Skip to Navigation Skip to Search Skip to Content
Search All Centers

Strengthen Your Body After Cancer: Exercises Using Resistance Bands

Read Transcript Download/Print Transcript
View next

Published on January 3, 2020

How can people recovering from cancer or cancer treatment rebuild strength? Join THRIVORS CEO and Founder Cathy Skinner as she demonstrates an inexpensive, at-home full body workout designed for cancer patients using resistance bands.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.


Your site is AWESOME! Thank you all so much for this incredible resource to families who are in crisis/affected by cancer.

— Loyal Patient Power viewer

Transcript | Strengthen Your Body After Cancer: Exercises Using Resistance Bands

There are several benefits.  One is that you can build strength without using weights.  So the bands come in different colors, which also indicate different resistance levels.  So the great thing is you can to exercises without weights, you can do full body exercise head to toe. 

The other thing that is great is that you can use them for a variety of exercises, and because of the different levels of resistance in the bands you can use them at different levels of intensity, and we'll be doing that today.  So the other benefit is they're easy to travel with.  You can take them on beautiful trips, and you can also store them easily.  So it's not a big investment in time or equipment. 

And my favorite part, and why they're so valuable to people who are recovering from cancer is that it addresses multiple fitness levels, and that's what we're going to look at today, about four different upper body exercises with different levels of intensity and then one lower body exercise that I know you're going to love. 

So where do you get your resistance band bands?  Target, Amazon, wherever you need to.  They're very inexpensive, maybe $10, $12 at the most. 

We're going to start with our first exercise.  And let's assume maybe you're not having a great day so you're going to be seated for this exercise.  We're going to work on biceps curls.  So you take the band, thread it under your foot.  This band's pretty long, so I'm actually going to thread it under both feet.  Grab it so that your palms are up, and then you're going to curl your hands to your shoulders.  And if you need a little more resistance you can just walk your hands up the band.  And then you curl and release.  And curl. 

And so if you notice I'm sitting at the front end of my chair.  I'm sitting nice and tall in my spine.  I'm actually connecting through my core so you get some core stability, and I'm focusing on my palms up.  And what I might emphasize is making sure that you don't break the wrist back but actually curl the knuckles forward.  And that helps engage the biceps muscle as well.  So you'll curl and release.  And take your time.  Up for two, down two, three, four. 

So let's say you're having a pretty good day.  You can do biceps curls standing.  So from here you can curl up, then control down.  Same thing, keep those wrists curled up.  You don't want them to break back and expose the wrist. 

Now let's say you're having an awesome day.  You're feeling really strong.  You want to be challenged.  You're going to stand on one foot and you're going to curl.  So you can see using the band allows you to progress from maybe not that strong to feeling pretty good to feeling downright awesome and challenging yourself in a really big way.  So that's, upper body, first exercise, biceps. 

Now I'm going to go down in the weight of the band because the next exercise we're going to do is shoulders, and it's a smaller muscle group, so I'm going on lighter band.  And I'm going to start reverse in a sense that let's do the hardest one first.  You're going to stand on one leg if you want to balance, then raise to the side and control down.  And again you're taking your time.  I kind of look like Karate Kid, remember that movie from long, long ago?  All right. 

And if you wanted to regress that exercise, make it a little more simple, both feet on the ground, and I'm just raising shoulder height.  I don't want to go above because that's too taxing on the muscles.  Again, we're soft in the knees, belly button defined so core is engaged.  And then if I really want to take it down a level I'm back to seated.  So again I'm going to raise then control down.  Raise and control down. 

So the next exercise goes toward a bigger muscle group in the upper back.  So I'm taking my heavier band.  Again you can thread it under one or two feet depending on the length of your band.  So sitting at the front of your chair, core is connected, nice tall spine.  And it's called a row because you imagine you're sitting in a boat and rowing with oars, right?  You're pulling back.  So you're squeezing the muscles in your upper back and resisting down. 

And there are many exercises that maybe you've seen machines or you've used weights, but then think about how can you do those exercises using the bands instead. 

So this is if you wanted to take it kind of easy that day or if you want a little more challenge standing row, elbows come back.  Or if you want a big challenge again you can balance on one foot and row.  Great. 

So the next exercise is using your chest muscles, pectoral muscles.  So you're going to leverage the back of your chair, sitting nice and tall, again, front edge, and then you take those arms parallel to the earth, push the knuckles far out in front, draw the elbows wide.  And push, then draw.  And push.  Now this one is—you need this resistance piece.  So if you have maybe some kind of a pillar or pole in your home where you can wrap it and you can still stand, you can do standing chest presses, but for today we're going to do seated, and this works great.  Nice. 

So I promised you a lower body leg exercise that you're going to love.  So you're going to come to the floor.  Hopefully you can still see me.  You take the band and you thread it through the arch of your foot.  You're going to come all the way down, extend that leg.  And what you're going to be doing is gently pulling the leg over your body.  I'm not very flexible, so this exercise is really—it's really hard and it's really important for me.  So I'm going to pull.  And I hope you can see me under the banner.  Sorry about that. 

Just switch.  You throw the other foot up, and then draw that straight leg over your body.  And I like to pull with the opposite arm.  I like to have the leg that's on the ground straight as well.  You can even push the leg on the ground into the earth, and that helps you draw that other leg.  And you'll find that one leg is more or less flexible than the other. 

So hopefully you've benefited from the different exercises.  We did biceps curls, shoulder raises, seated and standing row and chest press.  Enjoy those hamstring stretches.  They're really one of my favorites.  Do those every single day. 

And if you're interested in exercises there is a clinical trial that we posted on Patient Power that my organization, THRIVORS, is running.  If you're a breast cancer patient check us out.  That could be a good qualifying study for you if you're interested. 

And so I want to thank you for your time today.  Super excited to be with you and look forward to seeing you again next month.  Have a great day.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

View next