Quarantine Fitness: Resistance Band Exercises for the Lower Body
Well folks, at this point in the quarantine we’re probably all reaching the point of being stir crazy. We can’t go out, so instead we binge watch every series we can on Netflix. Or, if you’re like my husband, you play online games til you’re blue in the face. Because of our inability to go out in the world and be active, working out at home becomes that much more important. In this week’s column, I’m going to cover four great exercises for the lower body that involve using resistance bands. Like I mentioned in the last article, resistance bands are probably the most inexpensive yet highly effective form of training equipment that one can buy.
Squats. Squats are still the gold standard exercise for the lower body, and are also one of the most functional exercises a person can do. They effectively target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. They can be performed using just the body, but using resistance bands are a great way to easily add resistance. To perform the exercise, grab the handles and place your feet on the band, making sure they about shoulder distance apart, or slightly wider, with your toes pointing forward. Make sure that you have even slack on both sides of the band. Do a bicep curl to bring your hands up to your shoulders. This provides the tension in the band. Then perform a hip hinge backward and slowly lower into the squat until your hips are parallel with the ground. One of the biggest mistakes people make in this exercise is to bend at the knee first, which causes the knees to move forward over the toes, creating great tension in the joint. Hips always move first in this exercise, and emphasis should generally be placed on the heel of the foot as opposed to the toes. As always, take care to engage the core maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
Lunges. There are many different variations of lunges, but for the purposes of this article, I will be detailing the Stationary Lunge using a resistance band. Like with squats, the Stationary Lunge is great for targeting the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, and is also highly functional. It too can also be performed using just the body. However, to perform this exercise with a resistance band, grab the handles of the band, and place one foot in the middle of it, making sure you have even slack on both sides. Step backward with the opposite foot and plant the ball of the foot on to the ground. Both legs should be able to achieve about a 90-degree angle in the knee joint during this exercise. Do a bicep curl and bring the hands to the shoulders. Slowly lower the back knee toward to ground while maintaining a neutral spine. Then extend both knees, pushing through the feet until you have risen back up to your starting position. Make sure the core is engaged as this exercise can be challenging for people’s balance.
Abduction. To perform hip abduction, it’s best to use a smaller loop resistance band. Like the longer tube bands, the loop bands also come in a variety of colors which signify different amounts of resistance. It’s usually best to go with a lighter resistance for this exercise and to aim for higher repetition. To perform, step inside a loop band wit both feet and place it around your ankles. Then step out to the side with one foot and bring the opposite foot to meet it. Then step in the opposite direction, repeating the same movement. Repeat this back and forth motion until your glutes are on fire. This exercise specifically targets the glute Medius and glute minimus, otherwise known as the “dimple” muscles.
Adduction. To perform hip adduction, it’s best to use a free elastic band, preferably with no handles. You will need some kind of post or landmark to tie it to. Carefully take both ends of the band around the post and tie them in a knot. You have now created a loop. Place one leg inside the loop (usually just above the ankle works well). Then step away from the post until you feel tension in the inner thigh of the leg that’s being worked. It’s also very helpful to have a chair for your opposite hand to hold on to, because this exercise is very challenging to one’s balance. Slowly raise the working leg out to the side until a good stretch is felt in the inner thigh, and then pull with the inside of the lower leg, bringing it back to the starting position.
Well, there you have it: four great exercises for the lower body. Obviously, if you have knee or hip issues, you may not be able to perform these exercises. If you are new to these exercises, you may want to perform them by just using your body, without the bands. And if you have space outside, I can tell you that working out outside is very therapeutic. During this crazy time, it’s important that we take care of our bodies and our minds. And this is a great way to do just that.
Stay strong my friends, and stay healthy!
Michael Elder is a former competitive gymnast and has been working in the fitness industry since 1998. He is certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). He can be contacted by email: MichaelElderFitness@gmail.com. He can also be reached through his Facebook business page, Michael Elder: Certified Fitness Professional, or through his website: MichaelElder.com. He is currently available for Zoom virtual training sessions, as well as private training sessions at his home gym.