resistance band

This $3 Exercise Tool Is Your Personal Gym

Whether you’re an avid runner, a closet gym-goer (soon to be frequent gym-goer as of this year), or somewhere in between, resistance band exercises will benefit your body. Even better, the band is 10 times less expensive than most yoga classes. Add this affordable tool to any workout, anywhere, and help stave off injury, and stay strong!

What is a resistance band?

It’s a stretchy piece of rubber that is either a raw cut of any length, or a pre-cut length of rubber connected into itself (a circular band). The band can be extremely stretchy—usually termed easy on the resistance or difficulty scale—to extremely taut, the hardest difficulty. The former is usually green in color, and the latter is often black. There are many in-between colors and corresponding resistances. Whether you get a raw cut piece of band, usually found in physical therapy offices, or a pre-made circular band, is up to you.

Hint happens to be giving one away right now in our New Year, New You Bundle.

Why use a band?

Other than being affordable and convenient, why are resistance band exercises beneficial to your running and overall fitness? The short answer: a band works stabilizer muscles that are difficult to engage without a band.

Stabilizer muscles hold your body in place during movement, preventing injury. Your bigger, moving-focused muscles move you. Mover muscles include quadriceps, biceps, and calves. So while your quads and other mover leg muscles allow you to run, your gluteus medius muscle (the stabilizer of the hip joint) and the deep stabilizer of your core (the transversus/multifidus, which stabilizes spinal segments), engage and stabilize your hip and core area, which helps to prevent various knee injuries and to maximize the power output of your quads. Case in point: the little muscles matter!

As said by professional roadrunner Tyler McCandless to Competitor Magazine, “Running is generally a linear forward movement, which can lead to weaknesses in other planes of motion.” Thus, “a strong set of glutes makes a big difference in preventing injuries.”

Work your butt, core, ankles. Anywhere.

How to work your stabilizer glute muscles with a resistance band: Think about doing a two-leg squat, with feet a tad farther than shoulder-width apart, sitting back as if you’re in a chair, knees 45-90 degrees apart, depending on how much you want your glutes to burn. Great. Now add a band around your ankles and do this type of squat, but move sideways for 20 feet, then back. It’s a full butt workout that engages those small stabilizers in your glute area and core, that otherwise aren’t worked in a linear movement without resistance bands.

Such exercise modification can be applied to myriad of exercises. Runner’s World shows three exercises to do with a resistance band with handles—a fancier version of the raw cut band—focused more on upper body stability.

If you’re prone to ankle sprains, skip right to these ankle exercises.

Susceptible to weak hips? Monster walk and sidesteps are your go-to exercises.

And remember, these can be done in a hotel room, in a parking lot, or at home. No excuse to have weak stabilizer muscles with the obscenely cheap resistance band!

Lastly, don’t be surprised if you’re sore. Engaging stabilizer muscles you don’t normally workout will likely make your body ache. But know that this soreness is temporary, and with persistent work, the injury prevention and toning benefits will trump any soreness.

Which exercises do you want to try? Do you know which of your stabilizer muscles are weak? Do you think a resistance band is the most affordable fitness tool available?

About the Author

Clare Gallagher is an ultrarunner for The North Face and travels extensively for races and philanthropic work. She studied coral ecology at Princeton University where she also ran cross country and track. Clare has taught English in Thailand where she started a non-profit environmental stewardship program, she has scribed in emergency rooms across Denver, and she writes regularly for various running blogs.

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