We’ve discussed the benefits of strength training. Here we’ll look at why resistance bands are so good.
Resistance bands are basically big elastic bands, they have been around for many years in one form or another, first starting out as a rehab tool. However these days they are seen as a fantastic strength training tool for almost anyone looking to lose some body fat and gain strength, one of the very best. They can really torch your muscles and should definitely be incorporated into any exercise routines.
They have many similarities to free weights and some extra added benefits. Are they as good as free weights at building strength, absolutely yes. Fortunately for us our muscle fibres don’t know the difference between the two, they just know they are under stress. The similarities they have with free weight is that they both provide free range of motion, can be done at differing speeds and can allow progressive resistance (i.e can increase the weight/resistance to make it harder/easier).
They have many benefits:
- Can take them anywhere.
- Less chance of injury.
- Can be used by beginners and experts alike.
- Full-body workouts with just one band.
- Stimulates the muscle throughout the whole range of movement. Unlike traditional free weights where gravity can sometimes assist you. This gives the muscle opportunity to spend more TUT (Time Under Tension) a topic for another post.
- Increases muscle stability.
- More exercise options due to the different angles that can be created.
- Offer Linear Variable Resistance (below)
- Ideal for rehabilitation.
Expanding on some of the above topics. Resistance bands don’t rely on gravity unlike free weights. Free weight can only offer resistance in a vertical plane. Resistance bands can offer resistance at any angle you decide.
Linear Variable Resistance:
This is where resistance bands come into their own. It basically means that as you stretch the band through your range of motion, it gets progressively harder. As this happens the muscles fibres have to work harder, giving you a better workout and the ability for increased muscle strength. Free weights can’t offer this linear variable resistance. Another benefit is that most muscles increase in strength over their range of motion until a certain point, not at the beginning of the range of motion. With resistance bands you can increase the load on the muscle at its strongest point. Whereas you are often limited with free weights to the weight you can lift at the start of the range of motion.
Below are some of the main types of resistance bands you can get and what they offer.
There are a few things to watch out for when buying resistance bands. Check what it is made of, most are made of latex so if you’re allergic to that choose a different one. (iRibit, Powersteel and Theragear are popular non-latex choices)
- Avoid storing them in direct sunlight, this can cause the rubber to become weaker and possibly snap.
- The same can be said for storing them near a heat source or outside in the cold.
- Do not clean with soap or detergent as cleaning products can deteriorate the strength of the band (clean with a damp cloth).
- Try to avoid the very cheap ones which can become sticky, break down and snap more easily.
Resistance bands usually come in different colours (The colouring is to represent the level of resistance but there is no universal colouring code so you’ll have to check before choosing which ones to go for. The ‘Get started at home’ post will give a link to get an idea)
Loop Bands or Power Resistance Bands:
- Used for virtually all exercises. Whether full-body workouts in the form of squats and shoulder press or for bodyweight resistance exercises like pushups or bodyweight assistance exercises like pull-ups.
- Often used in conjunction with weight training to increase resistance at the end of your range of motion. When used like this you really feel it. Excellent way of increasing strength quickly.
- Can be used for rehabilitation in the form of static stretches
- As they are a loop they can be anchored around object relatively easily
- Bands usually come anywhere between 2-80 kg’s resistance (5-175 pounds)
Tube Bands with handles:
- As the name suggests, a tube of rubber instead of a flat band.
- Comes with handles to attach at the end and often with other attachments like door anchors and ankle straps.
- Made to copy dumbbells and machines you find in the gym.
- Easy to hold.
- Excellent for push and pull exercises.
- Will often be found when doing an exercise class with resistance bands.
- Easier to get started with. People often start with the tube bands and progress up to the power loop bands.
- More common for home use.
- Stackable so you can use two or three bands at once for increased resistance.
- Resistance of each band not as much as the power loop bands, usually between 5-25 kg’s (10-50 pounds)
- As the name suggests these are basically shorter, wider versions of the power loop bands, above.
- They are used primarily for lower body workouts where they are placed above the knees or ankles.
- The lightweight ones are used mainly for prehab/rehab work or yoga.
- Can be used in conjunction with weight training and callisthenics to help stabilise muscles and joints and maintain proper form.
- Common to now come with a non-slip fabric covering which is more comfortable and prevents the band from rolling up and digging in (common with the lightweight rubber ones)
As usual please feel free to leave comments below.