We often talk about resistance bands as if they’re the poor man’s dumbbells. We “settle” for using them when we’re traveling or don’t have the space or funds for seemingly better equipment. But, in reality, resistance bands have their own unique benefits, especially for runners who want to gain overall strength and improve stability.
“Bands can give variable resistance throughout the full range of motion, which can help with increased muscle recruitment and increased stabilization strength,” Yusuf Jeffers, NASM-certified personal trainer and USATF-certified running coach tells Runner’s World. In other words, you can use bands to add resistance to certain movements that don’t lend themselves to traditional handheld weights. And that resistance will change along with the tension of the band, keeping your muscles working in overdrive to power you through the move and keep you steady as you go.
Bands are also an ideal option for runners who are new to strength training as well as athletes concerned with injury prevention and recovery. “Resistance bands provide reduced load at joints, leading to a lower chance of injury when training. This makes them a popular tool for rehab and prehab exercises,” Jeffers says.
Jeffers designed the following circuit of resistance band exercises for beginners, noting that the level of difficulty can be adjusted with the weight of the band. “The first three exercises address strengthening muscles across joints—ankle, knees, and hips—that help with endurance and injury prevention,” he says. “The next three exercises address more global muscular systems that, when strengthened, can help with speed development and upper body strength. And unilateral exercises, like the split-stance deadlift to row, strengthen in a way that mimics running mechanics.”
How to use this list: Perform each exercise below for 1 minute, resting minimally between exercises. Repeat the full circuit for 3 sets. Rest 2 minutes between sets.
Each move is demonstrated by Jeffers in the video above so you can master the proper form. You will need a large, medium-weight resistance band. An exercise mat is recommended.
Ankle Flexion and Extension
Start in a seated position with legs extended. Loop one end of a large resistance band around the right foot twice and hold the other end of the band with both hands. Maintaining tension on the band, lift right foot a couple of inches off the ground. Flex the foot, pulling toes toward you, and hold. Then point the foot and hold. Continue alternating for 1 minute. Then repeat on the other side.
Loop one end of a large resistance band over head and across upper back. Step onto the other end of the band, placing feet about shoulder-width apart. (To keep band from slipping, bring hands in front of hips and maintain a light grip on band.) With knees slightly bent, and hips back like in a shallow squat, take two steps to the right. Then take two steps to the left. Repeat, moving slowly and stepping wide enough to feel the band’s resistance. Focus on pushing the knees out (rather than allowing them to collapse inward). Continue moving side to side for 1 minute.
Loop one end of a large resistance band over head and across upper back. Step onto the other end of the band, placing feet about shoulder-width apart. (To keep band from slipping, bring hands in front of hips and maintain a light grip on band.) With a flat back and knees slightly bent, hinge at the hips, sending butt straight back and lowering torso until you feel a deep stretch in the hamstrings. Keep back flat. Engage glutes and drive feet into the floor to stand back up. Repeat for 1 minute.
Loop one end of a large resistance band over head and across your upper back. Step onto the other end of the band, placing feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly out. (To keep band from slipping, bring hands in front of hips and maintain a light grip on band.) Bend knees and send hips down and back to lower into a squat. Keep chest lifted, shoulders down, and core, quads, and glutes engaged. Go as low as you can without breaking form, then press through feet to stand back up. Repeat for 1 minute.
Split-Stance Deadlift to Row
Holding the ends of a large resistance band in each hand, place left foot on the middle of the band and stagger the right foot slightly behind the left, toes on ground and heel lifted. With a flat back and knees slightly bent, hinge at the hips, sending butt straight back, until torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Holding this bent-over position, pull the ends of the band toward chest, squeezing shoulder blades together. Lower the arms, engage the glutes, and drive the feet into the floor to stand back up. Repeat for 1 minute. Then repeat on the other side.
Holding the ends of a large resistance band, slip the band over head and across upper back. Start in a high plank position with the band under palms, shoulders over wrists, and core engaged so body forms a straight line from shoulders to hips to heels. Engage glutes and thighs to keep your legs straight. Bend elbows to lower chest to the floor, then push back up to high plank position. Repeat for 1 minute.