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Resistance bands are great.
They can easily be rolled up to take along for travel.
You can tie 2 together and make a large loop.
You can shorten the length for extra resistance.
Resistance bands are available in a range of colours that relate to their stiffness or resistance. Colour-coding varies between the brands but here is a rough guideline:
- Yellow (thin)
- Red (medium)
- Green (heavy)
- Blue (extra heavy)
- Black or Purple (special heavy)
- Silver (super heavy)
The “Leg Bone is Connected to the Hip Bone” song
One reason why I like resistance bands is because one particular exercise strengthens the Hip Flexor better than most (see below).
While I’ll focus on track and sprinting, the importance of the hip flexor can be applied to other sports that involves a quick powerful first step.
My biggest rant is we don’t see people doing conventional sit-ups or crunches anymore, because they want to work their core and abs, not hip flexors. But I feel athletes, especially youth athletes, need to work this muscle.
The term “hip flexor” is really a group of 7 muscles, which is misleading when I point to the upper end of the Sartorius muscle.
You can talk all about triple extension and dorsiflexion, but expert coach Frans Bosch has it right when he coins the term “whip from the hip”
Of course, coaches like to push hip flexibility with a variety of hurdle mobility exercises, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of losing strength work for the hip. Thus they fail to adequately strengthen this muscle group.
I also believe when the athlete works on the hips, their hamstrings and butt also gets worked, resulting in a more powerful leg drive and upward knee drive.
For the same of simplicity, I will just focus on linear speed. Other sports such as soccer requires lateral speed which I’ll discuss at a later date as that requires adductor and abductor muscles.
These exercises only focus on concentric and eccentric muscle contractions, and I’ll leave out isometric contractions for now.
3 Common Exercises for Strength Endurance on the Hip Flexor
Running A’s or High Knees
This is more of a Strength Endurance workout. One of the most popular exercise is “Running A’s” or high knees. This drill is simply “running on the spot” with emphasis on high knees, hip high, good body posture and good arm swing. The runner is moving forward but at a very slow pace.
Only the athlete’s body weight is needed. You can start with 4 x 10m (about 30-45 seconds) and work all the way to 400m (several minutes) like Lee Evans. But you have to do them properly. Shut down the drill when form deteriorates. Don’t forget to stretch out afterwards by simply doing lunges. A massage would be nice.
Spread Eagle Sit-ups or Crunches
Another exercise is a spread eagle sit-up keeping your legs straight. For added resistance, add a weight plate on your chest. This is also good exercise to stretch your hamstrings
Knee Drives with Resistance Bands
A third exercise is the simple Knee Drives with a Band, and this is where Resistance bands come in.
Attach a resistance band to your ankle and secure it to a post. Put a bench in front of you and place both hands on it. Your body should be in a 45% lean like that of a sprinter coming out of the blocks. Make sure you are far enough away so when your leg is straight there is still tension on the bands.
Now drive your leg forward with great power. Be careful not to have too much pressure on the resistance bands where it snaps back on the “negative”. Control is the key.
Also, focus on keeping the ankle cocked in dorsiflexion.
Unlike a cable pulley in the weight room, the bands change resistance and therefore the movement should feel like an “acceleration” rather than a single brute force.
Do several reps with one leg, take a break, then do the other leg.
Hotel Room Workouts with Resistance Bands
If you are really desperate to workout when travelling, most nice hotels have a gym. But if you want a simple quick circuit training workout for those stolen moments, then resistance bands can be used for a mini-circuit comprising of:
- Resistance Band Squats
- Resistance Band Lunges
- Resistance Band Bent Over Rows
- Resistance Band Lateral Rows
- Resistance Band Triceps Extension
- Resistance Band Biceps Curls
- Resistance Band Diagonal “Woodchops” (for abs and obliques)