Getting on the resistance band wagon
You may have seen people at the gym working out with colourful stretchy tubes or circular ribbons that you weren’t quite sure how to use – well those are resistance bands, and not only are they easy to use, we’ll tell you exactly what you can do with them.
“Resistance bands are a tool that allows you to practise strength training, which is a form of exercise that improves muscle size and endurance,” says Amber Nash, founder of Fit Healthy Best.
There are two main types – thin circular bands you can simply hold and stretch or slip over your ankles, thighs, wrists, etc. and longer ones that are essentially a rubber tube with handles on either end.
“I absolutely love resistance bands of all shapes and sizes,” says Ali Greenman, founder of Final Straw Fitness.
She recommends buying a set that comes with both types of bands and an assortment of resistance levels.
“It’s important to get different levels of resistance bands so you can practise a concept called ‘progressive overload,’” says Nash. “This means you are continually increasing the resistance against your muscles, so they change, adapt, and grow. If you’re not aiming to increase the level of resistance (or the number of sets or reps you perform), then you are not going to see as much change in your body.”
Nash notes that resistance bands are an ideal exercise tool because they are very inexpensive. “You can get an entire set of long bands under 30 bucks these days.”
“The long bands with handles can be used to target all body parts for a complete full body workout – think shoulder presses, bicep curls, squats, lunges, etc. The short bands are great for accessory leg work like working the glutes, which is becoming increasingly popular these days,” she says.
Nash adds that resistance bands are great for all skill levels, and because they are sold in varying resistance levels, they are a great choice for beginner exercisers who may be turned off by heavy weights.
“I recommend that everyone have a set for their home gym or just in their personal library of fitness equipment,” says Nash. “If you travel, you can simply throw them in your carry-on and get a great workout on the go.”
Greenman says you can do just about any exercise you would do with dumbbells or cable machines with tube bands (the longer ones with handles on the ends).
Here, she shares a few of her all-time favourite resistance band exercises.
Arm Chest Press: “Attach the tube band to a sturdy pole or close it in a door frame just above shoulder height. Grab one end, and walk out, facing away from the anchor point. When there is adequate tension, get set to press! Standing with the leg of the pressing hand a little bit back and your other leg a little forward, lean in and press the handle straight out from your shoulder like you are punching something in front of you, then bring it back in towards your shoulder. If you have enough tension on the band, and do your presses slowly with control, you will be getting a total body workout because every muscle has to stabilize against the band pulling you backwards.”
(Greenman recommends 12-15 reps per arm.)
Band Chops: “Set up your tube band the same way you would for the chest press, but at chest height instead of shoulder. Walk the band out until there is adequate tension and stand on the side of it. So, your left shoulder should be closest to the anchor point. With both hands holding the single handle, press the band straight out in front of you, then turn your torso to the right (try to keep your hips still!). Slowly and with control, come back to centre, then go again.”
(Greenman recommends 8-12 reps each side.)
Squat to Press: “Hold both handles of your tube band, and step on the middle of it. Putting one foot on will provide less resistance than both feet. Bring both hands up to your shoulders, with the band resting on the back of your hand/arms. Sit down into a squat, then stand up and immediately press your hands all the way up overhead. Bring your hands back down to your shoulders, and go right back into that squat and repeat. Squat to press is a fantastic total body exercise!”
(Greenman recommends 8-10 reps.)
Shoulder Burners: “Loop a mini band around both wrists and stand facing a wall. Place both hands right in front of your shoulders, with your arms fully extended. With your right hand, reach as if you’re trying to reach 1 on a clock, then come back home to centre. Now reach out to the 3, and back to centre, finally 5 and back to centre. Repeat all of those movements: 1, centre, 3, centre, 5, centre. That is one rep. On your left, you’d be reaching for the 11, then 9, then 7, returning to centre between each. This is meant to be done slowly and is excellent for shoulder health. Be sure to keep your arms straight and your body still the whole time. Movement should only be coming from your shoulder!”
(Greenman recommends 4-6 reps each arm.)