Safety / Injuries
Corrective Exercise with Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are a versatile training implement that are easy to use and beneficial for any population. Exercise bands add variety to the training program to keep clients engaged. They are a great option for clients who need help correcting “tech neck” or for clients with bum knees who need low-impact strength exercises before they can meet that goal of running in a 5k race. In this article we discuss what kinds of exercise bands are available, how to choose the right band for the job, and what exercises to do.
How Many Types of Resistance Bands Are Available?
There are many different types of resistance bands available online and at local sporting goods retailers. Here we’ll discuss the most versatile options.
Loop bands are single pieces of thick, flat elastic material that look like a giant rubber band. There are very large sizes which can be used to train the whole body, or mini loops which are generally used for lower body. Large loop bands are heavy duty and fare well when used in group fitness training.
Compact Resistance Bands
These tube-like exercise bands are often packaged as a system and are ideal for the jet-setting professional or social media influencer. Systems often include handles, an anchor, clips, and multiple resistance bands of varying resistance levels. Because bands can be combined, one set of compact resistance training bands will last long enough to help you client reach their goals.
Therapy bands are thin, flat elastic bands used in physical therapy and rehabilitation in a clinical setting. These can be tied into a loop and don't have handles or anchors. They are very versatile, but not as durable as loop bands or compact resistance training bands.
Make, Model, and Price
Some exercise bands are made of natural or synthetic latex rubber, others are non-latex for clients who may have a latex sensitivity. And some are made of elastic fabric. You may see some bands labeled “no slip”. They have an added rubber material lining the inside to prevent the loop from shifting during movement.
Some types of resistance bands show the resistance levels using terms such as "heavy", "medium", or "light". Others include pounds of resistance. But, as we'll discuss in a moment, stretching a 20-pound resistance training band won't always feel like you're moving 20 pounds.
The cost to buy a set of exercise bands varies from $7.99 to $98.95. More equipment can be purchased to create a total body, strength training, and corrective exercise program with exercise bands. Anchors, handles, hook and loop cuffs, and clips are all available.
Before each use, inspect bands for signs of wear and tear. A fully stretched band that snaps can cause serious injury to clients. Cracking, fraying, tears, or loose attachments are all signs that it’s time to replace the band.
How Do You Select the Right Exercise Bands for Each Body Area?
Each type of band can be used for most any exercise movement. Your creativity is the determining factor. But if you need a little inspiration for your programming, here are some general suggestions for using exercise bands for corrective exercise and to help build muscle strength and flexibility.
Anchoring Resistance Bands
First, exercise bands need to be anchored to create resistance. There are many ways to anchor bands so you get a good whole body workout.
A doorjamb anchor is usually a strong strip of nylon web with a ring on one end and an "anchor" on the other. To use a doorjamb anchor, open the door and slide the ring through the opening on the hinged side of the door. Carefully close the door - don't pinch your fingers! Attach a clip to the ring on the anchor and secure the exercise band.
Any solid vertical pole or bar can be used as an anchor - a basketball pole, flag pole, support beam in the garage, whatever! Loop bands can be fed through themselves around the pole to be securely anchored. To anchor therapy bands or tube-like bands, simply wrap them around the pole.
A pull-up bar or other horizontal bar can also be used to anchor resistance bands.
The Body as an Anchor
Exercise bands can be anchored by the body as well.
- Standing on the band is one way to anchor it. Now you can add resistance to a squat, shoulder press, biceps curl, upright row, etc.
- A band can be wrapped around the back to add resistance to a push-up, for example.
- Hold one end of the band in one hand to anchor it for single-arm exercises like a rear deltoid fly or triceps extension.
- Wrap a mini loop above the knees for lateral walks. The legs anchor the loop from side to side.
High, Middle, or Low Anchor?
Where you anchor the band depends on the type of workout you want your client to do. For example, to vary the chest press, anchor the band high to mimic a declined chest press, low for an inclined chest press, and at chest height for a regular chest press.
The closer the client stands to the anchor, the less resistance they'll have. The further from the anchor they stand the more resistance they will have. Standing further away also helps increase the range of motion under tension.
Resistance levels can also be manipulated by lengthening or shortening the band. For example, if stepping on a loop band to perform an overhead press, a wider stance - which shortens the band - will create more tension in the band than a narrow stance.
Resistance Bands for the Upper Body
To strengthen the muscles of the upper body - shoulder, back, or chest muscles - use bands that have handles. Handles are easier to grip and are more comfortable. Therapy bands are also a good choice for upper body training since the ends of the band can be comfortably looped around the hands.
Generally speaking, to build strength in the front (anterior) of the body, face away from the anchor. To build strength in the back (posterior) of the body, face towards the anchor.
Mini loop bands can also be used for upper body work for muscles like the biceps, triceps, lats, and traps and for corrective exercises for the shoulders.
Resistance Bands for the Lower Body
Mini loop bands are typically used for lower body exercises. They stay in place and allow for a good range of motion. Many trainers use mini loop bands to help clients improve strength in the glutes - to help reduce lower back pain, knee pain, balance, or mobility issues.
There are also figure-8 loops with cuffs that attach to the ankles. These are not as versatile as other exercise bands and short clients don’t have long enough legs to get any benefit.
Resistance Bands for Abdominal Exercises
When it comes to the core muscles, any exercise band will do. What matters most is determining where to anchor the bands to provide the right resistance levels during the portion of the movement that needs strengthening.
When using bands for strength training, it is important to progressively overload the body just as you would with free weights.
Benefits of Using Resistance Bands in Corrective Exercise
How do resistance bands work? Resistance bands are different from free weights in two ways.
1. They Offer Variable Resistance
Variable resistance means that the amount of resistance changes throughout the exercise movement. Other variable resistance equipment includes machines with cables and pulleys. The further a band is stretched, the greater the resistance as the band tries to recoil to its original state.
The resistance from free weights is constant. The weight does not change at any part of the lift. A twenty-five-pound dumbbell always weighs twenty-five pounds.
Because of this dynamic, bands vary the resistance levels at a different range of motion than free weights. For example, attaching a band to the barbell during a squat, increases resistance in the upward movement and transforms an ascending strength curve into a full lift overload.
Towards the top of the lift, the bands pull tighter. More muscle force is then needed to complete the lift. More muscle fibers are recruited and clients will see greater gains in muscle mass and strength.
2. They Offer Assistance
Clients with shoulder injuries can practice pull-ups, to work the full range of motion, with the aid of resistance bands. Loop an exercise loop over a pull-up bar and then loop it through itself to secure it. Have the client grasp the pull-up bar with both hands and place their foot into the lower loop. The resistance band will partially support their weight. During the most difficult part of the movement, the bottom, the band will supply the leverage needed to lift them up.
Benefits of Using Resistance Bands for Corrective Exercises for Injuries
The two biggest benefits of resistance bands are convenience and versatility.
Exercise bands are perhaps the most accessible piece of equipment available, besides one’s own body weight. They are relatively inexpensive and are easier to travel with than free weights.
A full-body workout is easy with resistance bands. Even if a client only has one light-weight loop band, they can change the resistance and anchor it in various ways to target every muscle group for a quick 30-minute workout at lunch or a longer strengthening session at home.
Corrective Exercises with Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are a great addition to traditional strength training programs but are equally as valuable for improving flexibility and for use in corrective exercises. Here are some exercises to increase flexibility and mobility:
- Shoulder internal rotation
- Shoulder external rotation
- Shoulder flexion
- Lateral walks
- Hamstring stretch
- Quad stretch
- IT band stretch
How to Design a Corrective Exercise Program Using Resistance Bands
To design a corrective exercise program with resistance bands, do what you would do with any training program:
- Collect paperwork and conduct fitness assessments. Look for muscle imbalances and range of motion issues.
- Obey the principles of training, paying special attention to specificity and individual differences.
- Progressively overload the muscles by modifying acute variables such as frequency, intensity, time, type, range of motion, repetitions, resistance, rest, and recovery.
Remember that resistance bands challenge a different range of motion than free weights. Free weights feel heavier at the bottom of a lift—like a biceps curl—because the joint is at a mechanical disadvantage. Free weights will train that range of motion better than bands will. Bands increase resistance towards the top of the biceps curl and therefore train a different range of motion.
Bands can be used with free weights, as in the previous example of the squat, by anchoring them to the floor and wrapping them around the bar. With resistance bands, you can get creative with your exercises.
To find out more about corrective exercise and how you can help people regain their mobility and live pain-free, check out our Corrective Exercise Specialist course.