The Benefits of Resistance Bands: What to Know for Your Next Workout
Nothing beats getting in a solid sweat session for the day. You’ve got your favorite workout playlist on, your heart’s pumping, and your muscles are feeling the burn. It’s just you, the music, and the next rep to a strong finish. Maybe even a personal best.
Whether you choose to make gains at the gym, at home, or among the great outdoors, one thing remains clear – what keeps you coming back for more are the workouts you enjoy doing most. For some, that could mean lifting heavy. For others, it could be as simple as using a set of resistance bands. They may not seem like much at first glance, but don’t be fooled. These bands can take your exercise routine to the next level.
So, if you’re ready to get the 411 on resistance band training, read on. We’ll warm up with a bit of background information on how resistance bands work along with the types you can use, walk through the top benefits of using these bands, and finish off with answering some commonly asked questions.
What is resistance band training?
Resistance band training is a type of strength training that enables the contraction of the muscles without having to utilize free weights. It involves the use of a resistance band, typically a flat- or tubular-shaped piece of elastic, to help build strength, improve mobility, aid the recovery process after an injury, and up the intensity of a weightlifting or pull-up routine. Originally employed as a rehabilitation tool, these bands have since become a staple in the fitness space for all types of workouts.
What do resistance bands do?
To put it simply, a lot. Use them for glute bridges, squats, lateral walks, you name it. Their versatility essentially makes them a strong alternative to dumbbells, kettlebells, and other weightlifting equipment.
Combined with the fact that there are many different types available with varying resistance levels, these bands are a surefire means to effectively activating and toning up the muscles. If you’re curious as to how effective a resistance band workout is or if resistance bands really do work, give one of the following a try:
- Flat bands are probably what come to mind for most when talking about resistance bands. They sport a rubber band-like appearance and are typically used for mind-body exercises, physical therapy, and stretching.
- Pull-up bands, like flat bands, are another commonly used resistance band in the fitness field. As the name suggests, the purpose of this looped band is to assist or add resistance to pull-ups. The bands also differ in thickness, allowing users to adjust the level of difficulty for other exercises.
- Tube bands are long and cylindrical as opposed to being flat, with plastic handles attached to each end for optimal grip. Similar to pull-up bands, they vary in thickness for increasing or decreasing the resistance in upper and lower body exercises.
- Figure 8 bands are exactly just that – figure 8s. They feature soft, foam handles and are shorter in length. The advantages of using these resistance bands are that they enable greater control when doing sports conditioning, strength training, or rehabilitation exercises.
- Occlusion training bands, or blood flow restriction (BFR) bands, partially restrict blood flow to the muscle during a workout. Designed to be worn on the arms and legs, they’re a viable tool for those wanting to gain lean muscle mass without having to constantly lift heavy.
What are the benefits of resistance band training?
Given all the ways you can incorporate a resistance band into a workout, it’s no question this type of training brings a band of benefits to the exercise mat. You’ll find that what resistance bands are good for extend far beyond aesthetics, though it is a nice-to-have.
Top 7 Benefits of Training with Resistance Bands
1. They’re lightweight and portableIf you can’t make it to the gym or prefer to use your own exercise equipment while there, don’t sweat it. Resistance bands are a relatively inexpensive option that make training at home, on vacation, or anywhere else a breeze. The best part is they don’t take up a lot of space, so you can throw them in your gym bag and work out whenever you go.
2. They promote optimal formThe number of reps completed for an exercise won’t equate to much if the quality of movement is overlooked. With a resistance band, the muscles won’t be able to rely on momentum at the end to get through a rep. The band puts them under constant tension, meaning they will have to work against the resistance throughout the whole range of motion. The result is a strong mind-muscle connection that helps keep everything in good form.
3. They help maintain balance and controlFor those just starting to train with resistance bands, feelings of unsteadiness are a normal part of the process. In fact, it just signifies that the body must concentrate on controlling the tension and release of the band to prevent any snapping back into place. Getting accustomed to this type of training will take some practice, but it will ultimately help with muscle stabilization and core strength, which are two essential factors to achieving good balance.
4. They can aid in increasing muscle strengthThe key to effectively firing up the muscles with a resistance band is all in the stretch. Take bodyweight squats, for example. You’ll usually feel your quads at work as you push the glutes out before returning to a standing position. Now add a band under the feet and over the shoulders and you’ll find that your muscles will have to exert more energy under tension during each rep. This is because the intensity of the resistance increases the more you stretch the band. As a result, the exercise becomes progressively difficult, which in turn can help strengthen and tone the muscles over time.
5. They’re great for warming up and mobilityWarming up before a workout is necessary for helping to prevent injury and activate the muscles needed for high-intensity exercises. Be sure to perform some dynamic movements using a light resistance band. This will get the blood flowing and ensure your mobility, or range of motion, is at its full potential before you kick things into high gear.
6. They’re equally as great for stretching and cooling downNo workout session is complete without a proper cooldown and stretching routine. Like warming up, winding down after strenuous exercise has its pros, including helping to minimize injury, ease muscle soreness, and regulate blood flow. Use a pull-up band to perform some static stretches and hold each position for 30 to 60 seconds. These movements will not only help improve flexibility, but also release any tension in the muscles.
7. They provide assistanceCall them assistance bands if you want, because resistance bands can also facilitate the completion of a challenging exercise. The most common example of assistance in action is with the pull-up. Secure a resistance band to the bar and under the knee or foot. By doing so, the band will offer support and help you build enough strength to advance to the unassisted version.
What if I have other questions?
We’ve got the answers to some commonly asked questions about resistance bands ready to go below.
Should beginners use resistance bands?
Absolutely. The truth is it doesn’t matter if you’re new to working out or if you’ve been exercising for years. Resistance bands usually come in light, medium, and heavy resistance levels, so it’s easy to modify exercises to a range that feels right for you.
Can I use both resistance bands and weights?
Yes – and boy, will you feel your muscles working. Combining bands with weights can intensify the difficulty of performing traditional lifts such as bench presses, curls, deadlifts, and squats. So, rather than deciding if resistance bands or weights are the better option, why not reap the benefits of both? You’ll get more resistance, more muscle stabilization, and more explosion with every movement.
Can resistance bands actually build muscle?
The short answer is yes, it’s possible. Just know that if you’re far along in your fitness journey, solely relying on resistance bands for developing muscle might not be the best approach. The body will eventually adapt to the exercises, resulting in a plateau. Instead, change up the routine every now and then by using weights. They’re more high-impact and will have your muscles working with greater tension. And as mentioned above, you can always get the best of both worlds by incorporating each kind of equipment into your workouts.
The Final Stretch: Closing Thoughts
It’s never too late to start working on your gains and your overall health. All it takes is the right mindset, the drive to succeed, and an abundance of unwavering commitment to start seeing progress. And with a set of resistance bands, it’s easier than ever to tone up and knock out those fitness goals.
So, grab your bands, grab your workout planner, and turn up that workout playlist. Now that you’re looped into the benefits of using resistance bands, it’s time to go beast mode.
Contributing Writer: Samantha Lee