My favourite training tools #3: bands

This article is part of my blog-series: My Favourite Training Tools (For my American readers, please excuse the ‘u’ in favourite. It’s a Canadian thing). There are probably thousands of tools out there for fitness. Some are fly-by-night items, others have been mainstays for hundreds of years, and now and then there is a new kid on the block that is clearly here to stay. Through this blog-series, I’ll share with you the tools that I think are worth including in your home or commercial gym.

Number three on my list of favourite training tools is a band. I tend to be partial to mini-bands, but I also like therabands and superbands. The mini-bands and therabands are mainstays in the dynamic warmups for most of my clients. Basically everyone who starts training with me gets “mini-band walks” in their phase 1 program. The lateral ones (think crab walk) are a great option for getting the glute medius working, while the forward and backward ones (“monster walks”) can be a nice challenge for the glute max and hip flexors. Simple and effective. And mini-bands only cost a couple of bucks each.

Here is a video of another great mini-band warmup option:

I also like to use mini-bands to help the body to correct itself during certain movement patterns. The concept is often referred to as RNT, or Reactive Neuromuscular Training. Basically if the body tends to “cheat” during a movement, for instance the knee caving in during a squat, we can use a band around the knees so that they will collapse inward even more. I know this sounds counter intuitive – many trainers would have you use a ball between the knees to prevent them collapsing. But think about it: the ball between the knees encourages your body to squeeze it, thus making the poor movement pattern worse. But a band around the knees that pulls the knees further into collapse signals to the brain that it needs to resist that force and so the lateral muscles kick in and your knees stop caving. I have recently had success with this approach for people who have poor shoulder and neck movement, as you can see in this video. In this case, I am using a Cook band, but any band would do.

If you don’t have a mini-band, then you can use a theraband and tie it. If you have ever been to a physiotherapist, chiropractor or athletic therapist for an injury, odds are you have some theraband somewhere at home.

The therabands can also be used for adding resistance to bird dogs, and a variety of other activation exercises.

Superbands are a different breed. Powerlifters tend to like them for adding resistance to their lifts. The band adds variable resistance, which can help them improve the top end of their lift. I like superbands primarily for their role in helping people to be able to do chinups and pullups. I use both superbands and a TRX for this purpose. The superband helps develop strength in the top end of the pullup while supporting you in the bottom part, while the TRX helps throughout, but provides an option for working the bottom portion where most people have more trouble. I use the TRX more in pullup building than I do the superband, but I still think the superband is an integral part. For one thing, it feels awesome to be able to pull your head up over the bar. The superband allows you to get that gratification much earlier. A tool that makes people want to come to the gym to help work toward a goal is a-okay in my books.

Elsbeth Vaino is a personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada.

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