Over the years, I have grown more fond of the mini-band. This small and affordable theraband loop can provide tremendous value in your exercise program.
Now, with that being said, by no means do I think you’ll get super strong by using the mini-band. However, when it comes to simple preparation exercises, and those that target neuromuscular activation, stability, and low-level strength, it can serve it’s purpose.
The biggest problem I see with the mini-band is not the band itself, but the exercises people typically perform with it. For one, you have lateral band walks. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic hip strengthening exercise which everyone can benefit from. But, I’d like to see people challenge their hips more with loaded movements and instead incorporate some other mini-band variations into the mix.
Where I see the mini-band being the most applicable is before a lower body training day at the gym, in addition to one’s dynamic warm-up before running, or to target an underlying weakness or muscular imbalance. Not only can you target any and all muscles surrounding the hips, but there are a variety of single leg variations to improve balance and stability, as well. For the cheap price tag, the mini-band is a no brainer!
In this article, let me walk you through (4) of the best exercises to perform with a mini-band. They include:
- Hip bridge with band resisted marching
- Hip-biased static squat hold
- Single leg stance with hip abduction
- Lateral toe taps
The hip bridge with band resisted marching targets a key muscle group which is often overlooked… the hip flexors. Now, because this exercise is performed while holding a hip bridge, it requires gluteal strength and endurance while the contralateral hip is strengthened in flexion.
Does this muscle activity look familiar? Yes, it’s what happens during walking, running, and many everyday movements. Therefore, the hip bridge with band resisted marching is a challenging, yet valuable, exercise for you perform regularly with the mini-band.
The hip-biased static squat hold is very similar to the lateral band walks but performed isometrically. What I’ve seen over the years is that this exercise can be helpful for those people experiencing any type of gluteal weakness, inhibition, or hip/single leg instability.
By holding this movement for 30-60 seconds, the hip-biased static squat hold is a simple way to improve neuromuscular activation and engagement from the gluteals. Therefore, it’s usually advantageous as an entry-level exercise before moving on to more challenging single leg variations or a lower body lifting routine.
Single leg stance with hip abduction has become a favorite of mine over the last few years. With these single leg variations you can easily improve gluteal activation, single leg balance, and stability. In my opinion, this is where the mini-band adds even more value. Too often are people performing only bilateral exercises while neglecting these super impactful single leg variations.
When performing the single leg stance with hip abduction, it’s important to choose a mini-band of appropriate difficulty. The main goal is to maintain levelness at the pelvis and good alignment of the stance leg. Therefore, adding more tension for the sake of it will not provide a desirable outcome.
Lateral toe taps is a smart next step from the single leg abduction exercise mentioned previously. In this variation, slight flexion at the hips and knees simulate the position endured while running and in most athletic positions. That’s why I program this exercise regularly for runners and those with poor single leg stability.
While maintaining a small degree of flexion in the lower extremity joints, the angle of pull from the band creates more activity at the gluteals and lateral hip musculature. The main goal of the stance leg is to prevent loss of alignment. This is required as the moving leg increases tension on the band and attempts to pull the knee medially. Resisting the medial pull of the band will increase gluteal activation and set the stage for better stability during other single leg tasks.
Have you tried any of these mini-band exercises before? If not, I highly recommend adding them to your routine in order to prepare for strength training and/or running. They are very easy to progress as you can use a heavier mini-band or increase time/repetitions.
If you have any questions about the mini-band exercises outlined in this article, please feel free to contact me so we can talk more. They are very helpful, and therefore, I want to make sure you performing them properly to see success.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART