You’ll be surprised at how resistance bands can come in handy when it comes to activation, recovery and toning.
Also known as physio bands or Thera-Bands, resistance bands are often used to improve flexibility or for rehabilitative purposes.
“Resistance bands are great for rehabilitation from injury as they don’t load the spine or put pressure on the joints to the same extent as heavy weights,” says elite trainer of over 15 years Matthew Strickland.
“When added to your stretching routine, they can allow you to reach a deeper stretch than you might otherwise be able to achieve, aiding recovery and improving flexibility.”
While resistance bands do not correspond to a specific weight and cannot load the muscle to the same extent as a dumbbell, they can also be used to add tension and tone specific muscle groups, such as the glutes, calves, shoulders, back and biceps, and are perfect if dumbbells or similar are out of reach at home or while travelling. They can also aid in activating muscle groups in preparation for heavier lifts.
Resistance bands come in varying levels of stretch, from light to heavy, and are usually colour coded.
“Heavier bands should be used for larger muscle groups such as the legs or glutes, while lighter bands can be used for muscles that don’t require a heavy load to work them, such as the shoulders,” says Strickland.
For activation/toning: Warm-ups that are dynamic, rather than static, can help to increase movement ranges and activate the muscle groups that your workouts will target. “Dynamic warm-ups are important as they prepare the muscles, prime the nervous system and give you an opportunity to reinforce proper technique,” says trainer Alexa Towersey. To prime the glutes and hamstrings for a lower body session, try glute raises with a resistance band tied around the knees; concentrate on pushing your knees outwards, against the bands, as you raise your hips upward to really get the booty working. For a toning-style session, ensure high reps (15 to 20) with little rest in between sets.
For recovery: Resistance bands are particularly useful for deepening the stretch of large muscle groups, such as the legs and back. Try this exercise for the hamstrings: lying on the floor, loop the band around your right foot and grab onto the band ends to create tension. Straighten the right leg as much as you can – think a deep stretch but not to the point of pain – and keep the left leg on the floor. Gently pull the right leg back towards you, stretching the back of the leg. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds before switching sides.