Work(out) From Home is a weekly column where we review smart fitness machines and apps in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Thanks to technology, there are still plenty of ways to exercise if your gym is closed.
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I knew that working out last week was going to be the ultimate struggle when my period cramps woke me up at 5 a.m. on a Monday. But, despite the blinding pain, I also knew I had to squeeze in some type of a workout — for both my sanity and the purpose of keeping this column humming along.
Given the fact that my uterus was truly out to kill me, I decided to opt for a less intense exercise that would still work the muscles. So, I reached for my handy dandy resistance bands.
If you’re unfamiliar with their benefits, resistance bands help to not only tone the muscles, but also build strength.
They’re also super cost-effective and compact — two things many of us may be looking for during this pandemic. Depending on the set, they can range from anywhere between $25 to $60. And when you’re done working out with them, you can easily hide them away in a drawer or throw them in your closet.
As an added bonus, you can also travel with them! You know, for whenever that becomes a thing again.
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many apps to choose from if you’re looking for one strictly focused on resistance band training. But I did manage to find a very simple one with a straightforward name: Resistance Band Exercises. While there is a free version of the app, you’ll have to pay $4.99 if you want access to all of the workout programs and an ad-free experience.
The app walks you through a variety of moves intended to target different areas, like your chest and arms, back and shoulders, as well as arms and abs. You also have the ability to choose your level of difficulty, so it offers plenty of options regardless of your skill level.
For those of you on lockdown that don’t want to spend a lot of money on workout equipment but still want to feel the burn, this app coupled with low-cost resistance bands makes for a great budget-friendly choice.
Navigating the app
Overall, Resistance Band Exercises is a pretty simple to use app.
On the “Start” tab, you’ll find the total amount of minutes, calories, and workouts you’ve logged so far. Scroll past these metrics and that’s where you’re able to browse through the various workouts (grouped by target areas).
You also have access to all of the different programs that it offers: “Beginners,” “Easy Exercises,” “Butt Thighs and Legs,” Full Body,” and “Arms and Abs.” Each one is 30 days long, so you’ll have a different workout everyday.
The main advantage to this is that it offers more variety — technically 30 different workouts — as compared to repeating the same ones each time under the workout tab.
There are also dedicated tabs for workouts and programs, so you can tap on either one depending on what it is you’re looking for.
The “More” tab is where you can manage your purchases and workout settings, like the option to turn on music and vibration alerts (to signal pose/workout changes).
Whether you choose from one of the workouts or the programs, both versions offer the same experience.
Once you decide, you can increase or decrease your level of difficulty. If you’re unsure, the app shows you a preview of the moves for each level. So, you’ll know exactly what you’re in for based on the exercises.
Up top, you can also see the duration of the workout and the projected amount of calories you might burn during it.
Additionally, you have the option to set how long you want to rest between exercises. You can set it anywhere from five seconds or all the way up to 70 seconds.
I had mine set to 15 seconds, which gave me just enough time to recover and switch to the left or right side as needed.
Once you hit “Start,” you’ll see a countdown for each exercise, a visual of exactly how to do each move, and the title of the move. At the bottom, it also shows you what number exercise move you’re on (and the total number of reps you’ll be doing) along with a pause button in case you need to take a break.
While I was familiar with a lot of the moves, I would’ve preferred an animated demo instead of just two static instructional photos. Sometimes it was a little confusing (and took a little effort) to figure out whether I was doing the exercises correctly.
It’s also important to note that since I only had a pack of loop resistance bands, I wasn’t able to do all of the exercise moves. Some of them require using bands that come with handles for a more comfortable grip.
So, I stuck to the exercises that were labeled “Mini Band” which only required the loop bands. In that case, I was limited to the “Arms and Abs” and “Butt, Thigh, and Legs” sections.
But if you’re going to use this as your main form of exercise, it’s worth opting for a multi-pack of bands which come with both loops and handles. That way, you’re not limited to specific exercises.
Regardless, the workouts were definitely enough to make me “feel the burn.” Given my situation, I stuck to the easiest level of difficulty, but the app still had me doing moves like side-lying leg lifts, fire hydrants, underarm rows, biceps curls, and more. And seeing as how there are various levels of difficulty available, that leaves plenty of other workouts for me to attempt.
When I initially went into this, I thought I’d end each workout feeling slightly accomplished. But there were moments where I truly had to close my eyes and breathe through it hoping the workout would be over soon. These workouts are actually a lot more demanding than I thought they’d be.
An underrated workout
Since I’ve always had the gym at my disposal, I’ve never really felt the need to invest in a good set of resistance bands. But quarantine has made me realize that they’re certainly a great way to target and tone certain muscles that I tend to neglect otherwise.
Compared to actual machines like the Peloton Bike and NordicTrack RW900 rower, which cost thousands of dollars each, it’s refreshing to recommend a piece of equipment and an app that come to a combined total of under $100.
The Resistance Band Exercises app is convenient and reliable when you need to squeeze a workout in. If you plan on using this as your primary form of exercise, the I’d definitely recommend opting for the paid version of the app.
Since there aren’t any new workouts added to the app on a weekly basis, however, you might get bored a little quickly. But with the addition of the 30-day programs, you’ll be set for at least five months.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with repeating any of the workouts either. After all, no one is keeping that close of an eye on your exercise routines in quarantine.