Over the past few decades, the use of elastic resistance bands for physical fitness training has become increasingly popular. Physical preparation coaches, rehab specialists, physical therapists, personal trainers, and athletes all use these tools for a multitude of purposes. In the powerlifting and strength training community, they are most commonly known for being used extensively by Westside for accommodating resistance and over-speed eccentric purposes. Within the world of physical therapy, they are used as a means of resistance to aid in the rehabilitation of various injuries.

This video shows the typical use of bands for accommodating resistance with the bench press:

Here is how bands are typically used for rehabbing a rotator cuff injury:

There is no doubt that, as a physical preparation coach, you and your athletes are at the mercy of the facilities and equipment you are able to access. While speaking in theory and hypothetical terms is fantastic and stimulates great conversation, at the end of the day you probably aren’t in a perfect facility with all the equipment you want or need. Thus, you are forced to adjust to the situation you are given and make the best of what you have available.

During my time at Waynesburg University, I had access to an abundance of elitefts™ bands — a large number of every size and strength. This allowed me to make several key adjustments with the specific facilities and equipment we had access to. Below is a list of facility/equipment problems and how bands were able to help in each case.

No access to hills or sleds for resisted sprints

During our off-season program, resisted sprints are an integral part of our program, as influenced by the late Charlie Francis. Because the amount of athletes on a football team is large and each training session had at least 20 players present, we needed a logistical way to get them all through resisted sprinting. Because it was winter in western Pennsylvania, going outside in the freezing snow was out of the question. We also did not have enough sleds, or those which are safe to use on wooden floor. In order to solve this problem, we came up with a way to use our elitefts™ bands as the resistance for our sprints. The way they were used is shown in the videos below:

What we did was take one average or light band and attach it to two elitefts™ mini bands to make a “harness” and “line,” similar to a sled. As for the execution, your eyes and stopwatch will be your best friends in making sure that the work done is objective. If you have time, and experience, with your athletes on hill sprints, then you can simply adjust the resistance from the bands, and the partner holding the bands, to match those times.

No cable cross machine

Because we did not have a cable cross machine, we had to rely on the use of bands to help develop our athletes’ shoulder girdle and rotator cuff. Below are some exercise examples that would typically be performed on a cable cross, but shown using elitefts™ bands:

If you look closely in the videos, you’ll notice that I have two bands attached together. Now, I’ve never seen anybody else do a lot of rotator cuff work this way, so I have no idea whether or not I “invented” it or not, nor do I really care. From my experience, and the feedback on the athletes and clients I’ve worked with, everybody prefers to do these specific exercises with two bands looped together, rather than with just one looped on a support.

Doing this allows you more options with how much resistance you use. For instance, you could use the following combinations:

Usually using anything over a monster mini band is too much for the rotator cuff and shoulder girdle to handle in these specific exercises, but you’ll have to experiment for yourself! This allows more individualization for each of your athletes/clients and you are able to progress for longer periods of time rather than always having to use the same band.

Finally, while I don’t have any scientific data or research to back this up, from my knowledge and experience, using the two bands looped together allows for a more complete range of motion with the desired resistance. Oftentimes, when performing external rotations with only one band, I would not “feel” any resistance for the first 30 degrees of amplitude. To compensate for this, I would simply move further away from where the band was attached. Consequently, this increases the resistance at the end range of the amplitude, to a point where it is too great based on the joints’ and active muscles’ strength curve. Give this a try and I guarantee you will like the feel and results much better!

No Lat Pull-Down Machine

With having no lat pull-down (or equivalent) machine, our options for a vertical row exercise were limited. For our skill and lighter-weight guys, this wasn’t an issue, as we simply did pull and chin-up variations. Now, for our lineman and heavy-weight guys, it was an issue. We did use reverse pull and chin-up variations, but I (and most of my guys) have never personally liked how the exercise feels and find that the execution is cumbersome. Below is the exercise we used to address this problem:

There are many different variations you can do with this exercise, from the strength of band, hand positioning, abduction of the shoulder, pronation/supination of the wrist, etc. Again, is this what I would do in a perfect world? No! But, we weren’t given a perfect world. To steal from Buddy Morris, “Adapt or Die!”

Other Exercises

As we are all in continued search for the Holy Grail, I am always looking for new ways to stimulate, adapt, stabilize and actualize the body! Here are some alternative exercises using elitefts™ bands that I have used with my athletes to accommodate for their structure, injury history, current injury, preparedness level, etc.

Hopefully you have found this article useful and are well on your way to using your bands better!