A few weeks ago I posted the first of my “top ten training tools,” free weights (if you missed it, see here). Today I want to share with you a few ways in which superbands can be used to mix up your lifting routine. I am sure a number of fitness suppliers sell these, and they are probably called different things, but essentially it looks like a giant rubber band. I get mine from Perform Better (my supplier of choice ~ highly recommend them), which happens to call them superbands. They are offered in 4 different widths, 1/2″, 1″, 1.75″ and 2.5″. I have all but the widest band and use them a lot with my clients and my own training. The great thing about superbands is that they are a relatively cheap training tool (the smallest band is $12, price increases with thickness with the thickest band being $39) and they are easy to take with you (especially the smallest band).
One of my favorite uses for superbands is assisting with chin-ups. I discussed this in my post of last week (see here). When you stretch a rubber band, it wants to return to its original size. By placing your feet, foot or knee in the superband you are using that property of the band to help you up over the bar.
Personally I’m not sure there is much difference between placing both feet versus one foot in the band, but placing a knee will definitely increase the challenge (the band is stretched less). Start band-assisted chin-ups with a thick band (I generally start my clients with the 1.75″ band), and as that gets easier you move towards a skinnier band. You can also use two bands, placing one foot in each. This would also add more assistance, as compared to a single band.
I also like the skinniest band (1/2″) for Paloff presses. I have talked about Paloff presses before (“Do This, Instead of This“); I think the Paloff press is a great exercise, and there are some great variations of this exercise. While it can be done with a cable machine, it also works very well with a band. Plus, you can take a band with you anywhere. In the version below they are not using a superband, but the concept and technique are the same. With a Paloff press, the hardest point is when your arms are fully extended in front of you, so don’t rush these.
I talked about working your glutes in my post “Does This Make My Butt Look Big?” (one of my favorite posts to write, also one of my most popular). I gave you a single-leg glute bridge as a very effective way to work your butt. But you can make this more challenging using a band. I recommend using a 1/2″ band for this ~ you can start with a single width as resistance (i.e. sticking your foot through the middle of the circle) and then later, as you need more challenge, you can double the band up.
Here are two more ways to use the band from Ben Bruno. Ben is a very smart guy and is creative when coming up with new exercises. He is currently rehabbing from a major knee surgery, which seems to have increased his creativity level even more as he figures out ways to work around his (temporarily) bum knee. This first exercise Ben calls “band stomps.” He recommends using it as part of rehab or for a warm-up, but he is also very strong. For many people this can be used as an effective glute exercise (try it, you will feel it in your butt). I would recommend trying this one with a 1″ band.
And one more from Ben, which also works that posterior chain (hamstrings & glutes), called a band good morning:
Another great exercise, using the 1/2″ band, are X-band walks. This is great for working the glute medius, which helps to support your hips. You should feel this on the sides of your butt as you walk laterally. Make sure to walk in both directions. Chest should be up, shoulders retracted (squeeze those shoulder blades in towards the center of your back).
Superbands are also great for band-resisted push-ups. This is a more advanced exercise ~ you need to be able to do 8-10 good push-ups before I would attempt to add resistance.
The band can also be used for a single arm press:
You can then turn around, grab the band with one hand and do a pulling (rowing) motion. I couldn’t find a good video clip using a band, so here is the cable version ~ just substitute the band for the cable.
That should be enough to get you started. There are a ton of uses for a band, and given how inexpensive and portable they are, they are great for taking with you when traveling or using for a home workout. Give them a try and tell me what you think.