(MERCY HEALTH PARTNERS) - Resistant exercise bands are a great and inexpensive piece of exercise equipment that will help tone muscle and improve muscle flexibility without stressing joints. Exercise bands are very useful to anyone who is just beginning an exercise program or help get your current workout to get past a plateau. Adding exercise bands to an existing workout program can help improve speed, endurance and strength. Resistant exercise bands are ideal for people who want to build strength without exerting too much effort in carrying heavy weights. They are versatile and effective for every fitness level and a nice feature is they pack very easy for an on the road program. Here are a couple of my favorite resistant band exercises:

• Chest press - Wrap the band around something stable behind you. Hold the ends in your hands, palms facing out. Squeeze your chest and arms out in front of you. Return to the starting position. Repeat for 16 repetitions.
• Rear Delt Row - Wrap the band around a stable object, stand facing it. Holding the resistant band ends, arms out in front and palms down. Pull the elbows back, squeezing the shoulder blades and keeping the arms parallel to the floor. Repeat 16 times.
• One Arm Lateral Raise - Sit with one end of the resistant band under your foot and the other end in one hand. Keeping the elbow slightly bent and fixed, lift your arm out to the side to shoulder level. Repeat 16 times.
• Overhead Press - Place both feet on the band and grasp the ends with your hands. Bring hands up just over your shoulders with elbows bent and palms in. Press arms up overhead and then lower back to starting position. Repeat 16 times.
• Bicep Curl - Place both feet on the band and grasp the ends with your hands. Bend the elbows and curl hands up towards the shoulders. Lower to the starting position and repeat 16 times.

With the versatility of the resistant exercise bands you can turn almost any free weight exercise into one using a band. Give it a try and experience the improvement in your workout program.