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The 15-Minute Strength-Training Workout

Let's get the bad news out of the way first. If you aspire to become Mr. or Ms. Olympia (or even runner-up), 15 minutes of strength training is not enough. Now the good news: A well-conceived quarter hour worth of lifting could help you maintain or even gain strength. (Just for the record: 15 minutes is plenty of time to do a thorough abdominal and lower back routine.) We'll show you several different strategies for using that limited time – using everything from calisthenics to rubber bands to resistance provided by a workout partner.

In addition, for those of you who don't have time to get to the gym but can dedicate a few minutes each day to lifting, we'll lay out a routine that you can do with just a set of dumbbells and a weight bench in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Band on the Run
In the physical therapist's office they're called TheraBands; in the "toning" class at the gym they're DynaBands; or you can just go by the generic name of resistance bands. Whatever you call them, resistance bands are basically a lot like rubber bands on steroids. And while the name may sound like a subversive group of terrorists, the variety we're talking about are giant rubber bands that comprise a color-coded progressive resistance system. Included are accessories such as exercise handles and door anchors to make the exercises more versatile. These accessories enable you to work out with the bands with greater stability.

Pros of resistance bands:

  • Easy to pack
  • Variable resistance
  • Can be used for a variety of exercises
  • Safe
Cons of resistance bands:
  • The resistance is not constant throughout the full range of motion (ROM).
  • While there are some good exercises to do for the smaller body parts like shoulders and arms, there are not many effective exercises to do for larger body parts like your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
  • There is a limit to their shelf life; the more you use them, the more worn they get, leading to breaks in the band.
The trick to using resistance bands is to use a band with the right amount of resistance, and to have some tension on the band as you start the exercise. Having the proper tension helps you to gain strength at the beginning of the range of motion. If you want to get fancy use more than one resistance band at a time. Doubling up can make an exercise particularly challenging even if you're already strong.

Here are several exercises you can do with resistance bands:

Seated leg press: Sit on a step or bench with your knee bent. Wrap the resistance band around one foot, and grasp both ends in each hand. Keep your toes pointed slightly downward. Slowly straighten your leg (don't lock your knee). Slowly return to the starting position.

Seated rows: Sit on the floor and wrap the resistance band around the balls of both feet. With elbows bent, pull your arms back while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly return to the starting position.

Chest press: Wrap the resistance band around your back. Grip the band ends with both hands and press your arms forward. Slowly return to the starting position.

Lateral raises: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and place one end of the resistance band under your foot as you hold the other end in your hand. Slowly raise your arm out to the side until you reach shoulder height. Slowly return to the starting position.

Front raises: Same starting position. Slowly raise your arm upward until you reach shoulder height. Slowly return to the starting position.

Biceps curls: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and place one end of the resistance band under your foot as you hold the other end in your hand. Slowly curl your arm by bending your elbow toward your shoulder. Slowly return to the starting position.

Triceps extensions: Place a towel around your neck. Place the resistance band along the towel. Grip both ends in each hand so that your elbows are close to your body as you slowly straighten your arms. Make sure to keep your wrists straight. Slowly return to the starting position.

Here's an efficient 15-minute workout that you can do with resistance bands. Try to find a band that will allow you to do between 12 and 15 good repetitions. For the abdominal exercises (where you can't easily adjust the resistance as you would with a band or a weight), that number may vary. Still, don't worry about trying to do a million reps. If you focus on good form, you'll be pressing to do more than 15 or so reps.

Next: Crunches >>

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Short Workouts © 2001 by Deidre Johnson-Cane, Jonathan Cane, and Joe Glickman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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