For busy high school or college athletes, getting to the weight room for in-season or off-season workouts is essential for peak sports conditioning. What does the student-athlete do if the gym is closed? Or when academics, practices, or games interfere with scheduling in school workouts? Well, there’s a great Plan B:
- Buy some inexpensive portable and convenient resistance bands, and work out at home (or outdoors) before or after school or around sports activities.
- Purchase them either online or in the sporting goods section at a store.
- Depending on one’s strength level, buy three with differing resistances.
Examples: A light band with resistance up to 20 lbs., a moderately-heavy one (about 50 lbs. of resistance), and a heavier one (about 60 lbs. of resistance). To increase resistance as you get stronger, use the handles of two bands for each exercise (e.g., using the light and moderately-heavy bands combine for about 70 lbs. of resistance, while the moderately-heavy and heaviest bands together during an exercise total about 110 lbs. of resistance).
Full-body Band Exercises
Use the heaviest band for lower to medium number reps (e.g., 4-6), promoting strength and power; the moderately-heavy band for 8-12 reps boosts muscle size. And the light band for higher reps (15-20) for improving muscle endurance. Choose just four or five exercises per workout, so workouts are time efficient and completed within 30 minutes or less (including warm-up and cooldown).
Bonus: All the exercises are performed standing and are multi-joint movements (simultaneously engaging the lower and upper body muscles) – thus, more muscles are exercised at once rather than individually training them, resulting in briefer time-saving workouts. And core muscles (abdominal, back) stabilizing the body for twisting and turning and staying upright on the field, ice, or basketball court are also indirectly targeted. Lastly, strength and size gains and fat-burning are further enhanced when the lower and upper body muscles are involved during each exercise’s rep – for developing a fitter athlete!
- A light, moderately-heavy, and an ultra-heavy resistance band
- Water bottle
- A sturdy and immovable object such as a pole or stair railing (indoors), an outdoor tree trunk, park bench, overhead playground bar, or other fixed stationary object to secure the band for certain exercises.
- Do a dynamic upper and lower body warm-up (e.g., Arm Circles and Lunges).
- Perform band exercises with a good technique using a smooth motion for safety and optimizing muscle tension from beginning to end of each repetition. Use a safe, slow speed repetition tempo such as 4 seconds to start the exercise, pause 2 seconds, and count 2 seconds to return to the beginning position slowly. This safe repetition technique also places constant tension on the muscles to achieve those strength, size, power, and resistance goals. An example would be a Squat and Overhead Press: Standing with the band placed under your feet and holding the handles at shoulder level, slowly squat down in 4 seconds, pause 2 seconds, and press the bands overhead in 2 seconds, simultaneously rising from the squat position. Without resting, return to start position by descending again in 4 seconds, pausing 2 seconds at the bottom of the squat, then ascending while pressing the bands overhead in 2 seconds.
- Sets/Reps: Perform 3 sets per exercise. Using the heaviest resistance band, do 4-6 reps per set. Do 8-12 with the moderately-heavy band per set and 15-20 reps/set using the light band. Be creative! Do set 1 of each exercise with the heaviest band, set 2 with the moderately-heavy band, and set 3 with the light band. Or reverse the band resistance order from light to heavy for each successive set per exercise. Or use the same band resistance for every exercise during a particular workout.
- Rest 30-60 seconds between sets (hydrate if needed).
- Hydrate before, during, and after workouts.
- Finish with upper and lower-body cooldown stretches for a greater range of motion and flexibility.
- Work out on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.
- Select four or five exercises per workout and perform other ones on other training days for variety.
- Squats/Bent-Over Rows: Place a band beneath your feet while holding the handles in each hand with the arms extended at knee level; bend slightly forward at the waist with the knees slightly bent in an athletic stance (hips back, lower back inward, and not rounded). Slowly lower to a squat position while simultaneously smoothly pulling the band towards the waist, pause while squeezing your shoulder blades together, and slowly return to start position – excellent for pulling movements in sports and strengthening the legs, hips, back, and arms.
- Squats/Press-Outs: Wrap the band around a pole or tree at about chest height, and grasp both handles close to you at chest level and shoulder-width apart, and elbows back. In an athletic stance with the back of your body facing a few feet away from the pole or tree, slowly squat, pause, and then rise and simultaneously press the handles away from your chest, and slowly return to start and repeat—great lower and upper body combo movement for blocking in football or passing in basketball.
- Front Lunges/Flies: With the band around a fixed object, assume an athletic stance facing a few feet away with the object behind you. Hold the handles wide apart at chest level with your arms slightly bent. Lunge forward with the left foot and simultaneously bring the band handles together at the chest, pause, and slowly return to start. Repeat alternating the lunges with each foot. Another excellent lower/upper body combo exercise for tackling in football or holding a wrestling opponent, for example.
- Squats/Upright Rows: In an athletic stance and the band (or two bands for increasing resistance) placed under your feet, grasp the handles with the arms extended towards the knees. Slowly lower to a squat position, pause, and rise while pulling the band(s) up to chest level. Slowly return to the start position and repeat. This combo exercise effectively targets legs, hips, shoulders, upper back, arm, and core muscles.
- Side Lunges/Twist: Standing a few feet sideways facing left from the fixed object and the band securely wrapped, hold the handles with the arms extended about chest height. Lunge laterally with the left foot while rotating your body to the left with the band. Pause, and slowly return to the start position. Do a few reps lunging left, then turn around and facing right, lunge and twist with your right foot a few reps to finish the set. Repeat for the next two sets. Leg, hip, and core muscles are all involved, and the exercise mimics twisting and side lunge movements in sports such as lacrosse, field hockey, softball, and baseball.
- Single Arm Pulls/Single-Leg Squats: A terrific combo exercise for bettering balance and core stability and strengthening back, arm, and leg muscles, start by intertwining one end of a band handle with the other handle and fastening it around the pole, bar or tree. Facing a few feet towards the object and holding one handle with the right hand and right arm extended at chest level in front of you, stand on your left foot (knee slightly bent) and have your right foot off the ground, and the right knee bent behind you. Your free left hand and left arm should be extended at shoulder level on the left side of your body. Slowly lower your left leg to a squat position while simultaneously pulling the band just below chest level. Pause and return to start position. Do a few reps and then switch by standing on your right foot with the left foot off the ground, holding the band in your left hand, and squatting and pulling with your left hand.
- Lunges/Overhead Presses: Place your right foot slightly behind you and on top of the band. Position your left foot a few inches beyond your right foot (but alongside, not directly in front of your left foot). Holding both handles apart at shoulder level, lunge forward with your left foot while pressing the band overhead. Pause and slowly return to the start position. After a few reps, switch leg positions by placing the band beneath your left foot, and lunging forward with your right foot, and pressing overhead for a few reps. Wonderful for adding lower and upper body size, strength, and power.