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Should you use resistance bands in your fitness training?
Whether you are a beginner to working out, an experienced weight lifter, or recovering from an injury, the answer is YES!
But why should you use them and how?
Before we dive into the benefits, let’s go over the main types of resistance bands so you can figure out what’s best for you.
Resistance bands are a means of strengthening and/or stretching your muscles, whether for aesthetics, athletic performance, or physical therapy.
Sure, the gym is full of dumbbells and machines and weights of all kinds. But resistance bands offer many benefits that standard weights can’t:
According to StrengthandConditioningResearch.com, training with elastics bands provides similar and sometimes even greater muscle activity as weight training. One major difference is that is involves a lower amount of force on the joints, which means that more stimulus can be provided to the muscles with less chance of injury. This is also good news for anyone with existing injuries or joint pain, because resistance bands may allow you to continue working out and performing exercises that you can’t with dumbbells.
One major difference between free weights and resistance bands is the variable resistance applied through the full range of motion of an exercise. With free weights, there are actually parts of the movement when the muscles aren’t performing much work due to lack of gravity, such as at the top of a bicep curl. What this means, according to Dr. Jim Stoppani, is that when using resistance bands, “The muscle is receiving greater resistance at its strongest point in the range of motion and therefore is receiving more adequate resistance to better stimulate strength adaptations.”
The constant tension from bands adds an element of required stabilization from your body to maintain form during many exercises. This also means that you will often need to activate your core for balance. The need to control them from snapping back into place means greater stimulation and strength through the muscle’s full range of motion, and the pull of the bands reduces your ability to cheat by using momentum.
Power resistance bands are extremely effective for athletic training due to the increased load, variable resistance, and instability. According to one study from TheSportJournal.org, “Experienced power lifters and strength and conditioning professionals have claimed elastic band resistance combined with traditional training produces strength gains for several years”. One test using elastic tension for back squats and bench press demonstrated that the bench press increase was doubled, and the back squat one rep max improvement was nearly three times higher after using bands. “The [resistance band] group’s average lower body power increase was nearly three times better than the free-weight only group.”
Research also shows that using bands with weights improves neuromuscular performance and strength more than weight training alone. These bands can also be used for speed and agility drills for various athletic purposes.
With dumbbells or barbells, you are limited to certain body positions in a vertical plane of motion to use the force of gravity. When using resistance bands, you can perform exercises in both the vertical and horizontal plane. For instance, you can do a chest press or back row in a standing position rather than having to use a bench. You can also train perform sideways movements, ideal for athletic activities like swinging a baseball bat or golf club, as well as and daily tasks like opening a door or moving a box.
Due to the fact that you can perform a variety of exercises with one band as mentioned in the examples above, it means you don’t need so many weights and machines. If you workout at home, a set of resistance bands can save you from buying so many expensive weights that also take up space.
Resistance bands and tubes have been proven to improve strength, size, and function of muscles in the elderly as well as those undergoing rehabilitation. Bands can provide very light or heavy resistance which can be used in targeted ways for specific muscles that also protects joints.
Any type of tube or flat band is great for both post-workout stretches, as well as pre-workout mobility work. Typically, you are limited during stretches by your level of flexibility and range of motion, and many effective stretches even require another person to provide pressure to the muscle. Instead, you can use bands to assist with stretching to extend your reach and provide pressure, such as with lying down hamstring stretches. Power bands are also excellent for mobility work when wrapped around sturdy object, such as improving ankle and hip mobility for squats.
It can be hard to fit in workouts or even find a gym when you travel. Bands are a perfect option to pack in your bag that allow you to workout in a hotel room or outdoors without heavy equipment. They won’t weigh down your luggage, but will still give you an effective, full-body workout. For this same reason, they’re ideal for bodybuilders and fitness competitors, as well as models who need to pump up their muscles prior to a show or photo shoot.
After reading the benefits of bands, it’s probably becoming clearer that anyone can use resistance bands to reach their fitness goals. Here are some specific groups that should use them and why:
If you’re looking to gain muscle size and strength, you can use bands in place of dumbbells and machines to provide a new and challenging stimulus to your muscles for growth. You can also add them to barbell exercises to increase intensity and neuromuscular performance.
Losing weight is easiest when you combine a healthy diet, cardio, and strength training. Add bands to your workout routine, such as in a full-body circuit. This might look like doing a resistance band chest press, followed by squats with a band, followed by a back row with a band. This will burn calories and build muscle at the same time, which will help you to lose weight over the long-term.
For adults around or over the age of 60, standard weights at the gym can be challenging and harsh on your body. Resistance bands help to maintain strength and muscle mass without overdoing it. Research indicates that training programs using elastic tubes are a practical, effective means of increasing strength in adults over the age of 65. Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends resistance bands as one of the safest methods to increase bone strength and help prevent osteoporosis.
Bands help prepare athletes for movements in every plane, both to improve strength and power, as well as to prevent injuries. 2004 National Boxing Champion, Daniel Sanchez, says, “As an athlete, I learned that there is nothing better out there to make you faster and stronger then resistant bands. You can take them with you everywhere get a good work out no matter where you are - very important for my training, especially with my shadow boxing, punching speed and even toning with no weight involved. If I had to pick dumbbells or bands, I would choose bands every time.”
Exercise is important during pregnancy for improving energy, sleep, mood and preparing for childbirth. However, this is not the time to dive into an intense weight-training program. Resistance bands and high repetitions (15-20) are great for light muscle-toning. Using one light and one medium band will allow you to hit all of your major muscles without strain.
Give them a try and leave a comment below letting us know what results you see from adding resistance bands to your fitness routine!