Resistance Bands for Strength and Function

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Strong abdominals are one of the sexiest parts of our body. Even if you are not revealing a chiseled set of six-pack abs, the contours of a strong midsection are still graceful and attractive. Besides being hot to look at, the six-pack and all the muscles surrounding it, underneath it, above and below it may be the most functional muscles in our body as well. To activate all of them, try these abs workouts with resistance bands with the help of a partner or a solid surface to hook them to.

There is no mention of sit-ups, crunches or leg lifts here, but only to offer an alternative to ab exercises which cause spinal flexion and potential pain and injury. For sit-up or crunch junkies, try going without them for a couple workouts or minimizing the range of motion when doing them. There is great value in having the strength to sit up and forward, just use caution when training this movement.

The resistance bands exercises listed below are for increasing core stability through isometric holds and full range of motion (ROM) repetitions, which increase strength and strength/endurance. Do each isometric exercise for 3-5 sets of 10 seconds each, adjusting the time, sets or amount of resistance for individual needs. Alternate an isometric set with a different exercise using a full ROM. For example, start with isometric lateral resistance and do full ROM for the arms overhead resisted ab exercise.

If you have a partner, have them pull the bands until you are satisfied with the difficulty. For a home gym without a partner, attach the resistance band to a hook on the wall or similar. 

Lateral Resistance

Start on your knees, with your arms straight out in front of your body, holding the resistance band handles with two hands. Maintain the isometric hold against the bands while keeping the torso straight and the shoulders packed in. The exercise should be hard enough to prevent the body from rotating past the center point, but not so hard that you can’t get there. Do not bend over or lean back to complete the movement; lighten the load and start over with good form.

Vary the angle by moving the hands in and pressing away from the chest every few seconds. Be sure the anchor point (wall or partner) is at an angle 20 or more degrees above you.

Overhead Resistance

Craig Weller of Barefoot FTS recommends doing this one only with a split stance to prevent the potential for injury. Anchor the resistance band behind and slightly above you or have your partner stand behind you. As with the lateral resistance abs exercise, get the difficulty level to where you need it before starting the countdown. Extend the arms overhead and retract the scapulae. Activate the shoulders to prevent them from being stretched backwards.

Anti-Lateral Flexion Resistance

As with the Overhead ab exercise, position yourself in a split stance with one foot and knee on the ground, arms overhead. The anchor point or partner now provides force from the side and above you, forcing the obliques and other core muscles to resist.

Standing Cable Resistance

Any of the resistance band exercises can be done standing as well, provided the anchor point is high enough. However, by eliminating the stable leg base, the core is forced to activate to a greater degree.

Planks

Though not a cable exercise, these should be a part of every athlete’s core workout routine. Planks are a great ab exercise and can be done on the floor or with a suspension trainer. For beginners or those with weak midsections, start on the floor.

The basic front plank begins with the body in pushup position, belly button tucked in, on the balls of your feet, with the spine in neutral (butt is not up in the air but neither is the belly sagging.) Once the body is ready, bring the elbows in and support the body on them.

Holding this position for several seconds is challenge enough for some. Make it more difficult by bringing the elbows in closer together, extending them farther out in front of you or both. When this becomes too easy, begin to see how far you can extend your arms out in front of you.

Variations on the front plank include the one arm side plank, the ‘star’ plank on one arm and lifting one leg, or the rocking plank in which you rock forward and back on the elbows within a limited range of motion. No matter what variation you try, keep the spine in neutral and the body in a straight line.

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