Resistance band, fitness band, TheraBand – this prop is known by lots of different names. But, regardless of what you call it, the stretchy band has many great properties making it the perfect addition to any Pilates workout.
For Pilates fans looking for a challenge, this prop can make both mat and equipment exercises more difficult. Plus, including it in a mat routine creates new and exciting exercise possibilities.
And its benefits don’t end there.
Like the Pilates ball, the resistance band is cheap, convenient and portable. It is also easy to roll up and store at home or carry in a suitcase.
The more you learn about the advantages of the resistance band, the more likely you are to use it. It’s why we’ve brought you this “Introduction to the Pilates small props – the resistance band”.
So here are the many benefits and uses of this brilliant device: read on and enjoy!
What is a resistance band?
Resistance bands are made from elastic. They come in multiple resistance levels, usually light, medium or heavy.
There are other variables when it comes to the design of resistance band. For instance, the standard band is just one long strip of elastic. Others have handles or are continuous loops.
These various bands are designed to be used for different purposes, and it can be helpful to have a range of them in your home collection.
Having said that, the standard design can be adapted to suit most exercises.
To challenge the body
Using resistance bands is an effective way of recreating equipment exercises at home or when travelling.
For instance, stepping on one end or looping it around a fixed object helps recreate the pulley or spring system of the Pilates machines.
We find this aspect of the resistance band particularly useful as Pilates teachers. Because, as well as using them in our classes at Complete Pilates, the design of theses bands means that we also assign our clients band exercises to keep up with their studio exercises at home.
As their name suggests, these bands can also be used to add resistance to an exercise and therefore increase the difficultly level of it.
An example of this in action is the short box “ab series” on the reformer. This group of ab exercises can be performed with arms overhead. This action challenges balance, abdominal control and gets the upper body working.
Now, this move can be done with a pole between the arms. However, the addition of a band between the hands overhead is also a popular choice. The inclusion of a band – which is then pulled apart to activate the shoulders and arms – transforms this ab move into a full-body exercise.
To support the body
Despite doing an excellent job of making exercises more difficult, that is not all resistance bands are good for. Instead, they can also be an assistive prop used to make exercises more achievable.
For example, a light looped resistance band around the thighs during reformer footwork can act as a guide for the legs. If they are rolling in wards, for instance, a gently press outwards on the band keeps the legs tracking in good alignment.
From the perspective of a Pilates teacher, one of the best things about resistance bands is that they are a lightweight and portable alternative to the equipment. This makes getting your reformer fix at home or on holiday easy.
Another plus: the tension created by resistance bands can be easily adjusted. Different bands can be used to suit different needs and abilities. And the tension can be altered even further in various way.
For those wanting to increase the challenge of an exercise and build strength, multiple bands can be used together. If less tension is needed, slacking your hold on a band is always an option.
Another big benefit of the resistance bands is that they help to make many mat exercises more enjoyable and effective. This is because they can be used like the pulleys and springs of the equipment to support the body.
Case study: roll down
Take the mat exercise “roll down”. When the two ends of the band are held on to like the loops handles on the reformer, the movement becomes supported by the band. Through this, bad habits can be avoided.
A common mistake in mat “roll down” is gripping through the front of the hips. With the addition of the prop, however, the hips can relax and the spine is able to flow fluidly down to the mat.
The addition of the band here allows the right muscles to engage and prevents other muscles from being over recruited – a win-win.
Case study: leg circles
Have you ever tried the “leg circle” exercise without the support of the equipment? If you have then you’ll know how difficult it is to keep your leg suspended above you.
But there is another way.
Try placing a resistance band around the sole of the foot in use and holding onto its two ends. In doing so, this prop (like the reformer straps) supports the leg and takes the tension out of the body. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of this swirling hip motion.
Try it at home
Feel the benefits of the resistance band yourself and use it during a mat exercise. A simple one for starters is the basic bridge.
For this exercise, use a looped band – or a standard band tied to make a loop – around your thighs. Press into the band as you bridge up to engage your outer legs and side glutes.
To increase the challenge, stay up in your bridge and pulse into your band for 5 – 10 reps, focusing on keeping good form throughout. Bridge down and repeat once or twice.
Want more? Keep your eyes peeled for our future posts on small props exercises. They’ll be coming soon. In the meantime, check out these stability ball and mat exercises already up on the Complete blog.