Resistance band training is primarily about working against a weight. The following 10 commandments will give you a head start on the smart way to pump rubber.
If you want to compete on the Mr. Olympia stage you are going to train a whole lot different than a housewife who’s focused on firming her middle after her 3rd baby. That’s the principle of specificity. A specific result requires a specific training program. You, therefore, are using the weights as a tool to achieve your ends. An example of the principle of specificity in action could relate to a basketball player. The principle dictates that the exercises he chooses will mimic what he does on the court. For legs, he can choose squats or he can choose leg extensions. Squats more closely mimic the jumping movements required in basketball, whereas leg extensions are an isolation exercise. The basketball player would choose to do squats.
The overload principle means that you need to be constantly lifting more resistance, performing more repetitions or decreasing the between-set rest than you did during your last workout.
3. Progressive Resistance
This principle dates way back to Milo of Croton, a 6th century, BCE wrestler. Legend tells us that, as a boy, Milo started carrying a new-born calf every day as it grew to maturity. The calf got heavier every day, but, because the increments were so small, Milo didn’t notice them. By the time the bull had grown to maturity, Milo was able to carry it around his family farm. Weight trainers have been drawing inspiration from Milo ever since. By increasing the weight by small increments each workout, you’ll be able to dramatically improve your strength, which will enhance your intensity and boost your fat loss results.
You can apply this principle to bands by shortening the length of the band. This requires you to work harder to stretch the band. Reduce the band length by grabbing the band further down the band, twisting the band around your wrists to shorten it or widening your stance on the band.
Intensity relates to the amount of effort you put into your training sessions. When you’re doing an exercise, you’ll want the last couple of reps to be very hard – to the point where you couldn’t do another rep with proper form. If you finish a set and you feel like you could perform another 2 or 3 reps then you are not working at sufficient intensity. You need to either increase the weight, increase the reps or decrease the rest between each set.
5. Rep Range
Rep range relates to the number of times that you perform a movement. To get the most out of your training you need to ensure that you are using the ideal number of reps for your specific training goal. The traditional rep ranges are as follows:
4 to 7 reps for strength
8-12 reps for building muscle
13-20 reps for fat loss and endurance
Volume relates to the number of sets and reps required for optimal training. This is an area of much debate, with advocates of extremely low volume training (one set per exercise) citing scientific studies to support their view just as passionately as those who swear by high volume training (20 sets per body part). The ideal training volume is in between those extremes. 3-4 sets per working set, appear to be about ideal.
The period of time that you rest between sets is critical. It can range from very short (30 seconds) to very long (3 minutes +). You need enough time to recover from the last set just enough to allow for a full out effort on the next one. If you wait too long before starting the next set, you won’t be able to build your intensity level. You want to build from one set to the next. For that reason, you will rest for 60 seconds between each set.
The speed that it takes to complete your repetitions is very important. On every repetition, you perform a positive part (lifting) and a negative part (lowering). When you lift a resistance, you are shortening the muscle. When you lower it, the muscle gets longer. It is imperative that you use a controlled tempo which allows you to isolate the working muscle and avoid momentum in the lift. The lowering, or negative part, of the exercise, should take twice as long as the lifting, or positive part. It should take you 2 seconds to lift, and 4 seconds to lower it. Doing it slower resists gravity and increases intensity.
Periodically changing your workout program prevents your body from becoming accustomed to the workload that is being placed upon it. This helps to avoid training plateaus and keeps your body guessing and responding. It also prevents training boredom and allows you to work your body from a variety of angles. You should change your program every six weeks.
When you work out, you are placing stress on your body. You are depleting your reserves of energy, breaking down muscle tissue and putting you in a state of fatigue. It is after the workout that recovery and rebuilding take place. That’s why you need 48 hours rest between workouts.
11. Balanced Development Around Joints
At each joint, muscle groups work against one another in pairs to provide stability, much like guy-wires on opposite sides of a tent pole. Most day-to-day movements involve these muscle pairs working together. When you rock a heavy piece of furniture back and forth to move it, you are using several of these pairings; at the elbow, triceps to push, biceps to pull; at the shoulder, anterior deltoid and pecs to push, posterior deltoids and back to pull; and at the waist, abdominals and spinal erectors working against one another to stabilize the body. Balanced development requires devoting equal effort to developing these opposing muscle groups.
Only with a balanced approach will you achieve true functional strength. In the process, you will develop a symmetrically proportioned body while staving off muscular imbalance injuries.
12. Train From the Ground Up
In training from the ground up, you will train your legs before your upper body. Here’s why:
You should train with the most important exercises first. Your legs are involved in more daily activities than any other muscle group – both directly (running, walking) and indirectly (providing stability for upper body movements). The legs also play an important role in circulation. Although your heart pumps blood through the arteries out to the rest of your body, there is no organ responsible for pumping blood back to the heart. Pumping action is supplied by movement of the muscles, especially the large muscles in the legs. By focusing first on legs when you are freshest, then, you will be supporting better blood return and a healthier, more powerful circulatory system.
13. Isolate the Working Muscle Group
A key goal of resistance training is to build, shape or tone specific muscles in the body. In order to effectively reach these goals, you need to place specific overload on that working muscle. That means that it should be the prime mover in the exercise.
Let’s take the example of the bicep curl. The target muscle is clearly the biceps. The way to exercise that target area is through elbow flexion with your elbows tucked in at your sides. There should be no other movement throughout the entire exercise.
However, when you start to swing your back to bring momentum into the movement in order to make the exercise easier, you rob the biceps of their potential. This also occurs when you allow your elbows to move away from your sides of your waist.
Often people’s form breaks down because they are using too much resistance. However, lifting a resistance that is too heavy simply for the sake of your ego is self-defeating. Remember, your body has no idea how much resistance you are lifting. All it knows it how hard it is being worked.
The bottom line here is to use a resistance that is challenging for the last two or three repetitions, but not so much that it causes you to use bad form or takes the emphasis away from the target muscle.