You’re on vacation but want to stay fit—or maybe you’re a fulltime Airstreamer on the go without a gym membership. Try this 10-minute, 10-exercise, total body workout; it’s elegantly simple, and has zero impact on your rig’s weight and storage.
The secret ingredient? An inexpensive, no-weight resistance band—perfect for travel, and so versatile, “you can work almost all the muscle groups,” said Dave Adamson (@tuffoldjock), an ACE Certified Personal Trainer who specializes in fitness for senior athletes. At his Cascade Boomer Fitness facility, fiftysomething (and older) participants swing kettlebells, punch heavy bags, wrestle battle ropes, and jump through obstacle courses to a soundtrack of favorites by The Who, The Ventures, and Pharrell Williams. Occasionally the class includes a challenging (and sweaty) session using nothing more than these thin strips of latex.
“It’s real exercise.” said Adamson. “The resistance you get from this builds real strength, and you build real muscle, in a way that a machine can’t. Not if you’re after hypertrophy (wanting to build big muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger), but in terms of the functional strength that you need to live your life, bands work.” Adamson’s training focuses on muscles and movements that are useful in the real world, outside the gym.
Band exercises result in fewer injuries, as well. “Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback, does a lot of work with bands,” said Adamson. “He steers clear of the weight room for the most part now. Bands keeps him tight and toned.”
“The other thing that’s really nice is you get a lot of different angles you can’t get using gym equipment,” he said. “Band exercises put all the ligaments and tendons under a really nice kind of tension that can be hard to get with free weights or a machine.”
Low tech yet highly effective, exercise bands are available at any sporting goods store. There are many brands and the resistance level is not standardized, but the “stiffness” is usually color-coded: light, medium, and hard. “When you select a band you shouldn’t pick the hardest one,” said Adamson. “It’s more important to have correct form first. Bands are cheap, and it’s better to learn how to do the exercise right, then get a stronger band later if you think you need one.”
Penny pinchers, know that you can make any band exercise harder by shortening your grip on it—his and hers bands aren’t necessary—and keep an eye out at fitness fairs and other community health events: they’re often a freebie giveaway. You only need one, and it crumples into a tiny wad for storage, “not even bigger than a golf ball,” said Adamson.
Ready to work out?
Grab your band—no extra equipment needed—and find a scenic site outdoors, or simply stand inside your Airstream. Do ten repetitions of the following ten exercises. (“Start there and then see if you can work gradually up to fifteen,” advised Adamson. “Then see if you can get to two sets of fifteen. You’ll be pretty well honed by that time, and going to get pretty tired.”) Always keep the band under a little tension—never slack or loose.
1. Bicep curl
“Biceps are important,” explained Adamson. “You use them to hold your groceries, and lift up kids.” Step on the center of the band, with your foot out in front. Hold the band in each fist. Take it straight up, and hold for a moment. (Choke up on the band to make it pull harder.)
2. Tricep (elbow extension)
Hold the band in both hands behind you, like you’re scrubbing your back with a washrag. Raise your fist straight up over your head. Keep the band tight to ensure that the muscle gets worked when it stretches as well as when it contracts. Switch arms and repeat. (Make sure to get bilateral exercise. Adamason suggests always starting on the side that correlates to your political affiliation—right or left—so you won’t lose track.)
3. Overhead press
Circle the band around your back, under your armpit. Use both hands to stretch it straight out and up. This movement builds your “lats and the deltoids, the ones you need when putting your carry on luggage into the overhead compartment on an airplane,” or reaching up into the storage above your gaucho.
4. Upright row
Step on the band like you’re preparing for a bicep curl, but this time, pull both arms straight up to your chin, elbows out. Don’t lift your elbows higher than your shoulders.
5. Reverse fly
Hold the band, taut, in front of you, arms outstretched. Move your arms out to the side, into a “T”. Repeat. This one builds back strength.
6. Side arm raises
This time, step on the center of the band, and bring your arms up to a “T”. Be aware: you’re not as strong in this direction. “Don’t worry about getting all the way up to your shoulders,” said Adamson. “If you get about half way, that’s good.”
7. Side pull
“Now, these oblique muscles are strong,” said Adamson, “so double the band over.” Fold the band in half, step on it with one foot, stand up straight, then lean over to the other side. Don’t pull with your shoulder. “Stay straight, and strong,” said Adamson. “If it’s too easy, shorten the band so it’s harder.” Switch sides.
8. Shoulder pull
To work another strong muscle group, again double the band. “Your shoulder is strong, with multiple muscles,” said Adamson. “You’re not using just a single muscle.” Step out forward; secure the band with your foot. Relax. With a slight bend in your elbow—the movement comes out of your shoulder, not the elbow—pull the band straight back.
9. Hay baler
Think of shoveling, starting lawn mower, or throwing something heavy up and over your back. Step on the band, arms down, a little bent. Twist up and over to the opposite side.
10. Squat and arm raise
“This is a good old fashioned squat,” said Adamson. With both feet on the band, shoulder width apart, sit down on an imaginary chair. Keep your knees over your toes, and a grip on the band. Raise your arms as you squat. “This will be challenging,” said Adamson. “You’re using the big muscles in your legs plus the muscles in your shoulders.”
Ten exercises, ten minutes, three times a week—“that’s plenty,” assures Adamson, and you’ll know when you’re doing it right. “Expect to be sore the first time,” he said.