I was recently contacted by the lovely folks at AquaGear Swim Shop about reviewing some of their equipment. Even though I'm not huge into water sports (simply because I live in NYC and that's just not in the cards for me on a regular basis), I decided to check out the site and find out what they were all about.
It turns out they're a family owned business and while a lot of stores out there claim to have great customer service, I was really impressed that when I went to the site during the day, a little chat window popped up with someone asking if I needed assistance with anything in the online shop. I think that's pretty cool that they have live customer service available for a web store. I don't think I've ever seen that as an automatic option when selecting a product unless I actively went to a customer service page and looked for it. When I accepted the chat invite, I was quickly connected to a sales associate who was happy to help me with any questions I had about products.
The store was founded by Joanne Bullock who is apparently an aquatic personal trainer amongst other things and the store really reflects that angle. There are lots of items that you would expect to see from your average swim shop (like goggles, swimsuits, and swim caps) but there are also some really great training accessories like waterproof mp3 players, weights, and jogging belts as well as training DVDs and manuals. It's easy to search for a specific item or use the categories on the sidebar of the site to find what you want and hey, if you don't find it that way, you can always use the live chat feature to get advice!
I ended up choosing my item to review based on the fact that I needed something I could use out of the water. I've been adding some strength workouts into my routine and buying a set of weights can be really expensive and heavy, plus I don't know where I would store them in my starving artist's apartment. My mom has had some success with resistance bands and when I saw some on the site I immediately jumped at the opportunity to review them.
They had two kinds; the Speedo Aqua Fit 360 Stretch Bands which can be interchanged with a bunch of different pieces for different purposes or the All Pro Resistance Bands which come in two versions (extra heavy tension and medium). For the sake of being basic and not having to deal with attachments, I chose to get the extra heavy All Pro Resistance Bands.
Ordering was easy and AquaGear saves your information for later use so you don't have to re-enter your shipping and billing address. However, they don't save your credit card info. That's actually something I like because I feel like it's really easy for someone to hack your password to things and then buy anything they want in that situation. Maybe I'm just paranoid but I don't mind the extra step of entering my payment info if it's going to ensure a little safety against identity theft.
By the time I got back from my week of vacation in North Carolina, my shipment had arrived and I was ready to resist all the bands!
I was actually surprised at how effective they were at adding weight. I'd been pretty ghetto about the "rows" in my strength circuit. I was using heavy pots and pans or filling bags with books and lifting them so it was nice to have something with a firm grip that acted like a weight because I feel like they position of your hand when lifting can actually change some of the muscles that you use to perform the action. When I was using bags of books, my hand and/or wrist would often feel sore afterwards and I didn't experience that with the All Pro bands.
It also has an adjustable foot pad that you can slide up and down the band to stand on and shorten them for different positions. They were really easy to incorporate into my routine and gave me a lot of different options for upper body exercises without needing multiple pieces of equipment. Again, when space is an issue in your apartment, that's a pretty winning factor. They also come with a mesh storage bag so you can keep them together and out of the way when you're done (which is nice if you have a tendency to trip over things like me!).
One thing I'd like to know that the bands don't seem to offer on the packaging and that AquaGear doesn't offer in the store description for the item is the exact difference between the two sets of All Pro bands that they offer. Obviously one is medium and one is heavy, but how much weight is the resistance mimicing? I have no frame of reference for how much weight I'm moving. The other con for resistance bands is that they don't change their resistance, but with free weights you can always change them out for a heavier one. That's hardly the product's fault, though. It's really just something to keep in mind when trying to choose between weights and bands.
All in all, I'm really excited to continue using these bad boys and to see how I can use them to spice up my strength circuits! I was definitely able to get a more effective set of upper body exercises into today's workout and over time I think this is really going to improve my upper body strength. If there's anyone out there who has experience with resistance bands, I'd love to hear your advice on exercises in the comments!