Resistance Bands: Strength Training Without the Gym
Whether you’re a self-proclaimed “gym rat,” someone who goes to the gym semi-regularly or simply interested in building and maintaining strength, these can be daunting times for training. Current social distancing policies have required most gyms and fitness centers to temporarily close, putting a large mental and physical barrier to starting or successfully following an exercise program. Not having access to weights and machines at home can make it seem like your only fitness options are walking and aerobics, but you don’t need to limit yourself to these two activities. Strength training is a great way to build lean muscle and improve your metabolism – and it can even have cognitive and mental health benefits. And the good news is, you can absolutely strength train at home. All you need are some resistance bands – they are cost effective, easy to store and extremely versatile. Resistance bands are usually color coded to indicate the level of resistance they provide. A different color will indicate light, medium, heavy or extra heavy. Different brands may have different color codes, but black tends to be the heaviest, followed by blue, green, red and yellow as the lightest. Here are three common types of resistance bands and some ways you can use them to strength train at home:
1. Loop bands: These are essentially massive rubber bands that can be used to increase body weight resistance to target specific muscle groups or for a full body workout. Loop bands will usually offer five to 175 pounds of resistance. Do you have flat bands at home? You can simply tie a knot to create a loop. Some exercises you can do with these include:
Single arm exercises: While standing, stabilize one end of the band under your foot and the other in your hand. Lift your arms up for shoulder presses, lateral raises or overhead triceps extensions.
Seated Row: Sit with legs extended and wrap the band around your feet. Pull the other end of the band to complete a row motion.
2. Tube resistance bands: These bands have handles that attach to both ends and are made to mimic gym machines and dumbbell exercises. Tube bands are usually between 10 to 50 pounds of resistance. You can stand on them or anchor them to a door, bar/pole or post. They are good for exercises that involve pressing and pulling such as:
Chest presses: Hook the band around a solid pole, post or door at chest level or higher, stand facing away and hold your arms out to either side. Step forward with one foot, contract chest muscles and bring arms forward as if you were hugging a barrel. Be sure to keep arms at about chest height or slightly lower.
Seated back rows: Hook the band around a solid pole, post or similar at seated level, rest your feet against this and do a seated rowing motion pulling your arms towards your sides at about bellybutton level. Be sure to engage your core and keep your lower back straight.
3. Hip circle bands: These are smaller and wider bands made out of rubber or fabric and usually offer between five to 50 pounds of resistance. They are excellent for lower body workouts. By placing them just above your knees or around your ankles, these bands can help you stabilize, maintain proper form, and get extra activation and resistance in the hips and glutes during exercises such as:
Squats: Bring band up just above knees for extra resistance when squatting.
Hip thrusts: Bring band up just above knees, lay on your back with knees bent, feet flat, lift hips off the ground while pushing legs out towards the band, engage glutes.
Leg extensions: Bring band up just above knees, plank position, bend one knee for support and lift your other leg straight back until you feel resistance from the band.
Stay tuned to next week’s blog post for more in-depth resistance band and lower body strength training workouts. Learn more about being physically active at home and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by: Abby Vallejo, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern