Resistance bands are often seen as a piece of equipment discarded in the corner of the gym, or solely used for warming up the muscles before working out.
However, there is a lot more to resistance bands than what meets the eye. While these bands are often used for simple warm-ups and the odd home workout, they can be a lot more useful and effective than what we give them credit for.
This article discusses the uses and benefits of resistance bands. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about the benefits of pumping elastic!
Introduction to Resistance Training
Before we jump into the benefits of resistance bands and how they work, we should touch on resistance training in general.
Resistance training is a critical part of any muscle-building workout plan. Whether you choose to use machines, barbells, dumbbells, or resistance bands, resistance is key above all.
Free weights, such as dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells, are a far superior way to resistance train when compared to machines. This is because you are engaging muscle groups to help stabilize your movement and range of motion.
Resistance bands are similar to free weights in the sense that they aren’t attached to a machine, challenging the muscles in the same way as free weights do.
However, resistance bands offer something a little extra that free weights don’t. Let’s explore!
What Are Resistance Bands and How Do They Work?
Resistance bands are a means of strengthening your muscles, whether for aesthetics, physical therapy, or athletic performance.
There are many types of resistance bands, such as:
- Resistance bands with handles
These consist of tube bands that are primarily used for general workouts and muscle building. The handles provide a sturdy grip and allow for a variety of exercises, much like the exercises you’d perform with free weights.
- Therapy flat resistance bands
These bands are often found in therapy settings, such as sports physiotherapy or physical therapists. They are wide and flat, making them easier to wrap around your hands and easily adjust the length. These bands are also used in Pilates programs and general strength training.
- Loop bands
These bands are similar to therapy bands, though they are typically smaller and form a closed loop. Primarily used for strength training and also in therapy settings.
- Leg and arm tube resistance bands
These closed-loop bands come in many variations, such as leg bands with ankle cuffs and figure-8 shapes with handles. These are more muscle specific, which makes them limit the exercises you can perform.
- Power and mobility bands
These are heavy-duty loop bands that are most popular for cross-training and powerlifting. They are also used for stretching and mobility, adding variable resistance to weight training, and pull-up assistance.
Benefits of Resistance Bands
While the gym is full of all kinds of equipment, from dumbbells and kettlebells to barbells and weight machines, resistance bands can offer many benefits that these standard weights don't.
Some of the benefits of resistance bands include:
- Can perform the same muscle activity with less chance of injury
Training with resistance bands provides a similar and sometimes even greater muscle activity than weight training. Though, the only major difference is that it allows for a lower amount of force on the joints, meaning that more stimulus can be provided to the muscles with less chance of injury.
This makes resistance bands a great option for anyone who is recovering from injury or joint pain, allowing you to continue working out and performing exercises that you would otherwise do with weights.
- Provides a greater muscle stimulus
One of the main differences between resistance bands and weights is the variable resistance applied through the full range of motion of a certain exercise.
With weight training, there are parts of the movement where the muscles aren’t performing much work due to the lack of gravity, but using resistance bands means that there is constant tension and resistance throughout the movement.
- Allows stabilization and core activation
Following on from the above point, the constant tension that resistance bands provide would add an element of required stabilization from your body to maintain proper form throughout the exercise. This also means your core will be better worked!
- Improves strength and athletic performance
Power resistance bands are very effective for athletic training due to the increased load, resistance, and instability. Additionally, using resistance bands in combination with free weights also helps to improve neuromuscular performance and strength, more so than weightlifting alone.
- Provides more exercise options
With free weights, you are limited to certain body positions in a vertical plane of motion to use the force of gravity, whereas resistance bands can be performed in both the vertical and horizontal planes.
For example, you can do a chest press or back row in a standing position rather than having to use a bench. This also makes it useful for training sideways movements, such as a baseball or golf swing.
As you can perform so many exercises with resistance bands, there is less need to spend money on various sets of weights and machines. Resistance bands are a very cost-effective piece of kit!
- Great for rehabilitation
Resistance bands have been proven to help improve muscle strength, size, and function of muscles in the elderly, as well as those undergoing rehabilitation. They are perfect for targeting specific muscles and joints.
- Improves stretching and mobility programs
Any type of tube or flat resistance band is great for both stretching after a workout or for pre-workout mobility. Usually, you are limited during stretches by your level of flexibility and range of motion, though resistance bands assist with stretching to extend your reach and provide pressure.
- Great for travel and home workouts
It can be hard to fit in workouts or find a suitable gym when you travel, which means bands are the perfect option to pack in your bag, allowing you to conveniently workout from anywhere.
They are also great options for home workouts where space and equipment may be minimal!
It's probably clear by now that resistance bands are a great piece of kit to own or use at the gym.
Whether you are trying to gain muscle, improve your athletic performance, aid your stretching and mobility routine, or support your rehab, resistance bands are a must-have!