Bands are nothing new to most coaches and trainers. They have quickly become one of the most versatile and effective training tools in a coach’s toolbox. Initially, many thought of them only as rehabilitation tools. However, Westside Barbell changed the perception of bands with its innovative techniques for using them for accommodating resistance.

Now, coaches also use bands for sprinting, conditioning, and assisted strength work such as pull-ups. However, I find there are even more uses for bands outside of the many methods discussed, and some of the classic techniques can be refined for those who want to still reap the numerous benefits of band training.

  1. You can’t cheat method: Bands can be the perfect drill for reinforcing proper technique. I know that sounds boring, but I see videos online all the time of lifters performing repetition after repetition with horrible technique. Why don’t certain exercises produce the results? Because you do them very poorly!

A drill people cheat on all the time is the push-up. Often seen only as a strength endurance exercise, one can make the push-up far more challenging by looping a band around the body. This accomplishes two goals:

1.      The lifter has to stay long and can drop their hips to the ground without obvious feedback from the bands.

2.      This increases the activation of the lower body and trunk into the movement. By actively having to push against the band, the push-up becomes a much stronger whole body drill.

  1. Get a better hip pop: Like the technique issue, “hip pop” is often written about though rarely taught well. Exercises such as swings, deadlifts, and other pulls are great choices when trying to improve posterior chain activation. Yet, many lifters still lift with their back because of poor motor control and coordination.

Again, the simple act of looping the band around the body can reduce “low back lifting” issues and place far greater emphasis on the targeted areas. Similar to our push-up example, by having to push into the feet (specifically more weight on the heels), the hamstrings and glutes become more active even in a static position.

Now, add in the dynamic nature of these lifts, and one is forced to use the hips to drive into the band, not just to accelerate the weight. This is a simple and effective way to teach proper hip drive.

  1. Trick the nervous system: When you’re a coach, you must find quick and easy methods to teach your clients important principles. However, your client may not always be as attentive or coordinated as you had hoped. Therefore, using bands in the following manner can teach your clients how to “stay tight” during a lift and actually release a great deal of tension in the pelvis.

Looping the band around the body during a lift is significantly different than looping the bands on the bar. There is less tension on the spine, which may be more beneficial for athletes who wish to get the benefits of band training without quite as much stress to the back. While bands on the bar make the weight feel easier, the bands around the body increase the perception of standard weight but provide a greater sense of “flexibility” in the hips.

After a series of sets with the bands on the body, contrast the remaining sets with lifting the weight with no additional band resistance. Everything instantly feels easier because the nervous system is all “driven up” from the band use in the prior sets.

  1. Get your glutes going: It isn’t a new concept that getting one’s glutes to work can greatly enhance performance and decrease back pain. This is largely due to the stability of the pelvis, which the glutes are largely responsible. For this simple reason alone, utilizing bands should be done in just about every workout.

By using drills such as band good mornings, leg kicks, lunges, and step-ups, you can get those glutes to kick in. Just mimic the movements in the images, and see how even one set of these prior to your core work can greatly enhance the feeling of the glutes.

  1. Prepare the body for the real work: All of the drills discussed can be used as preparation work for heavier lifts. Stretching and other dynamic work can be helpful, but sometimes the body needs something to get the right muscles firing. Previous training, injury, or a host of other problems can cause the body to compensate with improper recruitment patterns during various strength lifts. Utilizing the bands prior to any strength lift can help prevent injury and enhance recovery.

Some drills such as push-ups, hind push-ups, and lunges performed with bands can work as prehabilitation and be surprisingly effective in solving improper recruitment patterns. Because they cause the smaller muscles to kick in and the often hyperactive muscles (i.e. hip flexors) to back off, they are ideal as part of a dynamic warm up.

  1. Build reactive core strength: Yes, I hate the term as much as the next coach. However, used properly, bands can be a very effective core training tool. Because they are very different than most implements, bands can provide a very unique core training effect. A problem in most core programs is that there isn’t an element of “unpredictability.” The late Dr. Mel Siff spoke a great deal about the value of the core not only producing movement but resisting movement caused by stresses on the body. This is one reason that athletes such as wrestlers are so strong.Reactive band drills can be done either with a partner or solo. Partner drills do add an additional benefit because they can be more unpredictable in the forces that they provide. However, simply adding an additional component of speed can make training solo still amazingly effective.Lastly, because bands offer great amounts of movement, the drills are dynamic, and one can’t completely “groove” into the lifts. This is actually a benefit and accentuates the reactive component of band training.

These six methods are simply six of many that make bands an important role in any fitness or strength and conditioning program. Your limitations are only in your imagination.


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