Gymnastics Corner with Coach Vahid: The Thing About Resistance Bands
Ok, folks. Wordy post alert. So I was writing this thing that included a bit about the use of resistance bands. There have been a lot of differing opinions on them floating around, and as I was writing this whole defense of the lowly resistance band, I decided to dedicate a post just to that topic. After a few conversations, I’ve boiled it down to a few basic rules:
- Bands should be used in conjunction with other progressions – for example, go ahead and use it to get those strict pull-ups, but also work ring rows, slow negatives, shrugs/lat pulls, and actual pull-up attempts. Focusing on any one progression too much will develop your strength too narrowly.
- Bands are not for kipping – this is a big one. Using a resistance band with any kind of swing is going to be really different than when you don’t have a band. It’s giving you this constant vertical pull, and hinders your ability to shift your weight explosively in front of or behind the bar. It’s really your ability to open and close explosively through the hips and shoulders that dictates an effective swing. Also, as a side note, kipping under the bar (without trying to pull up) should be practiced a lot in the beginning as its own skill – forget the pull sometimes and make sure you’re swinging efficiently!
- Bands are not for reps – they shouldn’t be used to increase reps in a WOD. This kinda goes along with the kipping statement, but if you aren’t doing strict up-and-down movements or static holds, then you shouldn’t really be using a band.
- Focus on full range of motion – because they give you a lot more help at the bottom and a lot less at the top, you need to pay extra attention to your range of motion. Make sure you’re going all the way up and all the way down in pull-ups, dips, push-ups, etc. At some point in each of those, your arms should be fully locked out. The benefit of a band is the ability to experience that full range – if you practice muscle-ups over and over, and fail at chest height, you aren’t developing the strength needed to transition. The band will give you the extra push you need to shift the wrists, sit forward, and finish it out so you can develop your strength evenly.
- Wean off the band – there are a bunch of ways to do this: move to a lighter band, use knees or hips instead of feet so there’s less tension, or even throw on a weight vest, adding weight bit by bit until the weight evens out.
So to sum it up, bands are for slow, foundational strength training. I love em, and personally they’ve helped me achieve some gymnastics movements on rings that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do. You should approach them really just as a way of reducing your bodyweight in strict movements. Never ignore strict movements – they will always improve their kipped counterparts!