Five great exercises using the resistance bands you can find in your local Gym Pod
Resistance bands must be the cheapest, least bulky, simplest and easiest-to-use tool for sculpting your body and developing the muscle and bone strength you need for a robust, healthy frame.
Many people come across them for the first time in rehabilitation, when coming back from an injury. But their ease of adaption to focus on such a wide variety of injuries means that many people stick with them long after they’ve made a full recovery. They’re great for building up strength or for the high-rep, low-resistance exercises designed to develop toned muscles rather than bulk.
Rather than being a confusing piece of equipment (like many things we see in modern-day gyms), they’re actually pretty simple to use. There are two types of bands, one that is a closed loop, and the other which is an open strand that can be grasped at both ends. With a big range of sizes and resistance levels, there’s such a variety of exercises to target all muscle groups, that sometimes, for some workouts, only resistance bands will do.
The sheer variety of exercises that can be achieved with resistance bands tests the boundary of infinity, so here are just five that are not only great routines but are also pretty hard to achieve with other equipment:
By stepping into the band with both feet, you can pull the band up to just above your knees. Now get into a semi-squat position, with your butt sticking out and your arms extended forward for balance. Like a crab, take 5 strides to the left, followed by 5 to the right and repeat for three sets. This is great for the upper thighs, targeting the outer areas. It is otherwise a tough area to target and as a result you might feel some stiffness the next day that you haven’t felt before – a good sign that you’ve worked your body well. You can also add this band position to regular squats, creating that lateral resistance as you work your vertical movement. Wherever you feel fatigue, that’s where you’re getting the best workout. Try varying the position of the band slightly each time, to shock your body into working the areas that aren’t used to being activated.
Hamstrings are a difficult area to strengthen but your resistance bands can be a great help. These articles have already pointed out how useful deadlifts can be but the bands can focus the movement and target knee stability at the same time. Place the band under your left foot and pull the other end up to your waist and stand up straight. Now, standing just on that left leg, bend that left knee slightly as you lean forward from the waist. At the same time, allow your right leg to extend backwards to counter balance the movement. Slow movements to begin with as this is something of a balancing act, which really helps with those knee stabilisation exercises. Switch legs and repeat. You should feel it in the hamstring and the next day that stiffness will be your body thanking you for a great workout.
Another great exercise for the hamstrings that is almost impossible to simulate with any other equipment, comes from placing the band just above your knees as in 1. above. This time lie on your back and bring your heels up towards your butt, about 30 cm away. With your palms facing downwards on the mat either side of your torso, push down and lift your butt off the ground so that your body forms a rigid straight line between your knees and your shoulder blades. Using the band for resistance, part your knees for a couple of seconds, then bring them back towards each other and steadily lower your torso down to the mat. Take it easy, if you’re not used to this one, you might get some cramping in your hamstrings. Try without the band first so that you get used to the movement.
How about those triceps, i.e. the muscles on the outside of your arms that flex when you straighten them? With a light-resistance band (it’ll have to stretch a long way this time), wear it like a sash, over your right shoulder. Then pull the band downwards so that you can step on it with your left foot, with your right leg behind your body, forming a steady base. Now pull the band up above your head and bend both arms so that your hands touch your shoulders, keeping your elbows pointing to the ceiling. Straighten your arms, feeling that resistance in the back of those arms and then bring them back to your shoulders. It’s a very isolating exercise, so take it easy and make sure you’re using a nice loose band to get used to the movement before you progress.
Finally, with an open band, you can generate a great lateral raise that might normally be achieved with dumb bells. Slip the centre of the band under your feet, and slightly bend your knees, sticking out your butt to support your back. With one end of the band in each hand, pull upwards from your sides to shoulder height, keeping your arms pretty straight. This is great for the shoulders and for the lats, those big muscles down each side of your back otherwise known as the latissimus dorsi. Once you feel you’ve mastered this and dominated the resistance, you can switch up to a light dumb bell and recreate the same movement.
Always take great care. Remember the elastic properties of the equipment you’re using and guard against releasing the band when taught, so that it doesn’t smack you in the face.
Go safely and begin steadily.