#FrugalCongressLife Resource Spotlight: Resistance Bands – The Portable Gym

[DISCLOSURE: At the time of writing I am not affiliated with Bodylastics or Blake Kassel nor have I been hired to promote any of their products. At the time of writing I am not affiliated with not have been hired to promote any of the other companies or services mentioned in this article.

Any exercise program or regimen carries with it an inherent risk of injury. Consult a doctor before beginning any physical exercise program or regimen.

Read and follow any and all safety instructions on any exercise product that you purchase for your use especially weights or resistance bands.

All advice presented in this article is presented as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

Happy National Physical Fitness and Sports Month! As many dancers know, physical fitness is very important for both leads and follows, not only for looking one’s best, but also for avoiding injury, successfully executing the more athletic and dynamic moves present in certain dances, and increasing one’s overall longevity as a dancer. For the month of May, which has been recognized as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month since 1983, #FrugalCongressLife will be doing a special three-part Resource Spotlight series on resources to help dancers work out and maintain physical fitness on the road.

As anyone who travels and is into fitness is well aware, hotel gyms vary wildly in terms of equipment and quality. I’ve seen hotel gyms that are as good as or better than any commercial gym, and hotel gyms that are literally just one treadmill and a handful of small dumbbells going up to 20 pounds. Of course, many hotels, particularly the budget hotels, do not even have gyms to begin with. The latter two scenarios present a challenge to the fitness-minded traveling dancer who couldn’t get all their workouts in during the week or whose specific workout regimen demands working out 6+ days a week and now needs to carve out an hour to work out at the congress.

I will be discussing a few different solutions in this series, the first of which are resistance bands. Resistance bands are bands made of durable latex that provide resistance similar to, but not exactly the same as, that of a free weight for muscle-building resistance exercises.

A variety of different free-weight resistance training exercises such as curls, chest presses, and lateral raises can be duplicated using resistance bands. Additionally, the durable anchors that come with many of the higher end brands of resistance bands allow them to be anchored to doors or other objects, allowing many cable-machine exercises such as cable rows, crossovers, and tricep pushdowns to be replicated with resistance bands as well. Generally different colored bands in a given set have different thickness and therefore different levels of resistance, measured in pounds. Pulling or pushing a band rated at 20 pounds of resistance, for example is about the same as lifting a 17 pound free weight.

Resistance bands are very compact, have a very low footprint, and are effectively a portable gym that can be packed in even the tightest of Spirit Airlines bags effortlessly, depending of course on how many you bring with you and what attachments.

The gold standard for resistance bands that I have used before and personally recommend is Bodylastics, a dedicated manufacturer of resistance bands started by bodybuilder Blake Kassel in 1994. Bodylastics bands are stackable, meaning they have carabiner clips attached to the end of each band that attach to durable handles included in most resistance band packages, meaning different bands at a variety of different resistance levels can be combined to create even more resistance.

A full list of Bodylastics’ different resistance band packages can be found here and several different programs of resistance band exercises can be found here.  The 404-pound “Super Human Strength” package may be overkill for those just starting out, but one of the four smaller sets, priced from $28.95 to $68.95 and ranging from 96 to 202 pounds of total stackable resistance, should be more than enough for most people and should pack right into your luggage easily.  

Each package comes with two different anchors for anchoring your bands to solid objects for cable-style exercises.  The door anchor threads through a door to stay in place once its closed allowing you to loop the band through the anchor.  Be warned that some of the more fragile doors out there can be broken by attaching heavy resistance bands to it by an anchor and pulling.  If you are in a hotel room by yourself, your hotel door should be durable enough to withstand this, but note that it completely ties up the door allowing no one in or out, so probably not the best choice if you have roommates.  Your best choice in this case is to use the Anywhere Anchor, tie it to a light pole or other SOLID grounded object that can withstand a lot of heavy pulling outside, and attach your bands. 

Resistance bands are best used in conjunction with bodyweight exercises in a workout program.  Band-resisted pushups are very good chest exercises in this capacity.  A set of flat resistance bands such as those offered by The X Bands is recommended for band-resisted pushups, as they stay in place more easily than the Bodylastics bands in this exercise. 

I have used resistance bands as a form of resistance training while traveling, to rehabilitate injuries, and also while recovering from injury as a way of easing back into free-weight training. My personal verdict is that they do not replace free weights, but are an acceptable substitute in a pinch, and working out with them is better than not working out at all.

It seems like I am shilling for Bodylastics, but I am not – I find them to be objectively the highest-quality and most versatile resistance band system on the market today.

Of course, some of the most important exercises for any dancer can be done without weights or bands. The next part of this series will discuss various smartphone apps for stretching and core exercises – be on the lookout!

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