Elastic resistance can be used to improve the sports performance elements of power, agility and speed. Power is the ability to exert or produce force in a very short period of time. Agility is the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change directions quickly while maintaining good body control, and finally speed may be defined as the rate at which body segments move.
Elastic resistance exercises assist in shortening (concentric muscle action), lengthening (eccentric muscle action), and stabilizing (isometric muscle action) muscle to facilitate the development of power, agility and speed. Several exercise applications of elastic bands and tubing can be used to improve power, agility and speed. In particular, plyometric (the rapid stretching and contracting of muscles) is one of the most successful methods of improving speed and power.
Virtually all general physical fitness activities require some combination of all three elements. One of the goals of sports-specific training is to develop these elements to the extent and in a manner that is appropriate for that sport in order to optimize performance and prevent injury. For example, for athletes in a sport like tennis, where explosive multidirectional movements of the lower body are performed repeatedly, training exercises that emphasize power, agility and speed are necessary staples to allow players to achieve their full potential.
Elastic resistance can be used to enhance these important aspects of human performance as they relate to movements common to fitness activity; running, throwing, kicking, swinging, jumping and other general athletic maneuvers.
In this article we present a dozen power, speed and agility moves that you can do with your resistance bands.
Stand with the band wrapped around your waist and the ends secured behind you far enough away not to interfere with running. Begin running forward against the resistance of the band.
Perform resisted backward running by standing with the band looped around your hips and the ends secured in front of you far enough away not to interfere with running. Begin running backward against the elastic band.
Begin in a three-point stance with the band looped around the waist and the ends secured behind you. Explode out of your stance and take one step forward.
Stand with the band looped around your waist and the ends secured in front, far enough away that they won’t interfere with several steps of explosive forward movement. There should be a modest tension against the band. Sprint several steps, allowing the band to assist propelling you forward. The exercise ends when the tension in the band becomes insignificant.
Reciprocal Arm and Leg Action
Secure the ends of the band to a stationary object behind you at about knee level. Wrap the middle of the band around one thigh. Flex the hip forward, while pulling the arm on the same side backward and punching the opposite arm forward. Return and repeat.
Securely attach one end of the band to a sturdy object behind you at or above shoulder height. Grasp the other end and perform an overhead throwing motion, with follow through, using the resistance from the band to gently overload the muscles used in throwing.
Attach one end of the band to a sturdy object behind you at about waist level. Grasp the other end of the band, with your elbow straight and your arm extended behind you. Place one leg behind the other in a staggered stance. As you step forward with the leg opposite the throwing arm, quickly pull the band forward in an underhand motion, keeping your elbow as straight as possible.
Bilateral Overhead Throw
Secured one end of the band to a stationary object overhead an behind you. Stand with your back to the attachment point and grasp the end of the band with both arms extended overhead. Simulate a soccer throw-in pattern, bending slightly forward at the hips and trunk. Combine with a step or twisting motion to work the obliques.
Arm Acceleration Drill
Secure a band at knee height in front of you. Grab the other end of the band in a starting position (your arm overhead with the thumb pointing backward). Stand far enough away from the attachment point that moderate resistance is present. move your arm forward in a diagonal pattern similar to a throwing motion, and work against the resistance of the band as you return to the starting position.
Plyometric Shoulder External Rotation
Secure the band to a sturdy object at shoulder height, grasp the other end, and stand facing the attachment point with one shoulder elevated to 90 degrees. Start with the forearm in the vertical position with moderate tension on the band and with the elbow bent 90 degrees. Quickly move the shoulder until the forearm becomes horizontal, and then without pausing, move the arm back to the starting position. The elbow should remain bent at 90 degrees throughout the exercise.
Biceps, Plyometric Elbow Extension
Secure one end of the band to a sturdy object in front of you at shoulder height. Stand with the shoulder flexed forward to about 90 degrees and grasp the other end of the band. Use the opposite arm placed under the elbow to support and stabilize the working arm. Begin with the elbow bent to 90 degrees and allow elastic resistance to straighten the elbow; quickly return to the starting position. Pause and repeat.
Securely attach the ends of the band to a sturdy object behind you at ankle height. Wrap the middle of the band around the foot of the kicking leg. Start with the working leg behind your body with light tension on the band. Simulate a kicking motion. Slowly return.
Hamstring Plyometric Hip Flexion
Attach the ends of the band to a secure object in front of you at waist level. Loop the middle of the band around your leg just above the ankle. While maintaining your balance (use your support as needed), flex your hip and lift your leg to about 45 degrees. Allow the band to pull your knee into extension while you maintain hip flexion. Quickly pull against the band once your knee is straight by flexing your knee back to 45 degrees. Pause and repeat.
Loop the band around both legs just above the ankles. Keep both knees straight as you quickly kick forward and backward with one leg. Repeat with the other leg. Kick side to side as well. Stand on a foam surface for a greater challenge.
Bat Swing Simulation
Secure one end of a long band to a stationary object at shoulder height. Grasp the other end of the band as you would a baseball bat. Simulate swinging to a point just beyond normal contact of a ball. Slowly return. Repeat.
Wrap a long band around your waist and secure the ends of the band to a stationary object. Stand beside the attachment point in the ready position with the dominant arm closest to the attachment, then step laterally into an open stance while simulating a forehand swing. Slowly return. Repeat.
Secure one end of the band to a sturdy object at shoulder height. Standing beside the attachment with your dominant arm farthest from it, grab the other end as you would a racket. Place the arm in a cocked position for hitting a high one handed backhand. Move the arm forward and outward against the resistance of the band. Slowly return. Keep your elbow firm and nearly straight to increase the amount of work done by your shoulder.
Elbow Extension with Shoulder Elevation
Stand with the band under your back foot, your shoulder at about 100 degrees, and the elbow bent at 90 degrees. Stabilize your serving arm using the other hand, if needed, to ensure that the shoulder stays in serving position. Lean your trunk approximately 30 degrees opposite the attachment point to simulate the serving position and extend your elbow. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Avoid placing your shoulders in the overhead position because during service the shoulder is elevated only 90 to 100 degrees because of the side bend of the trunk.
Secure one end of a long band to a stationary object. Grasp the ends in both hands and stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. From a golf swing’s starting position, and against the band’s resistance, move your arms to the take-back position of the swing. Make a golf swing, complete with follow-through against the band’s resistance.
Swim Pull Through
Attach the middle of the band to a secure object in front of you at waist height or slightly higher. Start with your knees slightly bent and you trunk bent 90 degrees. Grab one end in the band with each hand with your arms lightly forward nd your head in a neutral position. Pull your arms back, simulating the pull-through phase of swimming, and slowly return to the starting position.
Wrap the middle of a long band around your waist and attach the ends of the band to a sturdy object behind you at floor level or have a partner hold the ends. Crouch down and then jump forward, forcefully enough to elicit light to moderate resistance from the band.
Putting it Together
Perform your agility, power and speed workout three times per week on alternate days. Select 4 of the above exercises and perform three sets of 12-14 repetitions on each movement. Rest for 30-45 seconds between sets.