Ask Trainer Jake: Resistance Bands
I want to incorporate resistance band training into my workout but I’m not sure how. Can you suggest a few exercises I can start with?
Resistance bands are the most simple, versatile, and cheap tools to use for a workout almost anywhere you can think! There are a few different sizes, and they vary from a relatively easy stretch to a more difficult resistance. To really get a good full body workout, you are likely going to need a few different strengths. Resistance bands come in many colors which help tell how strong they are. It’s always nice to have the easiest, least resistant band for warming the muscles up and making sure whatever movement you are doing is possible. We don’t want to buy the heaviest, sturdiest band only to realize it is impossible to use.
Before we start, I’d like to educate you on any workout program. Assuming you want a full body workout, you should consider learning how the body works. In simple terms, we have a push motion, a pull motion, and then various leg exercises. The push motion is going to work your chest, triceps, and front deltoids (front part of the shoulder). The pull motion is going to work your biceps, back, and rear deltoids (back part of the shoulder). Leg motions will include the squat and lunge. This is only basic information for the time being. Something to help wrap your mind around the exercises I will show you.
Let’s start with the push! For this, you may use a short or long band. You are going to hook it up around something sturdy at chest height, wrapping it so it will not come undone. The possibility of it slipping and giving you a smack could be embarrassing and will probably hurt, and the guy sitting with the video player in the corner will most definitely put it on YouTube. Let’s assume we are using the long band. Standing in front of the attached band, grab the end you are going to use and get into the athletic stance (knees slightly bent, back straight, and tightened core). With your hand clasped around the handle, push the band and increase the tension. If it is too easy, take a step forward. If it is too hard, take a step back. Remember, the band should not get caught on your body/clothes, nor should it be pulling your arm to the side, further than the starting point. Repeat the movement for 10-15 reps.
On to the pull! Turn yourself around and grab that handle. Instead of pushing the band, you will now pull the band so that your elbow aligns with your torso. If it goes past your torso, you are putting unnecessary strain on your rotator cuff. If you don’t pull far enough, you aren’t working your muscles through their full range of motion. Where your elbow goes will determine which muscles you are working. You can pull your elbow straight into your side, at a 45 degree angle, or at a 90 degree angle with your body. Go ahead and try each out and see if you can’t feel the difference. Again, your rep range should be between 10-15.
The squat is a useful, yet difficult movement if you’ve never done it before. If I have a client who is unfamiliar with the movement, I have them wrap the middle of the band around something sturdy and use both hands as they bend down into the squat. This allows the body to stay upright and is easier to stay on the heels of your feet (necessary for a squat). Lower your body so that the top of your thighs are parallel to the floor or close to it. If your squat is good and you want a challenge, try stepping on the middle of the band and bring your hands (holding the handles at equal distance) up to your sides, palms facing up. The added resistance will simulate weight being forced down on you, therefore making the movement a little more difficult.
The lunge is similar to the squat. For beginners, hold the two ends in front of you and place one foot far enough back so that when you lower yourself down and your knee gets close to the floor, your knee aligns with your hips, shoulders, and head. Remember to keep your body straight up and down to ensure the correct muscles are being worked. To help yourself, use a mirror or record yourself doing the movement. If you’ve got the lunge down, it’s time to step it up a notch. Just like the squat, you are going to place your front foot in the middle of the band and hold the two handles palms up on the side of your body (try to hold at shoulder height). Step back with the opposite foot and repeat the movement 10-15 times.
I hope this helps and you continue to experiment with the resistance bands. They are a great way to start a new routine and get your body moving!