2017-08-11 / Health & Wellness

Don’t be a rope-a-dope, get in shape with resistance training

COMMENTARY /// Fitness today When it comes to exercise, straps and bands stretch the imagination
By Karen Robiscoe
Special to the Acorn

You don’t have to be a boxer to be on the ropes. Or even in bad shape. In fact, knowing the ropes is one of the most versatile ways to get in good shape.

The sheer variety of ropes, cables and bands designed to promote strength and stability makes braiding them into your fitness regime a loop you’ll want to repeat again and again.

Take TRX straps. Short for “total body resistance exercise,” these heavy-duty nylon straps are a form of suspension training that rely on gravity and body weight to perform hundreds of exercises.

With adjustable foot cradles, and comfort-grip rubber handles, the two straps help develop strength, balance, flexibility and, above all, core stability.

Portable and multi-functional, most gyms carry them, but all you really need to turn any area into a TRX training ground is a set of straps and a strong base around which to secure them.

Your body is the free weight that must be moved in a controlled motion, whether performing chest presses, bicep curls, crunches and elevated push-ups, or squats, lunges, hamstring curls and glute bridges. You can even do planks. It all depends whether you use the handles or foot cradles.

Cable-motion strength equipment is another great option requiring your muscles work to stabilize your body as you exercise. Unlike fixed devices, when you use free-motion cable machines, your body is forced to be that support.

Standard lower-body exercises such as squats, lunges, dead-lifts and step-ups are more challenging with the addition of a cable pull. The horizontal force the cable exerts on your body forces you to counter it to maintain your center of gravity, demanding core muscles stabilize and strengthen to keep you upright.

The same is true of upper-body work. Be it cable-assisted flies, chest or shoulder presses, your core and stance have everything to do with proper execution. And results. Like the purposeful imbalance of the TRX system, this helps you tone up as much as 50 percent faster than folks working on stationary machines.

Battling ropes are no doubt part of your gym’s arsenal of equipment as well, and when used properly, these heavy ropes push you into the fat-burning zone within minutes, building stamina, strength and muscle definition with each rope slam.

Used commonly as a finisher to bump up metabolism and keep it revving for hours after a workout, their benefits rival interval training and even burpees when it comes to putting you in that elusive, flab-metabolizing zone.

With many ways to use them, including double waves, alternating wave lunge jumps and bent-over rear shoulder flies, you’ll find your heart rate keeps time with the effort the heavy ropes involve.

Rope pull machines are another great tool for building upper body strength. You get all the benefits of rope climbing without any of the risk, such as rope-burns. The muscles you tone are functional in day to day tasks, too.

A great aerobic conditioner, standing lat pulls are a breeze with this self-contained “never-ending” rope, as are seated pull-downs, dead lifts and standing abdominal crunches. And novices can master the straightforward instructions found near most machines in a well-equipped gym.

But you don’t have to go to a gym to enjoy the rewards of a good rope workout. Using hand-held resistance bands with optional door attachment features, you can tone your arms and upper body in the privacy of your own home.

And don’t forget the jump rope, which you can use just about anywhere. This conditioning exercise can pump up the heart rate immediately. As I say, if you think you’re in great shape from training on an elliptical, try running, and if you think you’re in great shape from running, jump rope.

There’s always another level of physical excellence to strive toward, and knowing the ropes— cables and straps—will help you do just that.

Karen Robiscoe is a certified fitness trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Email her at iscribe@cox.net or visit www.charronschatter.com.

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