I’m always on the lookout for different bits of gear I can use to help me out in my workouts, and one of the best bits of equipment which are often overlooked are resistance bands.
I use resistance bands in both upper and lower body workouts, I use them to warm up, to help with my form and to add a bit of extra resistance in some exercises. You can get resistance bands in different lengths and levels of resistance. In this article I’ve used the lightest form of resistance bands (2-16kg), you can get these from almost anywhere and they are pretty inexpensive. Depending on what you want to use the band for will help you decide what kind of band to get. Before I bought my own resistance bands, I would use the free ones that were hanging around my gym, usually they’re just a bit of latex tubing but if I tied one to make a loop they would still do the job.
When I perform resistance band bodyweight squats I wrap the resistance band around my calves, usually twice, and squat as I normally would. This added resistance helps to activate your hip extensor muscles and increase overall lower body stability – helping to rectify a common squat form problem; caving knees. The smaller resistance bands would be good to use for this warm up because you can wrap it around your thighs, just above your knee. A popular tool for this would be the Slingshot Hip Circle, which is great for lower body exercises where the glutes are required but often underutilised.
I also like to perform lateral side steps with a resistance band. This exercise is great for activating the hip abductor muscles. This is especially useful for me as I have had a hip flexor injury in the past and anything which aids in glute activation means there’s less strain placed on my hip flexors. Again, you can use a resistance band around your calves or just above your knee to perform this.
Resistance bands aren’t just good for lower body warm ups, but for upper body too. Before every single upper body workout, I use my resistance band looped around the squat rack or the TRX frame to perform face pulls. This warm up is great for activating your rear delts and the external rotators of the shoulder. Warming up the rotator cuffs is essential if you want to avoid upper body injuries and face pulls themselves can strengthen your bench dramatically if they are currently underdeveloped.
Help Activate Muscles
You can also use resistance bands to add resistance to some less exciting exercises, like the leg press. Using a resistance band wrapped above your knees can help make sure you’re performing the leg press correctly by forcing you to apply external rotation of the hip joint, resulting in the knees maintaining an outward tracking plane of movement. Again, this is going to assist in overall leg development and ensure adequate recruitment of the hamstrings & glutes, as opposed to the quads overcompensating due to poor knee/hip alignment.
I’ve recently started using resistance bands to improve my form with my main lifts too. A reoccurring problem for me when I’m squatting is the issue of my knees caving inwards when the weight gets heavy. I discovered the trick of using resistance bands attached to the squat rack and wrapped around the top of my knees a few weeks ago and it’s already fixed my problem.
It may look confusing but all it does is remind me to keep the resistance band taut by making sure my knees are pointed outwards during the entire lift.
These are some of my favourite ways to use resistance bands in my workouts but there’s lots of other ways to get them to benefit yours too. For example, heavier resistance bands are extremely useful when wanting to improve your pull ups by providing assistance and for applying accommodating resistance to exercises such as the bench press (for greater tricep development/engagement). There’s lots of information out there on how to use resistance bands to reach your goals, all it takes is some researching.