Stretch Cord Exercises

Stretch Cord

Stretch cords, which are also commonly referred to as resistance bands, can be a substitute for weights in strength-training workouts. When the cords stretch, the tension increases, providing the resistance that your muscles have to overcome. Stretch cords are extremely portable, which means you can easily store them at home or bring them with you when you travel. The cords, which are available in a variety of thicknesses and can be manipulated to increase resistance, can be used to build strength and tone in muscles throughout your upper body, lower body and core.

Building Strength With Stretch Cords
Schedule your stretch-cord strength workouts two to three days per week, giving your muscles a day off between workouts for recovery. Begin each workout with a 10-minute dynamic warm-up, consisting of light jogging, arm circles, arm hugs, walking lunges and bodyweight squats. Perform two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions of every exercise. In order for your workout to build strength, use a stretch cord that provides the right amount of resistance. You should be able to do 12 reps but no more than 15.

Using Stretch Cords
Stretch cords often feature handles on their ends that can be gripped by your hands or looped around your feet. They also may come with door attachments, which allow you to attach the end or middle of the cord to the top of a door or to a doorknob. These cords can also be attached to other stable objects, like heavy pieces of furniture. Cords come in a variety of thicknesses, which directly correlates to how much resistance they provide. The thicker the cord, the more resistance and the harder your muscles have to work. You can also increase tension on the cord by choking up on the cord, which means moving your hands either closer together or closer to where the band is attached.

Upper-Body Exercises
Stretch cords can target all the major muscles in the upper body, which include the pectoralis major, deltoids, latissimus dorsi, biceps brachi and triceps brachii. Target your pectoralis major, deltoids and triceps brachii with stretch-cord chest presses. Attach one end of the cord to a stable object that’s set to the height of your shoulders. With your back to the stable object, hold the free end of the cord at your shoulder with one hand and with your palm facing down. Push the handle straight out in front of you until your arm is fully extended and parallel to the floor. Control your hand back to your shoulder. Switch arms when you’re finished with the set. To work your latissimus dorsi and biceps brachi, perform stretch-cord rows. Attach one end of the cord to a doorknob. Face the doorknob and grab the other end of the cord with one hand. Begin with your arm fully extended out in front of you. Engage your latissimus dorsi and biceps brachii to flex and drive your elbow back. Pull the handle along the side of your torso as if you were rowing. Straighten your arm to return the handle back to the starting position for one rep. Finish the set and then switch arms.

Other upper-body stretch-cord exercises you can include in your workout are shoulder presses, which work your deltoids and triceps brachii; biceps curls, which isolate your biceps brachii; and triceps extensions, which target your triceps brachii.

Lower-Body Exercises
The major muscles in your lower body include your gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings and gastrocnemius. You can work all of these muscles by performing resisted squats and resisted stationary lunges.

For resisted squats, hold the ends of the cord in your hands with your arms down by your sides. The center of the cord should rest on the floor. Place your feet atop the cord and set them to shoulder-width apart. Lift the cord’s handles to your shoulders with your elbows positioned directly underneath your hands. Maintain the position of your hands as you push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor; then, extend both your hips and knees against the resistance of the cord to return to a standing position. To perform stationary lunges, place your feet in a split stance with both feet pointed forward. Hold the ends of the cord in your hands and place the center of the cord underneath your front foot. Bring your hands up to your shoulders with your elbows positioned directly underneath your hands. Maintain this hand position as you bend your knees, lowering your back knee toward the floor. Stop the back knee just short of touching the ground and then extend your lead knee to rise back up and complete one rep. Do all reps on one leg and then switch leg position for the next set.

Other lower-body stretch-cord exercises to add to your workout are leg extensions, which work your quadriceps, and leg curls, which strengthen your hamstrings.

Core Exercises
Work your rectus abdominis and obliques by performing crunches with the stretch cord. Attach one end of the cord to a low stable object. Lie on your back on the floor so that your head is positioned closest to where the cord is attached and your feet are positioned furthest away. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Hold the free end of the cord with both hands. Extend your arms toward your knees. Roll your shoulders forward for a crunch, bringing your hands to your knees, and then lower your shoulders back to the floor. To place greater emphasis on your obliques, twist to your left as you roll your shoulders forward, lifting your hands toward your left knee before lowering your shoulders back down. Crunch and twist to the other direction on the next rep. Other stretch-cord exercises that work your core are resisted reverse crunches and wood chops.