Tag Archives: tabata

Working out with Resistance Bands

19 Feb

A bit about resistance bands

I’ve become a big fan of resistance tube/bands/straps/rings, and all of those other rubbery, stretchy items that are available as an alternative to weight for strength and resistance training. I  bought myself a small set of resistance bands a couple of years ago, and for me the biggest plus has been that they are very strong, light, can be packed into the tiniest space, and this makes them extremely portable, so that I can take them literally anywhere. Whether you’re on a long distance trip and need to squeeze in a late workout after the hotel gym has closed, or simply out away for a weekend and you don’t want to miss your scheduled workout, resistance bands are the ultimate in ultra compact and portable fitness equipment.

One of the things I like about resistance bands is that they are easy to use anywhere. If you have a door, a pole, a fence or a park bench nearby, you can easily secure your bands to a fixed point, or you can simply use the bands detached and use your feet, knees, arms or some other creative positioning to use the resistance material to get a good workout.

Something else that I like about resistance bands is that they can literally replace an entire set of dumbells, because they offer varying levels of resistance. The more you stretch the band, the more resistance it gives you. If you have the bands which can be clipped to handles you can increase resistance by adding more bands to your handles, and with any resistance material you can also double the resistance of any band simply by folding it in half if it is long enough. Literally any weight training exercise that you can think of can be done with a little creative thinking, positioning, and an appropriate resistance selection. If you don’t believe me, have a look at the following video:

Now before you think I’ve given them up entirely, I really do enjoy using free weights and I’ll often use dumbells and barbell in my workouts. I keep a small set of weights at home, however I’m a minimalist and I prefer to stick to bodyweight and light weight exercises, particularly while I am still rebuilding my fitness. I also like to set an example, and I don’t want to be the sort of trainer that tells his future clients that they need to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on expensive fitness equipment that will work just as well as a $50 weight set or a $30 dollar resistance band set.

One of the criticisms I have against resistance bands is that they can feel a little awkward to use when attempting certain compound movements, because the handles and/or the bands themselves can get in the way of certain natural body movements. My only other problem with bands is that you need a lot of little extras to make them really useful, such as anchors for doors, poles/trees and other places you might like to fix them to. These are really only minor problems though which are far outweighed by the versatility of the bands themselves. So while I will continue to use my free weights, I will also be using resistance bands to mix things up a little and ensure variety in my workouts.

My workout for today

For today’s workout, a did 3 sets of the following using 30 second intervals with 10 second rests between exercises:

  1. Left Leg Reverse Lunge + Row
  2. Right Leg Reverse Lunge + Row
  3. Forward Lunge + Chest Fly
  4. Arm Curl + Shoulder Press
  5. Resistance Squat
  6. Left Side Plank + Reverse Fly
  7. Right Side Plank + Reverse Fly
  8. Split Stance Tricep Extensions

This workout is a slight variation of a workout which inspired me to write this article, and which I found accidently on Youtube today while looking for something else:

What I really enjoyed about this workout is that it really gave my core a good going over, as well as getting me to do more lunges and squats which I don’t think I use enough. I also particularly like that nearly all of the movements are either compound movements, or combination movements. By the end of the workout, my heart rate was nicely elevated, I had a good sweat and body heat, and I could really feel the effect of each of the movements on my muscles. My only complaint today was that my shoulders are still feeling a little sore from a workout a couple of days ago, and I found that I had overestimated the amount of resistance I needed to use with the Arm Curl + Shoulder Press, so I dropped the resistance and then dropped the shoulder press so that I would not risk damaging my shoulder, which had a rotator tear a few years back and which still gives me occasional trouble.

Recovery

I always make sure to hydrate well after my workouts. today was no exception, and I drank about 600 ml shortly after my workout. I also did some light stretching and mobility exercises for about 10 minutes to make sure I don’t get too tightened up in the shoulders, knees and hip. I followed all of this up about 30 minutes later with a smoothie made from bananas, a couple of hard boiled eggs, a little salt, water, and a little honey and cocoa to give it a nice chocolatey flavour, and blended on high speed for about a minute. I had a good high protein meal a couple of hours later, which was a paleo pizza inspired by this recipe, and loaded up with good iron and amino acid rich meats and vegetables. Yum!

Today’s Workout

17 Feb

So this is how I chose to “punish” my body for today:

Tabata sequence:

  1. Flutter Kick
  2. Bicycle Crunch
  3. Plank Crawl
  4. Burpee
  5. Right Side Plank with Oblique Twist
  6. Left Side Plank with Oblique Twist
  7. Mountain Climber
  8. Press-up with Oblique Crunch

At your highest intensity, The bicycle, burpee and mountain climber will get you all nice and sweaty, while all of the other stuff will help to really shred your core. By the time you get to the last exercise in the sequence, you should be practically wasted and struggling to do what amounts to a 3-point press-up with an added kick to your obliques. If you’re a real glutton for punishment, try doing this twice at maximum intensity!

Weights/Resistance:

  1. Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press (8kg, 6kg, 4kg)
  2. Walking Lunge with Dumbbells (8kg, 6kg, 4kg)
    • I lunge down the corridor a few times, so it ends up being between 10 & 20 meters rather than to failure so that my knees don’t give out.
  3. “Plate” Raise with alternating twist (8kg, 6kg, 4kg)
    • I don’t have plates at the weights I want, so I raise a dumbbell instead.
  4. Kneeling Dumbbell Row (8kg, 6kg, 4kg)
  5. Lat Pull-down (Heavy Resistance Band)
    •  I treat the resistance band as if I am pulling on a cable with weight attached, so it’s done to failure also, and I can always double the band over or increase it’s stretch to add “weight” as needed.

With the exception of the lunges, I lift weights to failure in 3 sets, and I don’t bother counting the reps.

One of these days I’m going to need to remember to ask my wife to help me take some photos so I can show you what all of these exercises look like!

Working out using the Tabata Method

13 Feb

I have always been a believer in the benefits of Interval Training having found in the past that it proved to be a better way for me personally to improve my fitness over the shortest possible time. In recent years I modified that belief to embrace to concept of High Intensity Interval Training, and in the last few months I’ve become quite interested in the Tabata Method of HIIT in particular.

The Tabata method is named after Professor Izumi Tabata who along with his colleagues released a study in 1996 that involved olympic speed skaters who trained intensively for 4 minutes, 4 times per week, with an extra day of the more traditional “steady state” training. Tabata called this the IE1 protocol, and his research found that the the athletes who trained in this way were training so efficiently that they were getting the same results as compared to the control group who were doing all of their training in the more traditional manner.

So what’s the catch? Surely you can’t get a good workout in only 4 minutes? Well, it turns out that you can, but you have to really increase the intensity of your workout. So much so that instead of working to the 90% of VO2 Max that is expected during a hard workout, the Tabata method calls for 8 x 20 second intervals at 170% of VO2 Max. So you basically push as hard and as fast as you possibly can for the entire 20 second period… basically to the point where most people would be breathing so hard that they would want to vomit, and then you do it again 7 more times with an ever so generous 10 second “rest” in between sets!!!

That’s a seriously intense workout, no matter what exercises you choose to do. I have a few problems with the Tabata method however:

  • The study was done using olympic athletes, and not everyone can claim to be anywhere near as physically capable as a well trained athlete in peak condition.
  • It’s impossible to know if you are working at an intensity that is anywhere near the 170% mark of your own personal VO2 Max.
  • Not all exercises are created equal, and some movements and exercises can be dangerous if rushed.
  • Strain injuries are likely if the participant is not sufficiently warmed-up prior to a Tabata session.
  • The intensity required has the potential to induce respiratory and cardiac difficulties in people who are susceptible to such conditions.

Even with the problems, I think that the Tabata method is a complimentary training method when used as a part of a wider training regimen. It is great for anaerobic training which gives your fast-twitch muscle fibres a targeted workout, and which are the muscles involved in explosive speed and strength that consume large amounts of oxygen in a very short space of time. Another benefit of Tabata training is that it can increase your VO2 max, providing you with a greater capacity for oxygen uptake, allowing you to use your aerobic metabolism for longer.

Tabata is no replacement for aerobic exercise however, as the slow-twitch muscles are the ones which are made for slow and/or repetitive activity over a sustained period of time, so you will still need some form of aerobic exercise in order to build the stamina needed for activities which require endurance over strength.

Today’s Workout

For today, I decided to stick with the Tabata workouts. I chose 8 exercises which I could do safely either very quickly, or which I could do slowly yet loaded such that it would require greater effort even though I would end up doing only a few reps in the time available. I’ve also added a hip-flexor stretch and a thoracic mobility exercise to my warm-up routine to increase the overall safety of the workouts that I do. Oh yeah, and because I’m getting addicted to working out, I did this lot twice!!

Warm-up:

  • TVA Vacuum
  • Yoga Diaphragmatic Breathing
  • Joint Circles
  • Hip-Flexor Stretch
  • Thoracic Mobility Exercise
  • 100 Star Jumps

Tabata Sequence:

  1. Mountain Climbers
  2. Plank to Push-up
  3. Skater Jumps
  4. Push-up Jacks
  5. Tricep Dips
  6. Bicycle Crunch
  7. Hammer Curls (10kg Dumbells)
  8. Plank

Observations:

I did the first 6 exercises as hard and as fast as I could push myself, and by the end of the Bicycle Crunches I was feeling ready to quit. I pushed on however, but executed the Hammer Curls using a standard 1 second up and 4 seconds down pattern, because I’d rather lift weights with perfect form than rush it and injure myself. I chose 10kg weights because with the extra weight training I’ve been sneaking in lately, I felt yesterday that 7kg dumbells were starting to feel lighter than I imagined they would. So today I ended up lifting dumbell weights at a record weight for me. The plank seemed kind of a lame finisher when I wrote it down, but by the end of each sequence, I was glad to have that little breather. It wasn’t all easy though, because at least 5 of the exercises I did heavily engaged my core, and the lifts and dips didn’t let my core relax much either, so at the end of the plank my belly was starting to beg for mercy, especially at the end of the second sequence.

Working to the higher intensity was tougher than I imagined, and a couple of hours later and I was still sucking down water like a whale. It’s been about 4 hours now, and I have a lovely comfortable ache in all of my muscles which tells me that I had a pretty good workout, so I’m really pleased with how the workout was balanced, and how well I committed myself to it.

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