At EFT Personal Training, we bring the gym to our client’s home, so they don’t need to buy equipment. We’ve used everything from old school (i.e. jump rope) to the most cutting-edge equipment (i.e. TRX suspension trainer). But we have found that one of the most popular pieces of equipment among our clients is simple tubing.
Just like high fashion clothing, fitness equipment seems to be in style, out of style, then back in style again. Consumers often choose fitness equipment for one or more of these reasons:
- The most expensive / perceived highest quality
- Bargain sale prices
- What they think will best fit in the limited space of their apartment (especially here in NYC)
- New and trendy items
But fitness equipment is different from other consumer purchases. When someone shops for a laptop or iPad, they’re buying it because they want to have a computer. But people don’t buy treadmills because they want to own a treadmill; they buy a treadmill because they want to lose weight! They want the results, not the product. If anything, most people view old pieces of fitness equipment as dust collectors or eye sores. Given this, doesn’t it make sense to get equipment that takes up little to no space, doesn’t require a moving truck to be given to a friend/thrown away, and that you can take if you move to a new apartment?
Tubing has been around for decades, starting out as a physical therapy tool, and then migrating to the fitness industry. At EFT Personal Training, when we introduced our clients to tubing, we expected them to see it as just another old-fashioned tool, like dumbbells or barbells. Instead, we got comments like, “I can’t believe that something that fits in my purse works as many muscle groups as 6 or 7 different huge machines at the gym,” and “I’ve used this $25 piece of tubing more than I ever used the $3,000 treadmill I gave away years ago.”
So what does tubing actually do? Bands and tubing are just giant rubber bands: the harder you pull, the more resistance they give you. They’re designed to withstand hundreds of pounds of pressure, and are extremely safe when anchored correctly. If you are using a door anchor, make sure the door opens away from you. That way, the harder you pull on the tubing, the tighter the door closes, and the safer the situation.
How you use tubing depends on your goals. One of my clients was a marathoner and triathlete in her early 30s. She had outstanding strength & endurance in her legs, but had very little upper body strength. She also had a far better single leg balance on one side than on the other. For endurance athletes, the goal is to be strong but light. So instead of traditional weight machines, we used tubing to help her build arm, chest, and upper back strength without bulking up. We also used tubing in single-leg strength and balance drills to begin to correct her asymmetry, which reduced the stress on her joints while running. Another client in her late 50s came to me following physical therapy for a broken vertebra; she also presented with osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis. She had a couple years of strength training experience with weights. She had gotten the green light for gentle resistance training from her physical therapist, but wasn’t ready to get back to weights yet. We used tubing for months to help her regain arm and leg strength, as well as spinal stability. She is now able to lift more weight than before her injury, and can do so safely and pain-free. Continuing to lift is very important for her, to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
At EFT Personal Training, since we bring all our own gear, clients don’t have to buy tubing for themselves for home use. However, we’ve had some clients buy tubing for their friends, or buy it for themselves to take with them on vacation. (Full disclosure: we do get small commissions when people buy tubing through the affiliate links on our website.)
With dozens of brands on the market, how do you choose the right tubing for you?
If your goal is general fitness, strength, or weight loss, the JC Travel Band
is the most durable we’ve found. Famed strength coach and personal trainer JC Santana watched in frustration as other brands of tubing were used, abused, and demolished by his NFL players, elite boxers, and martial artists. So he decided to invent his own line of nearly-indestructible tubing products. Of course, even the strongest bands need to be kept away from scissors or other sharp objects that could nick them, and should be stored away from direct sunlight that can make them prematurely dry out and crack. The door anchor is sewn into the product, making it even safer than the already-reliable tubing where you attach a separate anchor. The short length of the tubes makes it easy to exercise in even the most cramped NYC apartment.
If you are extremely tall or broad shouldered, try the longer version of the same product, called the JC All-Purpose Band
. To really work the hips and glutes, also pick up a mini-band
. The ones from Perform Better seem to hold up best, but any brand will work. Our clients rave that this gem, which usually goes for $5 or less, did more to lift and firm their backside than any gym machine they have ever used. If you are buying tubing for post-rehab, opt for the Gray Cook Band
, invented by nationally recognized physical therapist Gray Cook. You will still be able to use them for strength training even when you are done with post-rehab.
Here are some simple tubing exercises you can do at home, in your office, or in the park. Although as you can see in the photos, these moves are even more fun with a partner, you can do them just as well by yourself. If you're working out alone, be sure to safely anchor the tubing at chest height for all these exercises.
- Low Row: stand facing the anchor. Pull straight back, until your elbows are behind your body and your hands are even with your chest. This focus of this exercise is the lat, not the biceps, so don’t think about pulling your hands back. Instead, imagine pulling back with the elbows, and the hands will come back automatically. Low Row video
- Chest Press: stand facing away from the anchor. Press your hands forward until the elbows are straight, then bend your elbows to return your hands to the sides of your chest. It looks like a pushup, but standing up. Chest Press video
- Standing Twist: stand with your side facing the anchor. Hold your arms out in front of you with straight elbows. Twist 2-3 inches away from the anchor, then twist back 2-3 inches toward the anchor. If the resistance is easy enough that you could twist 6 or 8 inches, you need to walk both feet farther away from the anchor before continuing the exercise. Or you can just step away from the anchor and hold still, which will work your abs and obliques just as hard. Twist video
Tubing isn’t new, hip, or trendy, but it does get results…and we think that’s pretty cool.
Lisa Snow is a personal trainer and boot camp instructor with EFT Personal Training LLC. She is certified by ACE, NSCA-CPT, FMS, and TRX Sports Medicine, and is a graduate of New York University and the National Personal Training Institute. EFT Personal Training has weekly boot camp classes that use tubing, called Jump Ropes & Bands.