My basement has three key sets of equipment – the Smith Machine, treadmill and stationary bike. To be perfectly honest, I should get more use out of the treadmill and bike, but if I’m pressed for time I’ll take a good lifting day over a good cardio day.
So the next part of the series on getting the most out of a home gym will focus on how to get the most out of the area you have around the Smith Machine (or if you decided against a Smith – squat rack or bench press station). Specifically, in this article I’ll go into bands.
I use my exercise bands in almost 100% of my workouts in one capacity or another. The dynamic load a band puts on any exercise is a way to help break through plateaus. As you move through an exercise, the band puts the maximal resistance at the peak of an exercise – for squats and benches, it’s at the top and for pressdowns it’s at the bottom. This aids in keeping your muscles guessing and giving you the most resistance at the typical weakest point of an exercise.
The first method I want to take you through is to put a dynamic load on standard exercises you do with free weights. How does this work? You essentially loop the bands around the Olympic bar and have some kind of anchor at the bottom that allows there to be tension on the band throughout the exercise performed. This is a great way to get the most out of benches, squats, military presses, and deadlifts.
The below is a video from youtube on what it can look like for a bench press.
The other way to use bands is to use them as a replacement for cable machines. The band creates a smooth motion as it gives you the dynamic resistance – closely mirroring what you’d get from a well maintained cable machine at a gym. Basement equipment typically isn’t as fancy as what you’d have at a gym and typically the cables aren’t as smooth. The bands are far less frustrating to use and I get similar results. I loop them around the top of the Smith Machine for tricep pressdowns (mirroring a rope pressdown), loop them around the bar catches at eye level for face pulls, and around the bottom for arm curls and tricep kick-backs. I can also loop them around the top of the Smith Machine and around my knees for assisted pull-ups.
The bands are also a mainstay in my travel bag for business trips. After a long day on the road, I don’t even want to think about changing again to hit the hotel gym and I don’t need to with a good set of bands. Most come with a door anchor so I can get a solid high rep, lower resistance workout that hits almost every major muscle group.
I personally feel the bands are a solid addition to any basement gym, but as I always recommend, please review your routine with your physician to make sure there aren’t any issues.