By: Matthew Solan, Harvard Health Blog
A personal trainer friend of mine once said that legs are one of the best tools for building legs. His point: Don’t underestimate the power of your own body weight for improving lower body strength. Many basic body weight exercises like squats and lunges work well for this, but sometimes you need to further challenge your muscles. These fantastic four resistance band exercises will help you build a better lower body.
Why Use Resistance Bands For Lower Body Strength?
Sure, you can perform these moves while holding dumbbells or kettlebells, but a better equipment choice may be a resistance band. Bands are lightweight, easy to use, and — perhaps best of all — can be added to a wider variety of exercises that work the legs. Plus, by adjusting their tautness, you can make small changes in their resistance to fit your needs. This is not easily done with hand weights that can be either too light or too heavy.
Which Bands Should You Use To Give Your Leg Workouts A Lift?
There are several types of resistance bands available. For the following exercises, you should use bands made from a single length of stretchy material (one brand is TheraBand) with the ends tied together to make a loop, or use a solid rubber band loop. Both types of bands are usually color-coordinated based on their thickness. In general, yellow is the thinnest and easiest to use, followed by red, green, blue, and black, but this can vary depending on the brand.
All four exercises are done while standing up and holding onto the back of a chair for balance. For each exercise, do eight to 12 reps on each leg to complete one set. Perform up to two sets with a minute rest in between. To make the moves more challenging, increase the band’s resistance by adjusting its length or doing more reps (up to 20).
Standing Side Leg Lift (Outer Thighs And Hips)
Starting position: Loop the band around both calves. Stand behind a chair with your feet together. Hold on to the back of a chair with one or both hands for stability.
Movement:Shift your weight to your left leg. Keep your right leg straight and slowly lift it to the side against the band’s resistance until your foot is about six to 12 inches off the floor. Don’t lean to the side as you lift your leg. Return to the starting position to complete one rep. Be sure to lower your leg slowly, so the band does not jerk your leg back down.
Standing Hamstring Curl (Backs Of Thighs)
Starting position:Loop one end of the band around your right calf. Loop the other end around the middle of your left foot and stand on it. Stand behind a chair with your feet together and lightly hold on to the back of the chair with one or both hands for stability.
Movement:Bend your right knee and bring your heel toward your right buttock as high as possible against the band’s resistance. Don’t move your hips or arch your back as you lift your leg. Slowly lower your foot to the floor. This is one rep.
Hip Extension (Buttocks And Backs Of Thighs)
Starting position:Place the loop around both calves. Stand behind a chair with your feet together. Hold the back of the chair with one or both hands.
Movement:Shift your weight to your left leg. Keep your right leg straight and slowly lift it behind you against the band’s resistance until your foot is about six to 12 inches off the floor. Don’t move your hips or arch your back as you lift your leg. Tighten the buttock of your standing leg for stability throughout the move. Return to the starting position to finish one rep.
Soccer Kick (Inner Thighs)
Starting position:Place one end of the loop around an anchor point that is low to the ground, such as the leg of a heavy piece of furniture like a couch. Stand so the anchor point is to your left side and put your left leg in the loop. Stand up straight next to a chair with your feet together. Hold on to the back of a chair with one hand.
Movement:Tighten your abdominal muscles. Lift your left foot and slowly sweep it diagonally in front of you against the band’s resistance, as if kicking a soccer ball with the inside of your foot. Hold for a moment, then slowly bring your foot back to the left side. This is one rep. Keep your hips even and maintain a neutral posture throughout.
(Matthew Solan is executive editor at Harvard Men’s Health Watch.)