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When you're away from home, you're away from your normal routine too. Whether it's a holiday, a family visit or a business trip, most of us don't have the space in the car to take a home gym setup with us. Even allegedly fully-mobile training systems like the TRX might get you a few funny looks in your brother's house or when you visit your grandma. No, what's needed is a setup that lets you train the same way you normally train, without having to carry heavy equipment or lose time looking for a gym in a place where you're only staying for a week or just a few days.
Exercise bands basically come in two flavors: soft and hard. Soft bands cost anywhere from $2 to about $10 or $10 and offer anything up to about 15 or 20 pounds' resistance. They're really for less strength-intensive training, so they're good for rehab or flexibility training. Hard bands can cost up to $80 or so and come in resistances that can top 200 pounds. These are popular with Crossfitters and powerlifters who want to alter the type of resistance they encounter. Crossfitters often use them to allow someone to get the feel for a bodyweight exercise like a pull-up or a muscle up that they're not really strong enough to do yet, while powerlifters use them to train for bar speed and allow for resistance across the whole of a movement. For example, when you perform a deadliest, you're in a more mechanically advantageous position at the top of the lift, so you're subjectively experiencing less downward force from the bar. Add chains or bands and the force increases as you lift, stressing you throughout the movement.
So Much For What Others Want Bands For: What Do We Want Them For?
Bands offer three huge advantages: They're versatile, portable and cheap. What, $80 cheap? Yes, for a system that will allow you to do a range of basic exercises with virtually no modifications, that will fit in your pants pocket and that requires no set-up or maintenance.
How versatile are they? Enough that you can basically do the same movements you would in the weight room with your band. That means you can get a bare-bones session anywhere: hotel room, relative's spare room, wherever.
For the purposes of this article I'm going to assume that you know how to warm up without any cardio equipment and that you build your training around basic barbell moves. There are other ways, of course, but if you're a bodyweight buff or an advanced yogi you hardly need advice from me on how to make those all-but-equipmentless training methods portable. I'm also assuming that you have no preexisting issues apart from the slightly iffy thoracic spine and underpowered hip and upper back external rotation that most of us share since we began sitting down for a living.