One of the most effective training tools you can own
Chances are you have all come across some sort of resistance band training by now – for injury rehab exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist, adding resistance during a Pilates class or perhaps you’re already using them in your weekly training sessions. When I first started coaching, band work was commonly considered a female dominant exercise, laughed upon by the guys who preferred to get their resistance from a more “macho” iron-based source. However, these days you see top sports teams and the world’s best athletes using bands on a daily basis.
As triathletes, our lives are busy – fact. Be it with work, family, study or training we’re constantly trying to cut corners by finding the latest things that will save us time, money and effort. But before you think of resistance band training as just another one of those ‘fads’, they are actually also a highly effective way for us to bring strength work into our busy lives; in a way that will compliment rather than hinder your swim, bike and run training, and if you’re mindset is right, one that can bring consistency and many benefits.
Back in the early 20th Century before all the different colours, branding and fancy adaptations, resistance bands were simply surgical tubing that was used to prescribe rehabilitation exercises. These days, even though sports science and our knowledge of exercise have developed, the basic principal has not changed.
As a strength coach, I can confidently say that the use of resistance bands goes way beyond physiotherapy prescribed injury rehab. Over the past five years these bands have easily become one of my favourite training tools, due to their simplicity, effectiveness and getting that ‘bang for your buck’ strength work done.
Advantages of Resistance Bands:
I’m a big fan of keeping strength work simple. Gym equipment can often be complicated and intimidating. With bands, once you know the area you are trying to target and you work on perfecting your technique it’s easy to replicate with minimal risk of injury.
You really can get an effective, full body workout with just bands. Our main principles at Strength For Endurance are mobility, activation and strength, and I prescribe band work in each one of these
When most people think of strength training they think big weights. But what happens if you can’t access a gym or go away on holiday? The strength work doesn’t have to stop. Bands are lightweight, cheap and highly portable, just chuck them in your pocket, your swimming bag for your pre-swim warm up or put them in your hand luggage.
Bands come in different tensions from extra light to heavy. But we can also manipulate the intensity of most exercises by increases in time under tension, as well changing the tempo and number of repetitions you perform.
In summary, logistically speaking bands are a dream! You can train anywhere, any time – trackside, poolside, in the garage, wherever without investing in a fancy setup or somewhat hefty gym membership fees.
BANDS OR WEIGHTS?: Resistance bands are cheaper and more versatile.
Bands Vs. Weights:
Now, I’m definitely not saying that training with resistance bands is all you need to do. There comes a point when your body requires a greater stimulus to initiate change and allow progression, and that is where increasing the load through barbells, dumbbells and other equipment is useful. However, if you are time pressed, on a budget or can’t seem to stay consistent with your strength sessions, resistance bands could quickly become your best friend.
The resistance created by a band has the ability to increase and decrease throughout the movement, something that a static weight cannot do. This means there is an added level of control required to maintain that tension. As soon as you slack off so does the resistance; if you had a 25kg weight on your back as soon as you slack off… well, you get the picture don’t you.
Phillip Page, author of a book called Strength Band Training, noted that: “Elastic resistance training also frees you from the limitations of gravity, allowing you to isolate muscles and perform the same movements in a totally different way.”
The other stand out benefit of band work is that it has a way of challenging core stability throughout most movements. For a number of free weight or cable machine exercises that require you to sit down, using bands in a standing position will require a great deal of core control to perform the exercises well.
Rules For Band Work:
Always look for quality in your movement and make sure whatever position you find yourself in while using it, the band is still able to stretch a little further.
This will assure you that your band is doing what it is meant to do and that is stimulate new muscle growth by creating new neuro-pathways (muscle memories of new contraction patterns), and improve your strength and coordination in the process.
Be the Boss!
Don’t let the band pull you around – stay strong and always look to maintain your best posture you can find throughout any band exercise.