If you are looking for a way to focus on specific muscle groups to improve your fitness or to add to your training regime then resistance band exercises are what you need.
Resistance bands will help you fix any muscle imbalances and help to improve your muscles’ activation.
This means that the movements you make while you are running will be more efficient. And by moving more efficiently, you are constantly improving your running performance.
What Are Resistance Bands?
Resistance bands are elasticated, stretchable bands used for physical therapy and general fitness.
They are one of the best pieces of equipment that a runner can have in their training arsenal. Versatile and easy to use, they also don’t take up a lot of space.
Resistance bands can be flat or tubular and can come with handles or without.
There are several types of resistance bands for targeting different muscle groups and body areas. Let’s take a look at some of them and see what they are used for.
Therapy Resistance Bands
As the name suggests these resistance bands are used primarily for therapy, more specifically physical therapy and rehabilitation.
The bands don’t have any handles and don’t place a lot of stress on your body, making them an excellent choice for this use.
Tube Resistance Bands
These are tubular resistance bands which normally have a handle. They are different to flat resistance bands such as therapy resistance bands.
Mini Resistance Bands
This type of resistance band is typically for training parts of the lower body such as the hips, glutes and buttocks.
They are flat looped bands that can be wrapped around the upper legs and are shorter than other bands.
Figure 8 Resistance Bands
These are tubular plastic bands that are formed in the figure of 8, and they come with handles on each end. They are typically used for strengthening the upper body.
Ring Resistance Bands
These are bands that are formed from small rings joined together and have a handle on either end.
Lateral Resistance Bands
These bands can be used for training lower body muscle groups, and they do not have any handles. Instead they attach with Velcro cuffs around each ankle.
Resistance Band Benefits For Runners
The resistance bands let you focus and work on one particular group of muscles.
They also provide the benefits of weight training without the bulk and hassle by putting constant tension on your body.
For runners this means they do not neglect their upper body and core and that they can balance running with a full body workout.
If you do the exercises once a week your ankles, hips and glutes will be strengthened which will reduce the risk of injury.
As a runner these resistance bands can help you with your training regime and give you an edge over the competition. They are a low impact alternative to weight training
So let’s take a look at some of the exercises that you can do with resistance bands.
Side step exercises are great for stabilizing and strengthening the hip flexors.
Runner’s hips take heavy impact on a regular basis, especially on long runs, so this is a great way to keep your hips in good shape.
If you frequently experience painful or stiff hips, this is a fantastic exercise for you to try. It’s also a good exercise to build full leg strength.
- Begin by looping the band around both ankles while bending your knees a little.
- Now take steps to the side, first to the left then to the right. Your feet should be separated to shoulder width.
- Keep your hips level.
- Thicker resistance bands will make the exercise harder. If you are just starting out with this exercise begin with a slightly thinner band.
- Be careful to keep the band tensioned at all times and do not allow your feet to meet.
- Repeat the sideways movement 10 to 15 times. As you start to increase resistance to the exercise it will make you stronger.
This exercise is good for working the glutes and hamstrings as well as for a strong core and back. It strengthens the thighs as well.
It’s necessary for there to be a high degree of resistance in the band otherwise it will not be as effective, so you will need to use quite a thick resistance band.
- Lie down on the floor, on your side. Loop the resistance band around the lower part of your thighs.
- Your knees should be at 90 degrees and your thighs should be at a 45-degree angle from your body.
- Contract your abdominal muscles in order to stabilize your core.
- Keeping your feet together and your pelvis still slowly raise your right leg in a controlled way, pause at the top of the movement and then lower it back down again.
- Keep your lower leg on the floor at all times.
- Repeat this exercise 10-20 times depending on how much you want to do. You may want to include some hip bridges between sets.
Kickbacks are a simple but effective way to target the muscles at the back of your thighs and your buttocks. They also target the glutes and help improve muscle tone and strength.
This exercise will boost core stability and balance while helping to sculpt the legs, hips, and thighs.
- Loop the resistance band slightly above the ankle and turn to face a stable object, such as a wall or a chair.
- Making sure your body is straight and activate your core.
- Now bending your knee slightly, lift your foot off of the ground, and drive your heel backwards in a kicking motion. Make sure your leg is behind you and not at a diagonal.
- Engage your glutes at the top position.
- Maintain for a few seconds at the apex of the movement, and then lower your foot and repeat on the same side as many times as you need.
- Repeat with the opposite leg.
- Try not to lean forward, you should be engaging the muscles of your core as you lift.
Monster steps make a fantastic exercise for glute activation and to strengthen lower body muscles.
In fact, resistance band exercises like these are an effective and simple way to activate glutes for runners.
You will definitely feel the burn after a few sets of these exercises. For a slightly easier exercise or if you are trying this for the first time place the resistance band around your legs above your knees.
To increase the resistance use a thicker resistance band or use one band around your ankles and one around your knees.
- Start by looping the resistance band around both ankles, bending your knees a little and lower yourself down to a squat. At this point your feet should be at hip width.
- Take large steps ensuring, so your feet are as far apart as you can make them.
- Keep your hands in front of your body with your elbows bent.
- Take 10-12 steps forward then do the same thing to go back to your original position.
Hip Flexor Marches
The hip flexors connect your lower back, your hips and your groin, and are used for knee drive while you are running. They can often tighten up if you have been sitting for a long period of time.
These hip flexor marches with resistance bands work the glutes, hip flexors, as well as core stability. They can also improve balance.
- Place the band around the bottom of your feet.
- Now engage your core and lift one of your legs up toward your chest keeping your knee at 90-degrees.
- Make sure you keep the supporting leg straight and that your hips are level. Hold the position for 3-4 seconds and then lower your leg down.
- Repeat this for 10 reps with each leg and then increase up to 15 per leg.
Standing Hip Abduction
This exercise is great as it targets the outer hip muscles and strengthens them by using resistance bands. It promotes stability and strength in the hips when running.
A thinner resistance band is better for this exercise.
- Start by looping the resistance band around a stable, sturdy object and the other round your left ankle.
- Now stand tall with the ball of your right foot on the tubing, and hold the opposite handle.
- While keeping your left knee straight, engage your core, and kick your left leg outward.
- Hold for a few seconds, and then return to your starting position.
- Do not rotate your hips. Rather, focus on utilizing your hip muscles and remember to stand straight.
- Repeat this exercise for 10 reps then change to the other leg.
This exercise helps to correct bad posture caused by sitting at a desk for long periods. It also works your glutes, lower back, hamstrings, and lower body muscles groups.
When you add a resistance band to this wall sit exercise you can help strengthen the external hip rotators. This helps to keep your knees from rolling inwards when you run. This exercise can take a little while to get used to, but you will conquer it.
- Put the resistance band around your thighs. Put your back against a wall and then slide down until your knees are at 90-degrees and your feet are approximately two feet from the wall.
- Now brace your core and move your knees outward a little, until there is some tension on the resistance band.
- Raise up your arms, but keep your shoulder blades, elbows and fingers pressed to the wall.
- Do 15-18 glides.
Resistance bands make a great tool for runners to add to their training schedule and focus on specific muscle groups in their body. The exercises also help with connective tissue and tendons.
On top of this it helps to reduce injury by targeting the smaller muscle groups that may otherwise be ignored.
The use of resistance bands also enhances rehabilitation after any running injury by helping your muscles to recover faster.
Using resistance bands also reduces the rate at which muscle mass is lost as we age, something that even keen runners can suffer from. It is also much easier on your joints than traditional weight training.
These exercises can also help improve your performance as they enable a balanced training regime that doesn’t ignore any of the key muscle groups. This improves your flexibility and control of your movements.
It’s a good idea to experiment with the different types of resistance bands until you find one or more that suit your specific needs.
Everyone will have their own areas that they want to work on as runners and there is a resistance band for most exercises to help you achieve your future running goals.