Four Resistance Band Exercises to Improve Strength and Balance

with Personal Trainer Jen Besten

Resistance bands are highly versatile pieces of equipment. With various resistance levels available, they make great tools for athletes of all levels. Here are four banded exercises to help improve coordination and balance while strengthening a range of leg muscles from glutes to inner thighs. Be sure to try different bands until you find the right one for each exercise.

First thing’s first: Choosing the right band

In my training, I have found that people tend to choose a more “heavy” resistance band than they actually need. As is true with all types of training, more weight doesn’t necessarily mean more results. Start with a lighter band and progress up as you get more comfortable.

Power Systems is the brand of resistance bands that HAC stocks around the club. Different brands use different colors to indicate the varying levels of resistance, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the resistance levels of the brand you will be using. Power Systems bands ranked from least to most resistance are as follows: orange, green, red, blue, and purple. Power Systems also offers a grey band with even more resistance than purple, but this tool is really only necessary for high-performance athletes.

1. Banded Skaters

(A) Place the band between your ankles and knees. The lower the band rests on your legs, the more difficult this exercise will be. (B) Standing tall, brace your body with one leg and lift the second leg back until there’s tension on the band. Repeat this 10 – 12 times on each side. Make sure not to lean too far forward and actively pull with your glutes.

2. Lateral Walks

They may not look like much, but you’ll definitely feel your hips working with this exercise. (A) Wrap the band around your legs above the ankles. Again, the closer the band is to your ankles, the more challenging your walks will be. Place your feet about shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent and hips hinged forward about 45-degrees.

(B) Keeping your feet and hips in a neat, lateral line, step to your left side, leading with your left foot quickly followed by your right. You should feel your left hip working as your left foot steps out. Repeat for 10 steps, then take 10 steps to the right to return to your starting position. Be sure to maintain tension on the band throughout the exercise (or, to put it another way, always keep your feet at least shoulder-width apart).

3. Clam Shells

Modification: Make this move more challenging by keeping your feet in an elevated position throughout the motion.

Clam shells target the gluteus medius as well as the gluteus maximus. The gluteus medius is what allows your hips to externally rotate. (A) Start this exercise by placing a resistance band around your legs below the knees and lying on your side on a mat. Stack the hips directly on top of one another, hinge slightly forward, and create a 90-degree angle with your knees. (B) While keeping your feet together, drive up with your top knee, creating tension in your top hip and glute muscles. Lower your knee to return to the starting position, repeat for 10 – 12 reps, and switch sides.

4. Banded Lateral Leg Raises

While leg lifts primarily target the lower abs, they also work the inner thighs and aid with stabilization. (A) Get set by placing the band around both calves and lying on your left side. You can place your palms flat against the floor to provide support as you complete the exercise. (B) Keeping your right (top) leg straight but not locked, use your hips to pull your right leg toward the ceiling. Actively pushing your left leg into the floor while raising your right will allow you to exercise both legs simultaneously. Bring your right leg back down to starting position, repeat for 10 – 12 reps, and switch sides.

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