Exercise Bands Useful for Resistance Movements

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

They’re stretchy and springy and a staple among personal trainers and physical therapists. But what are exercise bands and what can you do with them?

Kerri Howell, certified personal trainer, nutrition coach and owner of The Hourglass Mom in the Rochester area, sees exercise bands as “a great, low-impact way to build muscle. They put far less strain on your body and can help you stay injury-free.”

When lifting free weights, it’s easy to jerk and drop the weight. Exercise bands naturally create a more fluid, controlled movement. If you drop an exercise band on your foot, it won’t hurt, unlike dumbbells or kettlebells.

“They’re really underutilized,” said April Ho, certified personal trainer and registered dietitian with the Center for Community Health & Prevention at URMC.

She likes a box of 60-foot flat band, available on Amazon. Users can cut it and tie loops on the end or tie the ends together to make a loop any size they wish.

“If you buy lighter resistance bands, you can double up to create greater resistance,” Ho said. “It’s the most cost effective as opposed to buying several of them.”

Jean Sica uses bands a lot with her clients. A certified tai chi instructor and certified personal trainer, Sica owns Kokoro Fitness in Rochester, she finds the bands handy for taking to sessions in clients’ homes.

“I think that they’re really good for people who don’t care to know whether they’re lifting 10 or 30 pounds,” Sica said. “They are marked, but it’s just a guideline. Depending on how far you pull the band, that will make a difference as to how heavy the resistance is. They’re handy for a home gym or for travel. Bring a few bands and you can do all kinds of things with them. You can use them for triceps work and pectoral work and long thin ones you can use in different ways.”

Bands come in different lengths for different uses. Flat bands are made from vinyl or cloth and cord varieties may offer handles. Some brands of bands come in different colors to signify the level of resistance they offer.

Sica recommended working the upper legs by slipping a short band around the thighs above the knees, squatting, and walking sideways like a crab.

“It’s great for the glutes and quads,” she added.

To work the chest and arms, Sica said to hold the ends of a short band and pull the hands apart, hold,
then release.

Another move for short bands to work the triceps is to hold one end close to the body with the left hand near the right side of the waist. Take the other end with the right hand and pull towards the floor, creating resistance between the arms. Switch sides after a set of 10 repetitions.

“People always want to work their biceps for some reason,” Sica said.

To do so, step on a long band and pull the handles upward.

Ho suggested performing lateral raises to work the shoulders and upper back.

“It’s performed by standing in the middle of the resistance band, holding the ends with your hands, and lifting your arms out away from your body until they are parallel to the ground,” Ho said. “Make sure to keep the shoulders down and away from the ears during this movement.”

Another shoulder and upper back movement is the back fly.

“Holding a resistance band out in front of you with straight arms parallel to the floor and then keeping the arms straight, squeezing the shoulder blades together until the arms are as wide as they can go, making a T shape with the torso,” Ho said.

Exercise bands can be used for the classic chest press movement. Ho said that the band passes around the back and then underneath the armpits to the hands. Begin with the elbows bent and then “push your hands straight out in front of you to increase tension on the band,” Ho said. “This should feel similar to a push up motion.”

Anyone new to resistance training should consult their healthcare provider before beginning a regimen.