As with any other exercise, proper form is key to feel the right muscles activate and get the most benefits from your workout. Unless you are an athlete or fitness professional, workouts and healthy eating should not make up your entire day. Instead, fitness and nutrition are your tool to assist you in fulfilling your daily tasks while staying fit and healthy. Thus, I am all about finding ways to make my workout as effective as possible, in as little time as possible.
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Biomechanics of resistance bands
Why are resistance bandsso effective? Sometimes, doing an exercise with resistance bands can be even harder than doing the same exercise with weight. The reason for this is that the resistance band provides resistance among the full range of motion.
When you are doing an exercise, there is the eccentric part of the motion and the concentric part. During the eccentric part, you are stretching the target muscle, for instance when you are lowering in a squat. Your glutes and hamstrings get stretched, while your quadriceps and hip flexors contract (concentric). As you raise from this position, your glutes and hamstrings contract and shorten, this is the concentric part of the exercise.
Working your muscles through the full range of motion is crucial to build muscle and strength. Especially the eccentric part of the motion is where most muscle fibers tear. The more we stretch our muscles, the harder it gets for them to fully contract again.
Resistance bands provide a challenge for both parts of the motion, the eccentric and concentric part. This means that your muscles never get to relax!
This is also why you will achieve a burn much faster than with weighted exercises. When you are pulling the weight up in a deadlift, you are able to pause for a second at the top. With resistance bands, you have to contract your muscles the whole time to protect your joints.
Resistance Band Exercises for the Lower Body
Today, we will start with the lower body. As this part of our body consists of the biggest muscles, it is sometimes hard to get in a great workout bodyweight only, especially if you have been exercising for a while. Thus, resistance bandscome in handy and will provide the challenge you need to burn your muscles.
One of my favorite exercises to target the gluteus medius and minimus. Our glute muscle consists of three parts and it is crucial to target all of them to build shape and strength. Make sure to contract your core tight and do this motion slowly. I recommend doing 15 – 20 repetitions of this exercise, preferably at the beginning of your workout or as part of the glute activation routine.
Side Lying Leg Raise
This exercise targets your outer thighs and glutes medius and minimus. Make sure to contract your core tight, keep your back flat and contract your entire leg as you raise it. You can also touch your glutes and outer thighs with your hands to improve mind-muscle connection.
The Squat with Bands around the knees is an excellent exercise for people with knee-joint problems. Oftentimes, people with knee arthritis have weak outer thigh and glute muscles. This muscular imbalance can cause your knees to cave in during squats and puts pressure on the ligaments. During this exercise, you need to push out your knees as much as you can. Only decend as low as you can hold the contraction in your glutes and core. It is not important how deep your squat is but how much you can feel the muscles activate.
This is a variation of the exercise above. Here, you will lower into a half-squat and walk around, contracting your core and glutes the whole time. Walk to the side, to the front and back and make sure to shift your weight to the heals. If you would like to increase the challenge, hold weights.
Standing Glute Kickbacks
One of my favorite exercises to target the glutes through a full range of motion. Make sure not to lower your leg completely and keep the contraction. Don’t move your leg with your lower back, only use your glutes.
No picture here, but watch this video by Sohee Lee, demonstrating some banded exercises:
This variations of the stationary lunge teaches your body to use the front leg’s hamstrings and glutes to push up from the bottom of the exercise. You will not be able to take a wide stance here but you will still feel it activate the right muscles.
No picture here, sorry! I will soon include my own videos, once I am healthy again … . But basically, you are performing a regular deadlift with a small band around your knees!
This variation of the deadlift is one of my favorite warm up exercises. During deadlifts, the gluteus maximus and hamstrings are the main muscles working. However, you should still push your knees out to activate the other glute muscles as well. This exercise will improve your deadlift form.
The glute bridge with abductions (moving your legs out and in) is again an excellent exercise for people with knee-joint pain. Keep your core tight and push your knees out the whole time.
You can put the bands above your knees or below them. For some people, it is harder when the band is below the knees, for others they feel the muscles activate more when the band is higher. Make sure to contract your core and really raise your leg as high as you can to reach full range of motion.
One more exercise to activate your gluteus medius. This exercise is crucial if you suffer from diastasis recti, as most women do, especially after pregnancy. Make sure to only raise your leg with your glutes. It does not matter how high you raise it but how hard you contract the muscle.
Take one step to the side and go down into a lunge. You may not be able to straighten the other leg like in a traditional side lunge but you will feel the outer thighs, inner thighs and glutes work overload on the working leg.
Put a resistance band around your feet and push them out while performing a back bow, reverse hyperextension or back extensions. This again increases gluteal activation and makes a seemingly easy exercise so much more challenging.
Exercises with Resistance Tubes
The following exercises use resistance tubesto provide extra resistance. You can actually combine these exercises with a resistance band around your knees to further activate the gluteus medius. Always find creative ways to increase the challenge.
For all of these exercises, it is crucial to follow the general guidelines for proper form.
As with all exercises, proper form is crucial here. Make sure to lower from your hips and contract your latissimus dorsi the whole time. This is the muscle right below your armpits. It will help keep your arms close by your side and keep a flat back. Keep your weight in your heels and lower down until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, just like with a traditional stiff-legged deadlift. Keep a slight bend in your knees and push your hips forward at the top to squeeze your glutes.
You can also perform this exercise standing and attach the band to a chair or your foot. Make sure to complete the movement with your glutes only.
Again, this can be done in a lying position as well. Make sure to contract your hamstrings (back of the thighs). You can even touch them to increase activation.
Proper form is crucial here to protect your lower back. Make sure to lower from your hips, not from your back. Contract your glutes and hamstrings to come up again and push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes and abs at the top. Keep your weight in your heels to decrease activation of your calves.
I hope you liked these exercises! There are a lot more and I will soon film a video of come creative exercises I think I came up with. For now, I hope these explanations and pictures are enough to provide new challenges for your workouts.
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