Have you ever loved a fitness tool so much that you carry it around with you at all times? Well, celebrity Pilates instructor Kim Carruthers has no shame in admitting that she keeps looped resistance bands in her purse. “Because you can use them anywhere!” says the former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer who now trains Hollywood A-listers like Chloe Grace Moretz and Black Lively, and pro athletes like NBA star Derrick Rose. In fact, she’s so obsessed with resistance bands that she even created her own line.
And for good reason. Research shows that elastic resistance training can build strength just as effectively as working out with traditional free weights. Even better: Looped around your limbs, resistance bands allow you to work with tension consistently throughout an entire movement—you can’t cheat by harnessing momentum to get you halfway there (not that we’re pointing any fingers).
In particular, these humble bands can make for a killer glute workout. “Who doesn’t want a great backside?” asks Carruthers, with a laugh. She includes banded glute exercises in just about all of her sessions with clients. “They really activate the smaller glute muscles—the glute medius and minimus—and they’re really good at engaging the stabilizing hip muscles,” she says.
Having stronger, more stable glutes comes with some major injury-prevention benefits—because these powerhouse muscles propel so many of our daily movements, any weakness can lead to imbalances and overuse all the way from our backs to our feet. And Carruthers says that using a resistance band when you’re working on your backside gets you more bang for your buck: “Adding them to exercises creates greater strength in a shorter period of time.”
Her go-to glute workouts using resistance bands
Carruthers typically likes adding the resistance band to tried-and-true tuchus classics. “We now see people doing all kinds of amazing things on Instagram, but I like to go back to the basics,” she says.
Place the band on your thighs just above your knees, then lie on your side with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Raise and lower your top knee, keeping your heels together. You’ll start to feel that side glute burn even more quickly than usual because of the added resistance.
2. Donkey kicks
With the band placed just above your knees again, get into a quadruped position on your hands and knees, then slowly lift one knee up toward the ceiling leaving the leg bent. The band will increase the challenge the higher your working leg goes.
3. Banded bridge
Still with the band wrapped around your thighs just above the knees, lie on your back with your knees bend and feet flat on the floor, then push into your heels to raise your hips toward the ceiling. Turn up the burn by pressing your knees outward against the resistance of the band. “You’re working the glutes, and also the hamstrings,” says Carruthers.
What to watch out for
While resistance bands are typically a safe and effective way to amp up your everyday glute workouts, there are also some common mistakes that Carruthers sees people make. First and foremost, make sure the band is positioned properly: “Definitely do not put it on your knees!” she warns.
Often, she sees people using the wrong amount of resistance. Yes, just like free weights, bands come in multiple levels. “I always tell people to start light, and build yourself up,” says Carruthers. If your band is slipping or you have to keep adjusting it for a particular movement—or if you’re feeling too much or not enough tension—try a heavier or lighter band.
She suggests taking care of your band by only using it appropriately: “I see too many people attach them to things that might be dangerous, like weight machines,” she says. Also, air out your bands after you use them—particularly if they’re made with woven fabric. “Over time, they can become frayed or tear, or lose resistance.” While you might feel like the Hulk, breaking one mid-workout typically comes with a painful smack; always upgrade to a new band the moment you see one starting to fall apart.
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