Resistance bands may be small, but boy are they mighty!
There are literally hundreds of resistance band workouts that you can add into your training routine.
Even better, you can do them from the comfort of your own home without having to take a single step in a gym.
Resistance bands are great tools to target the glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors – the leg muscles that runners use most.
In fact, you can use resistance bands to target pretty much any muscle in the body.
So how exactly do you use resistance bands? And how are they beneficial compared to free weights like dumbbells?
In this guide we’ll explore:
- What are resistance bands?
- What are the different types of resistance band?
- How effective are resistance band workouts?
- How often should you do resistance band workouts?
- Tips for using resistance bands
- 6 of the best resistance band workouts for runners
Let’s get started!
What are resistance bands?
Resistance bands are very simple pieces of equipment.
The bands are rubbery in texture and come in different sizes, lengths and strengths.
Some are straight, flat, tubular, and some come with handles attached.
The band is used to create resistance in order to work the muscle.
While you’re using them, the band forces the muscle to contract which will increase muscular and bone strength.
Resistance bands use oppositional force to train your muscles. You can think of it as a giant elastic band.
Essentially, the more you pull on the band, the heavier it will feel.
You can also leverage different types of band in terms of strength to make the workout harder.
Likewise, you can move the band to different parts of the body (such as the arms or legs) to adjust the workout intensity.
The bottom line? Resistance band workouts are a really great addition to any training routine if you want to mix things up a bit and continue to work on your strength.
What are the different types of resistance band?
The are 6 main types of resistance band:
#1 Therapy resistance bands
Therapy bands are mainly used for rehabilitation and physical therapy.
They do not have handles and are gentle on the body.
#2 Tube resistance bands
As the name suggests, these are tube shaped bands with handles.
They are mainly used to train the upper body and arms.
#3 Mini resistance bands
These are mainly used to train the lower body such as the glutes, hips and buttocks.
They are a short, flat, looped band that you can wrap around your upper legs.
#4 Figure 8 resistance bands
Figure 8 bands are plastic, tubular bands with a handles in a figure 8 shape.
These are mainly used for developing strength in the upper body.
#5 Ring resistance bands
These are small, ring-shaped bands with two handles attached either side.
These bands are mainly used to train the lower body.
#6 Lateral resistance bands
Lateral bands are used to train the lower body.
Instead of handles either side of the band, lateral bands have velcro cuffs which are typically wrapped around the ankles.
How effective are resistance band workouts?
Resistance bands are one of the best tools you can use to keep strength training.
Whether you no longer have access to a gym, or just don’t want to go there for personal reasons, resistance bands allow you to do an effective workout from the comfort of your own home.
According to a 2019 study, elastic resistance training is able to promote similar strength gains to conventional resistance training.
It can target the major muscles you use while running, mainly your core, glutes and legs.
This type of training is also really affordable and simple to use. You can use them almost anywhere!
The benefits of using resistance bands are numerous.
Here are just some of the reasons why you should use resistance bands in your workout:
- They improve the quality of your exercises.
- They recruit stabilising muscles.
- They are a great alternative to gym equipment and machines.
- They’re compact and lightweight.
- They’re cost effective.
- They’re designed for compound exercises.
- They’re great for rehab and injury recovery.
Related: 9 bodyweight exercises for runners
How often should you do resistance band workouts?
As with any form of strength training, the key is to be consistent.
Typically, doing 2-3 strength training sessions each week using resistance bands will be enough to see improved strength, health and body composition changes.
If you’re new to using resistance bands, then start by doing two sessions per week.
Each session doesn’t need to be more than 30 minutes in length.
Whilst you can work out with resistance bands every day, the reality is you will see no additional benefits by doing so.
What are good resistance band workouts for runners?
The best resistance band workouts for runners are those that focus on full body movements, unilateral movements and core strength.
At the end of this guide, we share some of our favourite resistance band workouts.
#1 Full body movements
Also known as ‘compound’ movements, these are movements that use your whole body, including your legs, core, upper body and arms.
#2 Unilateral movements
These are movements that use a single leg or single arm, like in a forward lunge or step-ups.
Running is considered a unilateral form of movement, meaning that your legs are moving independently of one another, supporting your body.
#3 Core strength
These are movements that develop your core strength as a runner.
Your core is important when running as it helps to keep a strong and stable position for longer.
Tips for using resistance bands
Now you know more about resistance bands and how they are beneficial for runners, here are some tips on using them:
#1 Control the movement
Whilst resistance bands are simple to use, it is important you control each movement to get the most out of the exercise.
It’s also important you have proper form and posture.
Aim to minimise muscle contraction and keep the tension on the band.
#2 Use the right resistance level
There are many types of resistance levels when it comes to resistance bands.
It’s important you use the right resistance/strength level for the right exercise.
For example, using an extra heavy band around the legs above the ankles will minimise range of movement and can cause too much stress in the hip area.
In this instance, a lighter band would be more beneficial because it allows for range of movement and still creates enough resistance to fully contract the muscle.
#3 Practice resistance band safety
When you have a band under tension, be careful when releasing the band to avoid it snapping back.
Begin all exercises slowly to ensure band strength.
Also, be sure to inspect bands before every use to check for any cuts, punctures and tears.
Any flaws could mean the band has been weakened in that area so should not be used.
6 of the best resistance band workouts for runners
#1 Side steps
Side steps are good for strengthening and stabilising your hip flexors and are one of my favourite resistance band workouts for runners.
As a runner, your hips take some serious impact, especially on those long runs.
If you regularly experience stiff or painful hips, side steps are a great exercise to try.
- Loop the resistance band around your ankles and bend your knees slightly.
- Take side steps left then right again.
- Make sure you keep the tension in the band and don’t let your feet come together.
- Repeat this movement 12 to 16 times. You will slowly get stronger as you add more resistance to the exercise.
The thicker the resistance band, the harder it will feel. If you’re a beginner, start with a thinner resistance band.
#2 Monster steps
Don’t let the name of this workout worry you – they’re not as bad as they sound!
Monster steps are another great exercise for glute activation.
- Loop the band around your ankles, bend your knees slightly and sink into a squat – your feet should be hip-width apart.
- Take big steps (hence the ‘monster’ name), making sure that your feet are as wide as possible.
- Take 10-15 steps forward then step back to where you started. You’ll soon feel the burn after a few sets of these!
#3 Standing hip abduction
This one is good as it really targets and strengthens the hip muscles.
You’ll need a thin resistance band for this exercise.
- Loop the band around a sturdy object and the other round your right ankle, then stand tall with the left foot on the tubing, while holding the opposite handle.
- Next, while keeping the right knee straight and engaging the core, kick your right leg outward, hold for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position.
- Don’t be tempted to rotate your hips. Instead, keep your focus on using your hip muscles.
- Repeat 10 times then change to the opposite leg.
Clams are one of the most effective resistance band workouts for runners.
A good idea is to regularly do two or three sets of clams before a workout in the gym.
They are so effective at priming the glutes for exercise, they are also a great exercise to target the outer thighs, groin and hip flexors.
There has to be quite a bit of resistance in the band for this exercise to make it effective, so you’ll need a thicker band.
- Lie on the floor, turn on your side and loop the band around your lower thighs.
- Slowly open up your legs in a clam motion then close them back again.
- Repeat 10-20 times depending on how hard you want to go. I like to mix it up with hip bridges in between.
Kickbacks are so simple and effective and are great for targeting the back of your thighs and bum.
- Loop the band just above your ankle and face a sturdy object, like a chair or wall.
- Slightly bend your knee and lift your left foot off the ground, driving the heel back in a kickback motion.
- Hold for a moment at the top of the movement, then lower down and repeat on the same side.
- Don’t be tempted to rock forward – engage your core muscles as you lift.
#6 Lying V tap
Lying V taps work your core muscles as well as your upper legs at the same time.
As we explained earlier, your core muscles are extremely important as a runner as they help to keep you stable and upright on a run.
- Start lying on back, band around thighs, legs in tabletop.
- Place hands on floor (or behind head with the elbows wide and bring chin to chest).
- Open legs out into a V as you tap toes to floor, then return to table top position. That’s one rep.