If you’re reading this right now, you probably need to go stretch. Yes, really. For many athletes, stretching your body and focusing on flexibility takes a backseat to the meat of strength training or your hardcore cardio. After all, that’s where the main calorie burn and results comes from, right?
Well, yeah, but don’t take for granted that stretching every day brings amazing benefits to your whole body. For one, it helps prevent injuries (and an injured athlete can’t achieve those aforementioned big results). Some other benefits of a stretching routine:
- Help your joints move through their full range of motion
- Increase muscle blood flow
- Enable your muscles to work most effectively
Basic stretching just using your body can be beneficial, but using resistance bands can take your stretching game to the next level. A resistance band adds tension to a movement and therefore engages more muscles and builds strength. Stretching exercises with a resistance band can also stabilize the back, shoulders and core, improving posture and stability.
Resistance bands are typically made of elastic or fabric, and vary in thickness. Heavier/thicker bands provide greater resistance and therefore create tension that require more strength to control. A certified personal trainer might recommend you have three different bands – a light band, a medium band, and a thick band for different stretches. Throw a few in your gym bag and get ready to work after you work.
First…the stretching basics
Even though stretching, with or without a resistance band, is supposed to prevent injury – you can still run the risk for injury if you don’t stretch correctly or push it too hard. Concentrate on proper technique and safety, and keep these things in mind:
Stretching is not a warmup:
Do not, I repeat, do not start stretching on cold muscles. Warm yourself up with an easy jog or cardio movements (like high knees or butt kickers) to get the blood flowing.
Work each side for equal lengths of time and equal intensity. Aim for symmetrical strength!
Don’t be in a hurry:
Stretch and hold. DON’T BOUNCE! Stretch slowly. Hold resistance band stretches for 30 to 60 seconds at a time.
If it hurts, you’re not doing it right:
“Oh, it’s a deep burn!” When it comes to a resistance band stretching routine, this should not be the case. Expect to feel tension, especially if you use heavier exercise bands, but if you reach the point of pain, slowly return to the starting position and take a break (or stop, if you need to).
Rinse and release:
A resistance band stretching routine can go a long way! Try to grab your bands for 5 to 10 minutes per day, and see what happens!
Upper Body Stretches with Resistance Bands
Assume the starting position in a cross-legged position. Hold onto the band with your hands a few inches apart. Pull the band at chest level to create tension until the resistance band and your arms are straight. With a controlled movement, reverse the movement back to the starting position.
Sitting on the floor, grasp the resistance band with the left hand and stretch the arm toward the right side. Use your right hand to grab the other end of the resistance band, pulling the band taut. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and then switch sides. You could also perform a side step by using a loop band, placing the edges of the band in both your hands above head and stretch over to one side. Hold for several seconds, return to the starting position and switch sides.
A stretch and a burner! Begin in a standing position, stepping in the center of the band and grasping the band in each hand (this is also a great one if you have a resistance band with interchangeable handles). Keeping your abs tight and your arms straight, slowly raise the sides of the resistance band to shoulder height. Hold a few seconds, and then slowly lower back down.
Here’s another movement that could be used as a stretch or as part of resistance training. Start with your lightest band and then utilize different resistance bands as you gain strength. Wrap the band around a rig or just stand in the center of the band, with your feet hip width apart. Hold the band with both hands or utilize interchangeable handles. Slowly raise your arms above your shoulders to straight. Hold for 5 seconds. Then slowly lower until you get your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Repeat 5-8 times. You could also use this as a chest press on an incline bench. Just wait until you see those push up gains!
Upper Back Stretch
Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Wrap the band around your ankles and grasp the resistance band Slowly roll your upper back away from your legs, creating tension as your shoulder blades squeeze together. Keep your legs straight and your arms forward with tension as you release.
Lower Body Stretches with Resistance Bands
Kneeling Quad Stretch
Your starting position here is in a lunge, with your left leg bent at a 90 degree angle behind you, and your right leg bent at a 90 degree angle and your right foot forward. Loop the band around your left ankle, holding the resistance band in your left hand. Your right forearm can rest on your right knee or quad. Use the band to gently pull your heel up to your glute. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. BREATHE HERE! Remember, this will create tension like crazy, but if it hurts, back off right away. Switch sides, bringing your left foot forward and your right foot back.
Lay flat on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Wrap the band around the middle of your right foot. Straighten your leg as you pull the band closer to your upper body. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and gently lower. Switch sides and pull the band on your left leg.
Inner Thigh Stretch
Lie down on the floor and loop band around the right foot; hold onto the band in the right hand. Gently pull the right leg out to the right side of your body, keeping your leg straight. You will feel a deep stretch in your inner thigh. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Switch sides, extending the left leg to the left side. For extra support, you can place your opposite hand (the one not holding the resistance band) on your inner thigh to deepen the stretch and for stabilization. You can also do this one as a crossover stretch, where you cross your straight right leg over to the left side and hold 15-30 seconds. Switch sides.
A staple for starting up any squat workout! Stand up straight, feet planted on the floor and loop band just above your knees. Squat slowly, driving your knees out. Hold the bottom position for several seconds, stand slowly.
A resistance band is light and versatile, but don’t let it fool you! It’s effective for stretching, strength, mobility – this list goes on and on. You’ll be amazed to find what it can do for you!
Kendra Whittle is a writer, novice CrossFitter, marathon runner and triathlete. She lives in St. Louis with her husband, three kids and two dogs.