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How to keep fit with resistance bands

Personal trainer Njahira Gathara Kipowski
Personal trainer Njahira Gathara Kipowski during the interview. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA  

To most people, staying fit requires enrolling in a gym and sticking to a workout programme, which often involves exercises like lifting dumb bells and/or running on treadmills.

However, the complexity of a work-out does not always translate to more health benefits. Exercise routines can be simple and still result in immense body benefits. One such simple, yet productive, work-out is the use of resistance bands.

“The number of exercises one can do using a resistance band is unlimited,” says Ms Gathara-Kipowski, a fitness coach in Nairobi.
“Besides, most major supermarkets and sporting stores stock them so they are readily available, with prices starting from Sh2,500 a piece.”

Ms Gathara-Kipowski also notes that using the bands does not require specialised training “as long as the user understands the process involved and takes care not to injure themselves.”

“The bands are usually of varying stretchiness (resistance), and you use these depending on your fitness (strength) and flexibility levels,” she says.

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“They are also light weight (compared to traditional weights) and provide resistance to build strength, or muscle. They can be used creatively to improve flexibility as well as in cardio drills. In addition, they are easy to store and carry for anyone who plans to work out while travelling,” she adds.

Before starting to exercise using a resistance-band, it is important to know that there are a number of different types to pick from.

Resistance bands are made of rubber and come in the form of flat bands, loops or tubes.

“All these are available in the market, you just have to know what you want and where to get it,” says Gathara-Kipowski.

Flat bands are mainly used for rehabilitation of injuries, while loop bands are mainly for training of the leg, hip and gluteus muscles.

There are a number of resistance bands shaped in the form of tubes but the fit tube and clip-tube are the most commonly used. Resistance bands can be used to achieve full body work-outs, the main aim being to strengthen muscles and improve posture.

“They can be used to train various muscles using such moves as the front squat, lateral band walk, bent-over row and the lateral raise, among others,” she says.

Back exercises like the bent-over row, seated row and the pull apart using the resistance band will, for instance, help to strengthen the back. A strong spine lowers chances of back pains while helping to maintain an upright posture.

“Bands can be used to work the whole body. How you use them is what will determine your level of success,” she says.

Buyers can decipher the strength of a resistance band by its colour. Therefore, when purchasing one from the supermarket or sports shop, be informed that black bands have the strongest resistance, while yellow ones are the lightest, and commonly used by people rehabilitating injuries.

Beginners should go for green-coloured bands because they have a manageable tension. Blue and red bands are recommended for fitter people.

Like any other serious exercise regime, always include a warm-up phase before you start using a resistance band and a cool-down session after the session. Avoid rushing through the work-out session.

“A session can be short – even just 10 minutes – or as long as one hour. It depends on what you want to achieve in the work-out and the amount of time you have. But remember, all exercise benefits are cumulative, so even short bursts of exercise are better than none at all and gradually give the same results as long ones.”

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