How to Use Resistance Bands for Serious Strength Training
When you look at a tiny little jalapeño pepper, it’s hard to imagine what a punch it packs until you put it in your mouth. So it goes with resistance bands. It is hard to look at a little band next to a big dumbbell and believe it, but resistance bands are a great strength training tool. They might be small and unassuming, but the power they have sneaks up on you. Just one band can be used to strengthen all major muscle groups, and most people who use them for the first time definitely feel it the next day!
Where Did They Come From?
Resistance bands originated in the early 1900s and were made from surgical tubing. Their original purpose was muscle rehabilitation, though the photos from exercises at that time looked similar to exercises used for strength today. The bands made a comeback in the fitness market during the 1990s and have continued to increase in popularity.
Benefits of Bands
- Versatility: While dumbbells provide you with a heavy lift, and weight machines are stable and easy to use, neither has the versatility of the resistance bands. You can begin performing a band squat and immediately add a bicep curl to the move. Or you can easily take a resistance band lunge and add an overhead press. The possibilities are endless.
- More muscle recruitment: Due to the great versatility of the resistance bands, they are also more efficient. A bicep curl with a dumbbell is a fixed motion and the muscles used are predictable. Add the instability of the band and muscle fibers all over your arms and shoulders kick in to keep the band stable.
- Affordability: Some are less than $20. Need we say more? Resistance bands are relatively inexpensive—even the good ones! You can buy multiple resistance levels and still keep your costs low.
- Portability: Putting a treadmill away when company comes over can be cumbersome. Moving the dumbbells under the bed gets to be a hassle. This is not the case with the resistance bands. Small, light and flexible, they can be tucked away anywhere—including your handbag or gym bag! Take them to the office, put them in a suitcase, run them upstairs or downstairs; resistance bands are easy.
Types of Bands
Rubberized resistance bands come in many forms.
- Traditional bands are long cylindrical tubes with plastic handles attached to the ends. They differ in thickness, which determines how difficult the band will be to use. This is a great band for basic strength exercises.
- Braided Tubes are four strands of tube braided together. Like traditional bands, they come in a variety of resistances depending on your fitness level but the braid gives you added durability and holds up in the most rigorous training applications like outdoor environments.
- The Flat Band is great for physical therapy, mind-body exercise, and seniors.
- The Superband, made popular by CrossFit, is great for pull-up assistance, partner exercises, and often used with athletes.
You may have also seen looped bands ankle cuffs. The variety is endless.
How To Choose Your Level
Which one is right for you? The first thing to keep in mind is that you can’t compare a resistance band with a dumbbell. In other words, you can’t say a certain color band is equal to a certain size dumbbell. Physics dictates otherwise.
When lifting weights, gravity plays a big part. You get more resistance when lifting against gravity, but then gravity makes lowering the weight easier. However, when using tubing, you do not fight gravity. Instead, the band is presenting you with resistance in both directions. The ability to move freely when using tubing allows you to mimic and recreate everyday movements.
One of the main benefits is increasing and strengthening our natural movement patterns in daily activities such as a golf swing, throwing a football, lifting something up high, or even opening a door.
That being said, how do you choose the proper level of band for you? SPRI Products, the number one manufacturer of resistance tubes, recommends that, “If you are unable to complete 8 repetitions through a full range of motion, select a band that provides a lesser amount of resistance. Or, if you are unable to achieve moderate to maximal muscular fatigue following the completion of 12 exercise repetitions through a full range of motion, decrease rest time between exercise sets or select a band that provides a greater amount of resistance.” Just keep in mind that one band might not cut it for your entire body. Different muscles have different strengths, so you might want to buy two different resistance levels right off the bat!
If you’re new to exercise our Workout Routine for Beginners is a great place to start. Grab yourself a band and experience all they have to offer for a stronger, leaner you!