Bored with ball crunches and floor planks? Try using resistance bands to give your next core workout a real power boost. Combining resistance bands with functional movement is an excellent way to improve your dynamic stability and strengthen your core from top to bottom, and 360 degrees around.
This core-focused workout takes advantage of a unique quality of the resistance band. Unlike with cables, levers and free weights that provide a steady load throughout an exercise movement, with a band the load increases as it is stretched. Use the type of resistance band with handles and perform three sets of 12 reps for each exercise. You may have to experiment to find the appropriate level of resistance. The rule of thumb is to choose a resistance band strong enough to create muscle fatigue by the end of the third set, but not so strong that you struggle to maintain correct technique.
Resistance Squat and Press
The resistance squat and press is an excellent functional exercise that connects your lower, middle and upper core to your hip and shoulder girdles. Start by grasping a handle with each hand. Stand on the band with your feet about shoulder-width apart and toes facing forward. With your palms facing forward, press the handles up until your hands are in the racked position—close to your chest and level with your shoulders. Drop into a squat, keeping your hips back and chest up. Rise to a standing position and straighten your arms, pressing your hands up towards the ceiling. Be sure to engage your core and straighten your elbows at the top of the press, when the resistance load is greatest. Lower your hands to the racked position and repeat.
Start by kneeling on your hands and knees with one handle looped around your right foot. Run the band along the floor from your right foot to your right hand. Take up any slack and hold the band on the floor with your right hand. Run the rest of the band across the floor to your left hand. Viewed from above, the band should make an ‘L’ shape with the long leg running from your right foot to right hand, and short leg running from your right hand to left hand. Straighten your right leg and push your foot away from your body. Engage your core and glutes, and maintain a neutral spine as your foot pushes against the resistance band. Try not to lift your leg above the horizontal plane of your back or let your back drop into extension. Bring your right leg back to the starting position and repeat.
Resistance Bent-over Pulldown
For this exercise, find a high anchor point about three feet above your head, or high enough so the band is still under tension when your hands are in the starting position. Anchor the midpoint of the band. Stand far enough away from the anchor point so the band is under tension when your hands are overhead. You may have to experiment with the height of the anchor point and your distance from it to achieve the right amount of tension in the band.
Grasp the handles about shoulder-width apart, or slightly wider, palms facing down. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent. Bend at the waist until your chest is 45 degrees away from vertical. Straighten your arms until your hands are straight overhead and in line with your body. This is your starting position. Keeping your arms straight, pull your hands down toward the floor while simultaneously straightening up at the waist. At the point of greatest resistance, your hands should be down by your hips and your trunk straight up. You should feel tension along the posterior chain—hips, back and shoulders—as well as the anterior core—abs and obliques. Slowly raise your hands and lower your chest back to the starting position.
Resistance Diagonal Chop, High and Low
The diagonal chop strengthens your core muscles in the functionally important rotational directions. For the high diagonal chop, use an anchor point two to three feet overhead. Hold both handles together in one hand and wrap your other hand over it in an overlapping grip. For the high diagonal chop, stand sideways to the anchor point with your right side closest to it. Raise your hands overhead and to the right. Adjust your distance from the anchor point until the band is under slight tension. Pull your hands towards the floor next to your left hip, twisting slightly at the waist as your hands descend in a diagonal line across your body. Keep your arms straight. Slowly let the band pull your hands back to the overhead and right position. Engage your core throughout the movement and take special care not to let the band jerk your arms back up. Switch sides after each set of 12 reps.
For the low diagonal chop, use an anchor point on the floor. Stand sideways to the anchor point with your right side closest to it. Lower your hands down by your right hip with your waist slightly twisted. Make sure the band is providing some tension in this starting position. Pull your hands up and to the left until they are overhead and to the left. Slowly let the band pull your hands back to the down and right position. Keep your core tight and do not let the band jerk your arms down. Switch sides after each set of 12 reps.