Travel Strong with Jump Stretch Bands

October 28, 2003 11:08 AM

During those times when we're forced to be on the road, away from family and friends, it often proves boring to endure the long hours in a hotel or motel. In my case, I like to make the time productive with a good, hard workout. Of course, I can't very well cart along my spar-pro or pack a few hundred pounds of weights! But for travel you really can't beat those heavy-duty rubber flex bands which I keep harping about. They weigh next to nothing, fold easily to jam into any size suitcase, and can supply the most rugged total body workout that anyone can desire.

Recently the good folks at www.jumpstretch.com came out with an extra heavy-duty version of their smallest 1/2" bands by making them twice as thick. They call these "monster minis", yielding about 40# tension at full stretch, with about 80# when doubled. For travel these narrow bands of rubber take up very little packing space, yet 5 of them can supply 200-400# of resistance! I believe John Kary and myself had some of the very first pairs of these available, and they've been staples in our workouts ever since.

Recently I had ample opportunity to specialize just with these monsters, as a rather nasty thigh injury and subsequent operation left me restricted to just my living room couch. Just as in a hotel room, there simply wasn't too much space which I could traverse, nor was I even permitted to exercise other than seated or lying down. Yet the new thick bands provided a super workout, and I actually found myself at the end of a month stronger through the chest, shoulders, arms, and even my one good leg! So from this forced exile, I believe I can offer a series of exercises that any of our traveling members may benefit from!

Starting at the top, I usually begin with 2 of the mini monster bands looped once around each hand, extending the arms overhead. I pull down and out to the sides in what is called a lat pulldown to work those major muscles of the upper back. After this warmup of 8-10 speedy reps, I advance to 3, then 4, and sometimes 5 bands in speedy sets of 4. Concentrate on speed of the pulldown to develop power.

Keep the bands wrapped in the same manner around the hands for the next exercise, the back press. With bands behind the back at shoulder level, press straight out to the sides. Since the same resistance and progression is used here as in the pulldown, I usually alternate the 2 exercises with each group of cables, performing the pressouts immediately after a set of lat pulls.

In the early stages of my leg recuperation I wasn't permitted to bend the leg and did a lot of just lying flat, which gave me a reason to simulate a bench press with the bands. By placing the monsters behind my back I found a speedy straight push to lockout actually gave my pecs and triceps better work than weights had previously done! In fact, because I concentrated on speed and focused on how many bands I could handle for 4 reps, when I finally returned to a barbell I was stronger than ever! Eventually I discovered this move was even more comfortable while sitting up.

I looped bands around my neck, stood on the other end with my good foot and began seated good mornings. That is, with a bent over torso I sat upright to thoroughly work the important lower back muscles. Eventually I did these standing, which, of course, was much better and more efficient. Speedy sets of 4 were still used, although caution is advised since this is a leverage exercise and can place big stress on even those strong spinal erectors.

A high pull can effectively work the delts, the trapezius, and the biceps. Just step on one end of the bands, grab the other end with one or both hands and pull to chin level, or as high as possible. A hold at the top magnifies the overall effect of this exercise.

Since I had one good thigh I looped the mini monster band around that foot and did one leg presses. I found it best to hold both ends of the bands at my waist, pressing from the middle, effectively doubling the resistance. Later I also used this to rehab my healing leg, though with a lot less resistance. Obviously if you are in a hotel room with 2 good legs, work both very hard with concentrated, fast pressing.

My final exercise, and one now very important to rehab, is the seated or lying calf raise. Just loop the bands around the foot up near the toes, and extend the toes downward to flex the calf muscle. Hold at the extended position for more thorough muscle work. Just be careful if it's been a long hard day; a tired calf will cramp painfully if you really nail this movement!

So use your spare time wisely and keep the ole bod ready with this efficient total body workout. I guarantee that any hotel stay will be more fun than my recent sojourn on our couch.

John McKean won multiple local, state, national powerlifting titles, masters Olympic lifting national titles, and national and world all-round titles during the past 40 years. He has written extensively for all major strength magazines starting with Strength & Health under John Grimek and was featured in Dr. Len Schwartz' famous book Heavyhands Walking. A certified instructor in Flex Band training and American Combatives, Mr. McKean offers his consulting services at memck487@aol.com.