Resistance training doesn’t have to be painful

When you hear the words ‘Resistance Training’, you probably think of the gym, weights, sweat, running against a thick rubber band until it nearly pings you backwards….generally speaking, hard work and painful. Like trudging through the snow as the horses found in the above photo.

It very definitely does not need to be like this. Done correctly, resistance training can simply tone you up, improve your body awareness and improve your symmetry. Using TheraBand (other resistance bands are available!) is an excellent way to get feedback about what your body is doing in terms of strength, control and position. I generally use low resistance because I am aiming to achieve higher repetitions, and therefore stamina. Using higher resistance means fewer reps and less in the way of stamina increase. I also want movement to be of good quality – if we are wanting to ride correctly then we need to train correctly off the horse as well. Lower resistance I think makes that easier, as it is to easy to be overfaced with higher resistance, and all that happens then is that the body starts to cheat and compensate in an attempt to still get the movement.

In all of the above exercises, the resistance band is used to make the exercise harder, obviously, but also there is an element of control required too. When the movement changes from ‘out’ to ‘in’ – ie the arms stop turning out and start turning in, the band will want to ‘ping’ the arms back in. Your body then has to react and prevent that from happening.

These exercises take this principle even further – and I have a whole load like this that I am going to out together on YouTube specifically for upper body work – in that the changes of direction are large and varied, so the tension of the band is changing a great deal. The body has to react a lot more, and I use these to improve fine control by encouraging a steady speed through the whole movement. This is way harder than it sounds, because as you start a movement against resistance, the body wants to put maximum power in, and then just stop when the resistance stops. To keep the speed the same, you have to learn to make these changes very gradually, and fine tune the body’s response of switching different muscle groups on and off, other wise the movement ends up jerky. This concept of especially useful when it comes to the upper body in relation to developing and even and consistent contact.

Resistance bands also give you a unique form of feedback to your control through movement that you can’t get from more rigid equipment, and can highlight very well if you overuse one set of muscles – such as pecs – to cheat in moving your shoulder for example. You can only successfully take the band above your head if you have all the shoulder girdle muscle working in balance. This is something you really need to feel to appreciate, and it can be quite an eye opener.

If you are looking to use resistance bands, there are lots available. to choose from. Unless you have done a lot already, start with Yellow as this is the lowest resistance, and work up from there. As I said before, work on quality of the movement first, and then once you have that, then you can increase the resistance by getting a stronger band. That said, you can always just double up what you have, or use a shorter piece. A word of caution; these bands can really hurt if you let go and they snap back at you! When I worked for the NHS we were meant to use goggles (yes, seriously) when working with the stuff! We didn’t, but you get the picture¬† – just be careful. Also check what the bands are made from. In the past they all used to contain latex, but now there are plenty of bands out there that are latex free if you have an allergy.

As always, get some advice from a professional, and only do this sort of work if you have been told it is appropriate for you.


Published by Louise Towl Physio

I am a Chartered Physiotherapist with Pilates training, and I am an ACPAT (the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy) and RAMP (Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners) registered Veterinary Physiotherapist. Away from work I have ridden all my life, competing in various disciplines and now focussing on dressage. With my retired horse, Baz, I competed at Advanced level, and I now have a younger horse, Lizzie, who is currently competing at Elementary.

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