You'll find many pieces of exercise equipment in a typical weight room. Some are great. Others are not the best use of your time. In this series, we show you some of our favorite exercises using equipment we believe can improve your sports performance. In this article, we cover resistance bands.
Resistance bands can be found in nearly every weight room. Some facilities display the bands prominently so athletes can take advantage of their benefits. Others...well, not so much. Bands are often hidden in a dark corner of the gym or clumped up in a crate.
And that's a travesty! Resistance bands are one of the most versatile pieces of gym equipment. You can build serious strength with bands, while also increasing your flexibility and mobility.
Resistance bands come in many shapes and sizes. Some are a single strand with handles on the ends. Others form a loop (often referred to as super bands). And bands come in different thicknesses—the thicker the band, the more resistance it provides. This is often indicated by the color of the band, which varies from brand to brand.
Below are five ways you can use resistance bands to improve your workouts.
Use resistance bands in your warm-up to activate muscle groups and increase your range of motion—two critical aspects of effectively preparing for a workout.
- Benefits: Walking laterally against resistance activates your lateral glutes—you'll feel a burn there immediately. This increases lateral explosiveness and protects your knees from injury.
- Benefits: Engages your back muscles, which serve as the foundation for your shoulders.
- Benefits: Increases mobility in your upper back and shoulders, which is critical before performing any overhead exercises with heavier weight. It also activates your lower-body muscles.
You can perform many exercises with just a resistance band and still get a great workout. Bands allow you challenge your muscles through their full range of motion, because as the band shortens, it gets more difficult to move (more on this below). Plus, bands travel well. You can toss them in your gym bad and bring them anywhere.
- Benefits: Builds lower-body strength, targeting your glutes and quads.
- Benefits: Develops a strong posterior chain—your glutes, hamstrings and lower back—which facilitates a powerful sprinting stride.
- Benefits: Increases the difficulty of Push-Up, allowing advanced athletes to keep building strength with the basic move.
- Benefits: Decreases the difficulty of a Pull-Up, allowing beginner athletes to build back strength and work up to traditional Pull-Ups.
Resisted Plank Row
- Benefits: Increase core stability and back strength.
As stated above, resistance bands challenge your muscles through their full range of motion. As you lengthen the band during an exercise, the tension increases, which makes the move more difficult to perform. This is called accommodating resistance, because the variable tension of the band challenges your muscles at both their weakest and strongest points.
However, instead of performing resistance band exercises, you can add bands to traditional barbell lifts. In each of the three lifts below, the resistance is greatest at the top of the movement.
- Benefits: Increases lower-body strength.
- Benefits: Builds upper-body pressing strength, focusing on your chest and shoulders.
- Benefits: Develops the muscles on the backside of your body, such as your glutes and hamstrings, which help you sprint faster.
Add resistance bands to your speed work for an additional challenge. With a band around your waist and a partner holding the band, it's possible to resist your movements like a Sled Pull.
- Benefits: Increases stride power and slows down the sprint, allowing you to focus on technique.
Resisted Lateral Shuffle
- Benefits: Increases lateral power and strengthens your hip muscles, which are important for multi-directional quickness.
- Benefits: Improves backward movement and will light your quads on fire.
Resistance band stretches are maybe not the coolest thing you can do with them. But stretching is important after a workout, and resistance bands allow for a fantastic stretch through the following four areas.
Band Hamstring Stretch
Band Calf Stretch
Band Hip Stretch
Band Chest Stretch
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