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A few years ago, we thought nothing could beat machines to strengthen and tone muscles. Then we realized that with a set of dumbbells, barbell, and a few plates—the old school way—we could get ripped, stronger, and improve sports performance.

Today, that colorful tubing that hangs on gym walls is the “new” muscle builder. Still, men often think it is best suited for “girls” while women believe they are for stretching and nothing else.

Who’s right? None of them.

Let’s begin by ditching the idea that exercise equipments are gender specific. Men will not automatically get bigger nor will women prevent the “bulky” belief based solely on their exercise equipment of choice. (Hormones, exercise type of training, diet, among other factors determine how “big or small” you can get.) The tubing, as any other exercise device, provides different resistance. However, they do force the muscle contraction to work differently than free weights.

Tubing versus Free Weights

When you do a dumbbells bicep curls, or any free weights exercise, you begin with high resistance and end with low resistance. However, when doing the same exercise with the tubing, the effect is the opposite—you begin with low resistance and end with high resistance. And the more you stretch the tubing, the greater the resistance.

Is this good or bad? Neither. Tubing exercises are not in the fitness game to substitute what machines and free weights provide. Each exercise equipment is important to add to your overall program to keep challenging your body and avoid the worst workout enemy: the “routine” of doing the same exercises over and over, which will slow and even stop your progress.

Indeed, tubing exercises teach you how to control the weigh downward, which is an important part of muscle contraction. Many people just throw the weigh down when they finish a rep and lose the benefits of lengthening the muscle in a controlled manner, which teaches the muscle to decelerate the external load and aids in injury prevention. Most muscular injuries occur when resisting any external force whether in sports or lowering a box from atop a shelf.

Proven Muscle Benefits

To get stronger and take full advantage of a resistance training workout, you need to engage the muscle fibers while maintaining sufficient time under tension. This stimulates the metabolic pathways that can boost muscle mass and maximize caloric expenditure—increase muscle building growth hormone, testosterone, and IGF, among others.

Up to now, many people believe nothing beats old-fashion free weights to produce the best results. Nevertheless, a study in which elastic tubing—3 sets of 15 reps—was compared to heavy loading—3 to 5 reps—showed that a high level of muscle activity could be reached with a medium load using the tubing. “Strengthening exercises performed with elastic tubing seem to be an efficient resistance exercise and feasible and practical alternative to traditional resistance equipment,” concludes the study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Whole Body Tubing Workout

The secret to a tubing workout is to keep a fast pace and engage several muscles at the same time. You should move from one exercise to another with minimal rest. Here is a simple routine to get you going. Perform 15 reps each and repeat the circuit three times. If you are a beginner, do the circuit once or twice at first. If you are intermediate or advanced, you can perform this workout by itself or add it at the end of your upper and/or lower strength workout to induce a higher muscle fatigue. Also, do not perform on back-to-back days and leave at least one day for recovery.

 

Squat to Upper Row: Extend your arms straight out. Perform a squat while bringing the arms at 90 degree, shoulder level (do not shrug the shoulders). Focus on the posterior part of the shoulders and upper trapezius.

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Single Leg Squat to Fly: Begin from a lunge position with the arms slightly bent at shoulder height. If you bend too much at the elbows, you will lower the resistance and end emphasizing more of the biceps than the chest muscles. Next, bring the arms together as you raise your body. Keep doing this for the number of reps. Switch legs and repeat.

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Cross Over Upper Back Abduction: cross the arms so the right forearm rests on the left. Extend both arms in front of you at shoulder height. Keep your legs shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Bring your arms out to the side without bending them, and avoid shrugging the shoulders – look at the position of the hands- . Focus on squeezing the muscles around the scapula together. Switch arm positions for the next set.

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Band Pull-Over to Crunch on Ball: With your arms fully extended, bring them down using the chest muscles and upper back. Lift the upper body slightly to squeeze the chest muscles and abdominals.

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