, palms facing away from you, hands close together. Roll your shoulders back. Keep your arms straight and pull the band down and apart while slightly arching the upper back. Do five reps. Pause and repeat. This exercise is excellent for relieving stress from computer work!
Balance-building exercises are particularly important as we grow older. We require balance for lots of daily activities. If you live in a cold area with ice and snow, good balance will prevent you from slipping. And in the unfortunate event that you do fall, a strong core will help minimize injury.
There lots of fun ways to work on your balance. As with muscle conditioning, you can just use your own body (stand on one leg, for instance) or you try one of the many inexpensive gadgets on the market or at your gym. These include:
- Wobble boards
- Rotating disks
- Rocker-bottom walking shoes
Importance of Low-Impact Aerobics
Further to conditioning muscles and improving your balance, activities which increase your heart rate will also keep your back in tip-top shape. How? To stay in good condition, your spine and intervertebral discs require good blood flow. Aerobic activity promote blood flow throughout your body. The increased heart rate helps spread the natural endorphins your body releases in response to exercise.
To get the most out of your aerobic exercises, aim for a minimum of 3 weekly sessions of 30 minutes. How do you know whether you’re at the right heart rate? Generally, if you can talk but can’t sing, you’re doing it right. Here are some low-impact aerobic options:
- Power walk
- Elliptical machine
- Nonimpact dance
Supplementing your sport of choice with exercises which stretch and strengthen often-used muscles is a clever way to lower the injury risk and improve your performance. For instance, golfers would do well to add exercises which increase the flexibility and strength of spinal rotator muscles; dancers need flexible and strong legs, feet, and abdominal muscles; and swimmers require strong and flexible shoulders.
Get on the Ball
With these large, inflatable balls, you can get some aerobic exercise in addition to core conditioning. To increase your heart rate, simply bounce on the ball. It’s good fun. Ensure you keep your spine supported by engaging your abdominal muscles. Always be in control during your bounce. You are bouncing the ball; the ball isn’t bouncing you! While you are bouncing, you will also need to balance (if you weren’t balancing, you’d fall off). Here are some other back-benefiting ways to use an inflatable ball.
Kneeling core challenge
Kneel in front of the ball and put your elbows on top of it. Slowly press down, keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears. Slightly pull your tailbone under and lean forward into the ball but don’t let your torso touch the ball. Do not arch your back! This exercise works all your abdominal muscles as well as your shoulders.
Supported back bend
Lie backward on the ball with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Support your head with your hands; allow your upper back to arch back a little. The further back you go, the deeper the stretch. This will help open your chest and shoulders, which will commonly get tight from sitting.
Forward bend release
Start in a kneeling position; place your body over the ball, allowing your spine to mimic the shape of the ball. This is an excellent way to relax and open the back of the spine. You are flexing the back, which is a good thing to do unless you have a herniated disc that is causing you problems.
Stretch It Out with a Foam Roller
The foam roller is a great device to have on hand. You can use it for various exercises. Some increase strength and balance; others increase flexibility. Here are two feels-so-good positions to try.
Chest and shoulder opener
Lie down on the roller with your arms in the goal-post position. To relax most efficiently, you will want your hands to touch the floor. If your chest and shoulders are too tight to reach the floor, you should place pillows underneath your hands. Remain in the position for a minute or more. Breathe smoothly and gently. This position relaxes muscles which tighten from sitting.
Lower back and hip release
Position the roller beneath your sacrum, the triangular-shaped bone at the bottom of your spine. There are many nerve endings at this point, so it might be a little tender, in a hurts-so-good kind of way. It should not cause pain. You can just hold the position shown here. For a greater hip stretch, draw one leg in towards you and the other one straight out. Hold the position for about a minute, and then swap legs. The position stretches tight hip muscles, a common cause of lower back pain.