Fun with Resistance Bands
In addition to the special lifting bars I talked about in an article the other day, we’ve also packed the gym with various other new toys of late including a full set of EliteFTS resistance bands. Bands are a fantastic invention for a whole number of reasons.
The EliteFTS and Westside Barbell guys (and gals) generally use bands as an extra form of resistance in addition to bar weight. The reason being that to overcome the elasticity of the band you need to lift explosively and maintain that strength and power through an ever-increasing load as the bands stretch more and more. The way to do this is to attach the bands to something close to the floor, loop them over the bar, and perform the lift as normal. The natural range of motion will stretch the bands.
The other use for bands is to do just the opposite – rig them up not to add resistance, but to take it away. This is achieved by attaching the bands to something above the bar so that when stretched the bands will take most (or a lot) of the bar weight so you don’t have to. The benefit here is that you can perform so-called “lockout” movements with a huge weight at the top (heavier than you’d normally be able to lift through a full, non-assisted rep), but at the bottom of the rep the weight is considerably reduced – sometimes to below your usual training weight.
There’s also a third use for bands, though, and that’s what this article is about. The third use for bands is to use them for exercises not in the powerlifting triad of squat, deads, and bench. We’ve got a few videos for you and this is by no means a comprehensive review, more like a taster – much like in my special bars article – of what new equipment can do to revitalize your training programs!
Band Assisted Pullups – These are an interesting substitute for a machine-assisted pullup. At Dave’s we have one such marvel of gym technology, but if it’s being used what then? Bands, thats what! Simple attach the band to the pullup bar, put one or both knees in the loop, and use the band’s elastic to help with your pullups. In the video, Matt is using the black band which is the biggest and “heaviest” band in terms of the resistance it takes to stretch it. He could have kept going all day with this one helping, so find a band that gives you just enough resistence but enough to make the reps easy. Like assisted pullups on a machine, these are great if you find pullups with your bodyweight too difficult and want to work up to doing them unassisted.
Band Pushups – Where bands were your friend in assisted pullups, they’re now your mortal enemy in band pushups! Loop the band around your upper back and hold one end in each hand. Carefully get to the floor into a pushup position, making sure not to slam your face into the carpet, and have at it! This is a great substitute for weighted pushups using a plate or weighted vest since you have the added need to be explosive to overcome the band’s elastic. It’s deceptively hard! In the video Matt is using the grey band which is one level easier than the black.
Band Rows – Band rows were used in a recent power circuit we posted on the blog, and they’re truly a great exercise. Because your hand placement can literally be anything they’re a really comfortable alternative to bent over rows and cable rows. You can either do these strict like i’m doing in the vid, or explosively like Matt R. was doing in his power circuit a few weeks ago. To set them up, just loop the band tightly around a DAP or squat rack (if nobody minds) and make sure there’s tension in the band even when your arms are in the fully extended straight position. In the video i’m using the orange band which is a resistence level below grey.
Band Leg Curls – This is an exercise I consider a vast improvement over any machine leg curl I’ve tried. Maybe you’ll feel differently, but give them a go anyway. Loop the band around a DAP or rack like with band rows, but as low to the floor as possible. Lie on your front and loop the band over your feet (this is tricky sometimes, maybe get some help), again make sure that there’s band tension even at full extension. Now bend your legs by contracting your hamstrings and try to touch your glutes with your heels, pause at full contraction, then lower down slowly. Try to keep your hips as flat to the floor as possible. I’m not gonna lie, these are really difficult and fry my hamstrings every time even using the red band, which is the lightest of the four!
And there you go! That’s some fun stuff you can do in your training using bands! As well as the powerlifting stuff I mentioned at the start of the article (which will get it’s own article sometime in the near future) there are a million different exercises that can be varied by adding bands or replacing the regular equipment with them. Again – be inventive! Anything new you do in the gym is a good thing, will keep your training fresh, and lead to new gains!
Train hard, all!