Enhance Your Training For Less Than 10
I’m first and foremost what I would call a means and methods guy: what I love about training is playing with new means (speciality bars, bands, chains, weight releasers and other cool tools) and methods (how you perform the reps, playing with tempo, pauses, accentuating the eccentric, etc.). I own a ton of training tools that I use to enhance my training. Most of them are effective, but they also tend to be very expensive considering their use (most aren’t that versatile). But there is one tool that can be yours for less than 10$ and that can be used in many different ways to enhance the efficacy of your exercises.
That training tool is the Band loop by Thera-Band (although there are other brands that will do just as well): Thera-Band Products
I use this versatile tool either to increase muscle recruitment, increase the activation of antagonist muscles to help with stability or as a main training tool to work on activation and development of harder to reach muscles.
Here are some examples of applications for this workout-enhancer.
Increase Back Activation During Pulling Training
I recently wrote an article showing how the addition of the band loop around your wrists can make pulling more effective by increasing rear deltoids and rhomboid activation/involvement in the exercise. You can read more about it here:
Here is an example of a pull with the added band loop:
This obviously works better with exercises where both arms are working independently (dual pulley system) as it allows you to spread your arms apart against the band resistance, providing two distinct sources of resistance for maximum muscle activation.
This technique can work with any pulling exercise where both arms are independent: dual pulley pulldown (like in the video), dual pulley seated row, dual pulley face pull and bent over DB rows for example.
Prevents Cheating On Curls By Keeping The Arms Stuck To Your Sides.
A lot of people cheat on barbell or dumbbell curls by creating momentum with their front deltoid or traps, swinging their arms forward and up. Of course this allows you to use more weight, but the biceps aren’t doing most of the actual work and they lose tension when momentum is created, decreasing the stimulus from the exercise. Having bands looped around your wrists or forearms keeps your upper arms compressed against your torso, which helps prevent the natural tendency to initiate the movement with the delts or traps. This gives you a much more concentrated biceps contraction, which will enhance both mind muscle connection and stimulus for growth. Note that I often combine this with heavier regular curls on which I might use a slight deltoid action but a very slow eccentric action.
For example, I might start with 4 sets with the band loop to focus on maximum biceps activation, then do 3-4 heavier sets of regular curls with a slow eccentric action.
Keep Constant Tension On The Deltoids During Raises.
One great exercise that my friend ThibArmy powerlifting expert Alex Babin and I came up with when we gave a seminar in Sint Maarten is the Victory raise. Basically an inside-out front raise with a band loop around the wrists. The normal front raise recruits mostly the front deltoid; the addition of the band increases medial and posterior deltoid recruitment, making it a very complete exercise to build those shoulders up.
You can read my complete article on the Victory raise at T-nation: Tip: A New Exercise for Total Shoulder Development
Increase Rear Deltoid Activation During Pressing Exercises
We often hear top powerlifting experts say that the lats, rear deltoids and rhomboids are the true key muscles for bench pressing performance. For the rhomboids, it’s pretty easy to understand: simply squeeze both shoulder blades together and keep them squeezed during the press. Feeling the lats might be a bit harder but with the proper cues it is also fairly easy to do.
When it comes to feeling the rear deltoids, it is a little more complicated. The cue we often use is to “try to spread the bar apart” when you lower and lift the bar in the bench press (same cue applies for the military press), but that’s easier said than done. This is why I like to bench press and overhead press with a band loop around my wrists. This really helps you feel and activate the rear deltoids properly, which will give you enhanced stability and support. I personally do most of my pressing this way since my rear delts are my weak link. I actually got sore rear deltoids from my bench press workout the first time I did it! It’s a very effective training and learning tool, and again for less than 10$, it’s not a bad deal!
Note that it is very effective for the military press and behind the neck press too, Making these more complete shoulder exercises.
A Great Exercise In Its Own Right For Back Development And Shoulder Health
The wall crawl is an exercise that was shown to me by John Meadows (Mountain Dog Diet) a few years ago when we were both in Colorado. It is an amazing way to improve mind-muscle connection with all the upper back muscles and also increase shoulder stability.
I normally use this exercise two different ways:
1) As an activation exercise before bench pressing or between sets of bench pressing. This increases shoulder stability, allowing you to bench press better
2) As a back developer. I often use the wall crawl in a superset with bent over/chest supported reverse flies, band pull-apart or another rear deltoid/rhomboid exercise.
Lastly, It Can Be Used To Activate The Glutes Prior To Lower Body Work
In the video my wife is using the X-band variation, but you can do the exact same drill by having the band loop around your knees or ankle.
As you can see no training tool in the world can give you as much bang for your buck (literally). This versatile tool is part of pretty much all my training sessions in some regard. Well worth the (small) investment!