Why use bands?
Resistance bands are an easy way to get into resistance training and do a wide array of exercises with minimal equipment, and importantly weight. While you can’t very easily carry around a bag of dumbbells, nothing stops you from carrying a bag of resistance bands around with you when you go on Holiday, or on a business trip and want to keep in the routine of exercising.
For combat athletes, they’re a particularly under rated tool because it’s far harder to get injured with resistance bands than it is with heavy weights, and the penalty for accidentally using too much load is far less. If you get caught with a weighted squat that is too much for you, you best have your spotter to save you. If the resistance band is too hard, no big deal, you don’t have to worry about it dropping and crushing your foot.
Of course this is not to say that one is better than the other. They both provide a slightly different experience. Banded exercises are harder at different points of a movement than free weights, and for some people, it will be easier to track their progress via the numbers on the weights, than by the thickness of the bands. However you can absolutely build muscle and athleticism using bands and if you’re a combat athlete, it would be a shame if you didn’t use at least some of these techniques.
This weeks article will focus on pushing exercises, next week will focus on pulling.
What bands to use?
This is a very important question, because not all bands are created equal. Quite literally, they’re of different lengths and those different lengths are for different purposes, shorter looped bands are better for putting around your knees and working hips, or shoulders.
We will need longer bands for these exercises, my personal recommendation is this Bionix set, which are both long enough to use on all of these exercises but also provide a good amount of resistance. You will also need a door anchor for your bands in order to do all of these exercises. This should cost in the ballpark of £40 in total and should last you 6 months to a year assuming you’re regularly using them.
What to avoid?
For the strikers reading, lets get this out of the way. Don’t use your resistance bands to load up your punches and kicks. Fighters often do this with the mistaken belief it will make their punches and kicks faster and stronger. This is simply not the case. Loading up a skilled technique will not only ruin your form, but also will not provide resistance in the areas of a punch or kick that matter.
Muay Thai S&C Coach Don Heatrick explains here:
This is not to say that we shouldn’t train with resistance bands to build stronger bodies, but we should keep any sort of loaded strike, be it with a band or weight out of our routine. Olympic swimmers lift weights too, but they don’t train by swimming with a barbell holding them back.
1. Banded Push Up
This is going to be both the easiest and hardest exercise of the list. Easiest because everyone should know how to do a push up. Hardest because the resistance band will add a deceptive amount of load to the exercise even with your thinnest band. Place wrap the band around your back, holding a side in each hand, then when you’re in planking position, lower down with your core braced, your glutes braced and your elbows close to your body (don’t let them flare out).
When you push up, you want to make this a fast motion in order to get the most out of pushing through the band, push all the way up and make sure at the end of the push up, your shoulder blades have lifted up higher than your shoulders. You should feel an ever so slight stretch in your traps when you have reached the very top of the exercise.
We do this exercise for the same reason we do regular push ups, it trains not only the chest, but core stabilisation and because we are pushing through the band, it gives us some plyometric training that will help us to become a more explosive athlete.
2. Banded Bench/Floor Press
Either lay down on a bench, with the band looped underneath it, or on the floor with your band around your back, get your hands in the same position as they would be if you were bench pressing a bar, and then push your arms out. Make sure you do this exercise with speed to make sure you are getting an explosive movement.
This exercise can serve as either a supplement, or alternative to banded push ups. If banded push ups are too difficult, or even if regular push ups are too difficult, this exercise can help you build some of the strength that is required to do push ups correctly.
3. Split Stance Pallov Press
Secure your band behind a closed door using the door hook. Get a distance away from the door that you feel the band tense, make sure you are not facing the door. Get into a split stance, bring the band in the close to you, brace your core and start pressing it away from you, before returning back. You should feel the band pulling against you the whole time. Do an even number of sets for these and make sure to change sides on each set.
This exercise improves your overall core strength and stability, which will assist with everything from endurance to kicking power, especially for those combing from a Muay Thai background, or using a Muay Thai style kick, which is dominated by core power.
Remember that this is an anti-rotation exercises, so you
will need some sort of rotational exercise in order to balance it out. We will
have examples of them in next weeks article on pulling exercises.
4. Banded Squat to Press
Stand on your band, with your feet shoulder width apart. Take the band in your hand and put your hands at shoulder level, as though you were front squatting a bar. Squat down, press up, and then at the top of your squat, you’re going to press the band up and over your head till you get a full extension of your arms, then bring the band back down to shoulder level, rinse and repeat.
This exercise forces you to move athletically through a dynamic motion, having to work different muscle groups in unison, which is important for any athlete but especially for someone who is going to be grappling a lot.
5. Banded Reverse Lunge
Step one foot onto your band, place the other behind you and down into a lunge position. Push off your front foot and return to your athletic stance. Do this on both sides. This exercise will improve balance while strengthening each hip individually, which is a must for any athlete. This will also particularly help striking power which comes from the rotation and stability of the hips.
Next time, we will be looking at pull exercises. See you then.