Exercise bands and tubes can be a valuable tool for a personal trainer to use. This article will detail ways in which they can be used more effectively. I am assuming that as personal trainers one already has a decent understanding of exercise program design and resistance training exercises in general.
First, two definitions. An exercise tube will have a handle; a band will not – it will look like a giant rubber band. In general tubes are a bit easier to use (because of the handles) but bands can provide noticeably more resistance and are often attached to a barbell.
Exercise selection is almost limitless when it comes to using bands and tubes. These items work via elasticity, which means the more it is stretched the more resistance it will apply. A bigger, thicker tube (or band) will be able to apply more resistance. It is worth noting that they can snap with excess resistance, it is much more common for exercise tubes to do this. Also if the elastic wears down or incurs a tear then its integrity is compromised and it can rip fully under pressure.
In my opinion the easiest way to visualize a tube is to simply mimic a cable on a machine. Anything you can do with a cable you can also do with a tube, just anchor in the same position. Care must be taken to anchor the tube/band securely so it does not disengage or move significantly under resistance. But just think of all of the things you can do with a Free Motion machine by changing the position of the arms – you can do the same with tubes.
When lifting, you have 4 main styles to choose from tubes. You can do the same with dumbbells but because the resistance is often light you will frequently want to employ these variations. They include:
Normal style – 2 arms moving at once as though the hands were connected to a bar.
Alternating Easy – 1 arm does the exercise, the other rests in the “easy” position, then you alternate arms every rep. This is easier than lifting the normal style.
Alternating Hard – 1 arm does the exercise, the other arm remains in the loaded position (generally at the beginning of middle of the concentric phase of the lift). You alternate arms every rep. This is harder than lifting in the normal style.
Exchanging – 1 arm is performing the concentric phase while the other arm is performing the eccentric phase, so the arms pass by each other (exchange position) every rep.
If you want to increase the difficulty, there are several strategies you can employ:
• Use a bigger, thicker band
• Move farther away from the anchor point
• Tie one or more knots in the band (thus shortening it)
• Wrap the tube around the anchor point (thus shortening it)
• Have the anchor point move away from the lifter during the exercise (this occurs when the trainer is holding the band and moves away while it happens)
• Hold both ends of the band in hand (or foot)
• Change styles or have the lifter pause (squeeze) each rep in the hard position
• Perform a pre-exhaustion style workout doing isolation exercises before compound exercises for the same muscle group (ex: perform standing tube flies followed immediately by standing tube chest press)
Here is a list of common tube/band exercises to incorporate
Standing Chest Press
Standing Chest Fly
Push-ups with band around back (makes it harder)
Tube row (can use neutral, supinated, pronated grip and can pull with shoulder extension – easier – or horizontal abduction – harder)
Tube Lat Pulldown (either anchor higher or bend forward at the waist to 90 degrees to emulate a lat pulldown)
Tube Shoulder Extension – isolation exercise
Tube Military Press (sit on tube if it is too hard on the ground)
Tube Lateral Raise
Standing Tube Rear Delt Reverse Fly (anchor point same as a cable row)
Standing Tube Bicep Curl
Standing Tube Preacher Curl (anchor point same as a cable row so arms are out in front of you)
Incline Tube Skull Crusher
Standing Tube Overhead Tricep Extension (mimicking a dumbbell overhead tricep extension)
Standing Tube Tricep Kickback
Standing Tube Overhead Rope Tricep Extension (similar to the chest press position but mimicking the overhead rope cable tricep extension)
Incline sit-up with a tube
Ball crunch with a tube
Tube side bends
Tube rotations and wood chops
Plank hold with a tube row
Reverse Crunch with Tube attached to feet/knees
Leg Raise with tube attached to feet
Mountain Climbers with tube attached to feet
Hip Thrust with tube/band
Quadriped extension with tube/band
Tube Leg Extension
Tube Leg Curl
Tube Hip Ab/Adduction
Band Calf Raise
Lying band lateral leg raise
Band Leg Press
One of the best things about bands and tubes is that they have almost no weight, which means they are very portable. They are great for clients that travel a lot and they are also useful for trainers that conduct a lot of in-home personal training sessions. Most commonly they are used with beginning and/or older clients, but there are some band/tube exercises that can be very advanced.
There is one significant negative with bands and tubes (in addition to the possibility of them snapping) and it is that progressive overload is very difficult to measure. Unless you literally use a tape measure each rep, the overload from set to set and session to session can vary considerably if the anchor point and end point are not the exact same. You also don’t want to get in the habit of substituting in an easy exercise for a harder exercise and calling it a day. For example a client could perform 3 sets of push-ups or they could do 3 sets of standing tube chest press. In the vast majority of cases, the resistance generated and thus the benefits incurred will be greater with the push-ups. Progressive overload is one of the most powerful tools the fitness world and the fact that use of bands and tubes makes measuring this challenging is a significant negative.
All implements have pros and cons. The band or tube, like a barbell, dumbbell, or exercise machine, is simply a tool. There is no tool that is ideal in every circumstance, thus it is ideal to have a variety of tools in one’s toolbox to best fit the specific job at hand.
For more information, here are some videos with that incorporate exercise tubes and bands into training
30 minute workout (toning oriented)
10 band exercises:
Spartan home workout demo:
Quick tutorial on using exercise tubes and bands
The Great Resistance Tubing Book
The Great Stretch Tubing Handbook