Who still doubts that strength training makes you faster, more efficient and less vulnerable? Still, even many sportive people who do running or cycling treat strength training as something extra to their menu, do a few series of abdominal exercises and let the rest aside. The reasons vary; gyms can be oppressively crowded, or feel intimidating. Some hate indoor sports, and home strength equipment is expensive and takes up a lot of space.
Resistance bands turn all these arguments into untenable excuses. After all, they are cheap: you can buy a complete set for the price of an enforcer. They hardly take up any space, so you can easily store them at home, put them in a travel bag or take them to the park. And, more importantly, they are incredibly versatile. They are made of flexible latex, colour-coded according to thickness, and available in different shapes and sizes.
The small resistance bands are usually suitable for around the limbs. They are used for exercises in which you only use your body weight to make them heavier or more complex. The larger bands can be used to replace weights or you can anchor them to make pulling or pushing movements, or do isometric exercises. When it comes to training with resistance bands, the method is quite simple: beginners take a lighter band that offers less resistance and then build it up as their strength increases. Advanced athletes have to challenge themselves with the thicker, heavier bands.
There are hundreds of exercises that you can do with just a few different straps. These are our top eight.
How to use this list
In this article you will see 8 top exercises. Perform all eight exercises according to the specified number of repetitions and sets for a real killer total body workout. If you do the exercises in a warm-up, choose the side run, the squat with leg lift, the board and the jumping jacks.
A lot of runners are sensitive to a dead feeling in their buttocks while running. It is a feeling of stiffness and dull pain, as if you'd been hit hard on the ass. To avoid that feeling, we suggest doing the sideways running with resistance bands before starting your running training. Put a resistance band around your ankles. Put the feet at shoulder width, keeping the knees slightly bent. Take 15 steps to the right and then 15 steps to the left. That's 1 set. Move slowly, step wide enough to feel the resistance of the band and remember to push the knees outward (so they don't bend inwards). Complete 2 to 3 sets; you should feel warmed up afterwards, but not tired.
Squat with leg lift
'The running movement is mainly forwards and backwards. That often leads to insufficiently developed abductors (muscles that move the limbs sideways outwards), which can lead to injuries. To allow you to move in more than one plane of motion, add a sideways leg lift to a simple squat with a resistance band. Place a small resistance band around your thighs. Stand with feet at hip width. Bend the hips and sink down into a deep squat. When you return to the starting position, use the hip and gluteal muscles to push the right leg to the side. Put the right foot back on the ground as in the starting position and repeat the whole movement. Do a total of 20 repetitions. Repeat with the left leg.
This is a great, explosive movement that really increases your heart rate. The extra resistance around the ankles makes this challenging fitness exercise an endurance workout that also strengthens glutes, hips, quadriceps and hamstrings. Use this exercise in a dynamic warm-up or as part of a high-intensity circuit workout. Place a small resistance band around the ankles. Stand with feet at shoulder width. Jump and at the same time spread your feet apart while lifting both hands above your head. Then, while jumping, bring the feet back together, bringing the arms back to the sides. Continue at a smooth pace for 30 to 60 seconds. This is a set.
Running speed requires running efficiency, and that requires a solid core. You'll feel this tangy plank variation all over the middle of your body, while the subtle but effective leg movements warm the buttocks, hips and hamstrings.
Put a resistance band around your ankles. Take the plank position: forearms on the floor, shoulders above the elbows, toes on the floor and your pelvis in the right position so your body forms a straight line from head to heel. Lift the right foot straight up, about 30 centimetres, and bring it back to the starting position. 10 repetitions with your one leg, then 10 times with your other leg.
Rowing on your Knees
If we had to choose one resistance band exercise that is good for your core, it would be this rowing move. It's an anti-rotation exercise, which means it forces your core to prevent the body from tilting forward. You can feel it all over your torso, especially in the oblique abdominal muscles.
Attach a large resistance band around a stable object, such as a table leg or a pole, at chest height. Kneel on the floor, your body upright. Grab the end of the band with both hands at chest height (make sure you are far enough away from the stable object so that you feel resistance on the band). Keep your core stable and pull the band to the chest. Hold for 45 seconds and then bring the hands back. Complete five repetitions, that's a set.
And our second favorite core exercise with a resistance band? The Superman, but on the back. It's another anti-rotation exercise that runners can use. The biggest challenge here is to keep the back flat against the ground and not allow the pelvis to move.
Attach a large resistance band around a stable object, such as a table leg or pole. Hold the other end with your right hand, or wrap it between your fingers. Lie on your back. Stretch your arms straight up (there should already be tension on the strap). Keep the lower back pressed to the ground, lift your legs so that the lower legs are parallel to the ground and the knees are at a 90 degree angle. Stretch the left leg and let the left foot float just above the floor while stretching the right arm backwards. Bring your left leg and right arm back to the starting position. Do 6 repetitions. Then repeat with your right leg and left arm. This is 1 set. Do 3 sets.
Isometric lunge with rowing motion
This 'iso' or isometric lunge works on your balance, stability, strength of the core and upper body because of the added rowing movement. This is a total body workout.
Attach the end of a large resistance belt at hip height to a stable object. Stand in the lunge position with your left leg forward, the right knee floating above the floor. Hold the band with your right hand (there should be some tension already) and pull your hand towards the right ribs. Repeat this 10 to 12 times before changing legs and arms. Complete 3 sets on each side.
Plank with rowing motion
The 'pulling' movement used in this exercise is difficult to perform if you would only use your body weight. That's why the choice of a resistance band is essential here. Not every runner has the advantages of a strong upper body, but it's still very important because you need a strong arm swing to help you over hills and in final sprints. Attach the end of a large resistance band quite low to a stable object. Take the plank position, with wrists under the shoulders and body in a straight line from top to heel. Grasp the resistance strap with your right hand (it should already be under some tension). Pull the hand to the right side of the chest, making sure your hips stay straight. Complete 6 repetitions and then repeat the exercises with the left arm. This is 1 set. Do 3 sets.
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