Mini resistance bands are portable, they’re inexpensive, and though they might look to you like a larger, thicker, rubber band, the truth is they’re loaded with value! Physical therapists often use resistance bands to treat injuries in combination with other methods because of their versatility in targeting a variety of major muscle groups. But even if you’re not recovering from an injury, resistance band exercises are capable of strengthening areas that normal free weights can’t reach, making them a great addition to your workout routine. The best part is, you can continue to up the ante by increasing the resistance as you progress, further challenging your muscles without having to spend money on more equipment. Try these five resistance band exercises during your next workout and you’ll see what we mean:
Exercise 1: Isometric External Rotation
Isometric external rotation targets the shoulder and neck areas, specifically the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers. This exercise is great for anyone with shoulder or neck weakness and/or postural deficits.
1. Get into standing position with good posture (your shoulders down and back, core engaged, knees soft).
2. Place the band around your wrists.
3. Keep your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle and close to your sides as you pull the band apart squeezing your shoulder blades together.
4. Pull band apart at an equal distance on each side until you feel resistance.
5. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat for 10 times for 1-3 sets.
Exercise 2: Squat
You’re probably familiar with the squat but using a resistance band is a good way to make sure your glutes are fully engaged while performing the exercise. Squats activate the quads and external rotators to improve hip-knee-ankle alignment which is great for those with knee-tracking issues, patellofemoral pain (knee pain), or weak glutes.
1. Stand tall with stacked posture, feet shoulder width apart, and the resistance band about an inch above your knees.
2. Place your hands on your hips.
3. Begin to move into a seated position until you reach a nice, squatted stance. Most of your weight should be through the heels, rather than the toes.
4. Keep the resistance band on tension throughout the squat and return to an upright stance.
5. Repeat 10 times for 2-3 sets.
Exercise 3: Clamshell
Clamshells target your gluteus medius and external rotators and can be a great strengthening and endurance exercise when held for 5-10 seconds. Clamshells are excellent for runners, people with glute weakness, knee pain, or patellar (kneecap) tracking issues.
1. Lie on your side with your knees bent and your lower extremities stacked.
2. Put the band around your legs and place just above your knees, about 1-2 inches.
3. Keep your feet and ankles together and lift the top knee as high as you can without your pelvis rolling backward.
4. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
5. Repeat 10 times for 1-2 sets, alternating sides.
Exercise 4: Quadruped Hand Taps
Whether you’re an athlete or not, quadruped hand taps are great for anyone with shoulder and scapular weakness. This exercise really targets your rotator cuff and cervical stabilizing muscles (upper back and shoulder).
1. Start out on your hands and knees as if you were going to crawl on the floor. Place the resistance band around your wrists.
2. Find your neutral spine position by sinking your spine down toward the floor and then arching up to the ceiling until you reach the midway point.
3. Hold this position while pushing into your hands so your shoulder blades pull apart from each other. Pay close attention to not round your upper back.
4. Keep your elbows straight but not locked.
5. Keep one hand stationary as you move the opposite hand inward and then outward.
6. Repeat 10 times for 1-2 sets.
Exercise 5: Single Leg Balance and Reach
Single leg balance and reach really works to improve your stability and (you guessed it) balance. It also works the glutes, quads, calves, and hamstrings. If you have weakness in any of these areas you can utilize this exercise to increase strength and get more out of your workouts.
1. In a standing position, place the resistance band around your ankles.
2. Lift one leg while balancing on the other and dip into a mini squat.
3. Reach your arms out to the sides and then return them to the center.
4. Reach your arms behind you and then return them to the center.
5. Dip in and out of the mini squat with each rep, keeping your knee aligned over the ankle.
6. Repeat 10 times for 1-2 sets.