I do what Lodro does.
The heal piece on all Atomics bindings (except Device) have rollers and a hump which needs to be cleared for the brakes to retract. This is why all that initial force is needed to pop the arms up.
On all my Atomics I do the following:
Initially push the brake arms in the opposite direction of them being retracted which causes the heal piece to slightly raise.
Then I stick the tip of my finger under the raised heal piece near the rollers to help guide it over the hump while pushing the brake slowly into the retracted position.
Essentially you rock the heal pad over the hump.
Just pushing the brake like you said causes alot of resistance and then none which results in cut knuckles.
I use a single heavy duty rubber band that you can get for cheap at Home Depot.
I don't use any gloves while tuning so I know this method works.