Resistance Bands for Ankylosing Spondylitis
In my pre-diagnosis days, the only thing I enjoyed more than a trip to the pub was one to the gym. In the months before AS turned up to spoil the party, I had got into weightlifting and my hard work had finally revealed that my arms did in fact contain bicep muscles.
However, after AS kept me practically bed ridden for 9 months, any muscle mass I had built up swiftly disappeared. I had hoped that my use of crutches would be enough to keep my triceps entertained but unfortunately that was not the case and they evacuated from my body as well.
This was in some ways even more frustrating than the fact I was constantly in agony and unable to walk as I had spent so much time and effort trying to grow some muscle.
Staying in shape with AS
After my diagnosis, I wondered if my condition would make it impossible to ever be in any kind of shape again.
By the time my medication had started working its magic and I was mobile enough to get back to the gym, some world changing events were unfolding in Wuhan. This only gave me a couple months at the gym before COVID 19 arrived on British shores and interrupted my progress.
Gyms were soon closed and my vulnerable immunosuppressed self was forced to lock myself away from the world. I was eager to find a way to stay active and in the kind of shape that didn’t resemble a melting block of lard.
Discovering resistance bands
I scoured online for any kind of gym equipment but of course I was not alone with this plan and all the home gym equipment I found was either sold out or ridiculously overpriced. Then I remembered a friend of mine had told me that he had started doing some home workouts with resistance bands – something that I had zero knowledge of.
After some research, I found that not only were they very cheap but they were actually very good for my joints. I found a set on Amazon for the modest price of £15 and they have been an incredible investment.
There are some non AS related benefits of using resistance bands too. Firstly, they are certainly a lot cheaper than a gym membership! Plus, if you are like me and a bit nervous about going to the gym at the moment, then they offer a great way to stay active without having to leave the house.
They are also perfect for people with AS and other arthritic conditions. The smooth and constant tension of the bands means that you can work muscles whilst going a lot easier on the joints than traditional weightlifting.
When lifting things like bar bells, the muscle usually accelerates at the start of the movement and decelerates towards the end. With resistance bands, the movement is more consistent and therefore less likely to cause injury. Not only are they easier on the joints but there is evidence to suggest that they could even strengthen them.
There are a few things that are important to note before attempting a resistance band workout. The resistance bands sets usually come with a variety of different bands that are equivalent to different weights. At first it can be difficult to work out which ones to use for each exercise. I started on the lowest weight while I got used to things and slowly moved up when I felt the time was right.
It was also crucial for me make sure my form was correct when performing any kind of exercise – especially since I have AS! I watched some videos of professionals performing exercises before attempting any. I took note of their posture and form throughout. I also watched myself in the mirror practicing before taking it on properly.
Finally, I made sure the bands were secured into position before starting my workout - whether under my foot or tied in a specialized handle. Being spanked below the belt by a rubber band is not a pleasant experience – I can confirm!
What I do
I usually follow workout routines from a YouTube channel called AchvPeak. It is a channel ran by a married couple which, if you can put up with their questionable banter, is actually very good. Their videos are easy to work out along to. They have routines for all skill levels as well as specialized low impact workouts which are perfect for people with arthritic conditions.
The length of the videos range from around 10 minutes to 40 minutes so you can decide which one you feel like you have the spoons for on any given day. Plus if you need a bit more of a break between each exercise you can always pause the video for as long as you need before getting back into it.
There are so many other channels online that make videos that you can work out to, so if the one I use is not for you then I am sure you will find one that is!
I’d like to state that I do not own a resistance band making factory and I am not promoting them for any kind of financial gain. But they have served me so well and I think it would be a disservice if I did not recommend them to others living with similar conditions.
I’m not going to be cast as an Arnold Schwarzenegger body double any time soon, but my resistance bands have really helped me start building up my strength and muscle mass and most importantly have prevented me from transforming into a potato during lockdown.
Let me know if you have had any experience with resistance bands in the comments.
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