Resistance bands have been around for a while now, yet there seems to always be a bit of curiosity, even doubt, surrounding their effectiveness.
Can I really get a good strength workout without the use of free weights?
Can resistance bands be used in place of machines at the gym or heaven forbid replace dumbbells altogether?
What’s the big deal with resistance bands anyways, are they as affordable and safe as people say?
Can I do all kinds of strength training exercises with bands?
The short answers: yes, yes, yes, and yes.
But, let’s go a bit more in depth here and give you the long answers, addressing the functionality and effectiveness, even the affordability and safety of resistance bands.
What Are Resistance Bands?
First, what exactly are resistance bands and where did they come from?
Resistance bands were first made from surgical tubing and were used for muscle rehabilitation.
Since then they’ve made their way into the fitness world as a highly effective form of equipment used for burning fat and building muscle.
But, before we detail their many benefits, let’s take a look at the types of bands available.
Resistance bands come in various sizes and forms.
The most traditional types of bands are similar to the original surgical tubing that was used, being made from long cylindrical tubes, though today’s models come complete with handles at each end.
Generally, these types of bands vary in thickness, and the thicker the band, the greater the amount of resistance.
The bands most often used in rehabilitation and therapies today are flat bands. Though some flat bands can also be looped (most often used for lower body stretches and exercises).
Other looped bands are available as well, these similar to the traditional bands in form, minus the handles.
But, what’s the buzz about bands? Can something so seemingly simple in structure really give you a great workout?
Here’s just 10 of the buzzworthy benefits of resistance bands…
1- Promotes Proper Form
When you use free weights, or dumbbells, and you begin to tire throughout the course of your workout, your form can suffer.
And, that improper form can not only make the exercise ineffective, it could also contribute to or cause an injury.
Resistance bands help you keep proper form throughout an entire exercise, letting you get the most out of each movement by creating a connection between your mind and your muscles.
Fitness expert James Grage explains the benefit of this connection, explaining that “the increasing resistance of a band forces you to focus at the end of the range of motion and make sure you get a good squeeze on each rep.”
And, it’s this forced focus here that helps to build the muscle-mind connection, which then naturally promotes safe and proper form.
2- Stretching And Pain Relief/Injury Recovery
Resistance bands aren’t only for muscle building exercises either, as you can use them to get a good stretch pre and post workout as well.
Especially if you struggle with flexibility or even gracefulness, bands can keep your body stable and allow you to reach farther and stretch more deeply.
Take a hamstring stretch for example, instead of reaching down and grabbing your heel with your hand, you can lie on your back and use a resistance band to loop around your foot, pulling it inward and ultimately receiving a deeper stretch.
And, you can even use them to stretch post injury, during recovery.
Resistance bands have been used for years in physical therapy, rehabilitation, and sports’ medicine to help heal muscle related injuries.
As the bands don’t apply pressure, they are safe for rehabilitation exercises for your joints and muscles.
3- Builds Muscle
When training with resistance bands multiple muscle fibers are activated, contracting against the band and forcing slow movements that can bring the muscle tissues to exhaustion, exactly what you want when building lean muscle mass.
And, the focused, slow movements with resistance bands can increase the amount of time your muscles spend under tension, thereby building muscle just as effectively (sometimes more effectively) than when using free weights.
If you find that you need more tension with the bands, for instance if an exercise begins to feel too easy, you can simply upgrade to a thicker band.
4- Safety First
Never having to worry about picking up a weight that is too heavy, and incurring an injury, resistance bands are considered one of the safest ways to exercise.
Resistance bands are also safe on your joints as they are low impact and omit the application of pressure on your bones and joints.
And, though we mentioned this in another point, it bears repeating regarding safety: as bands promote proper form, you are less likely to be injured when using resistance bands as opposed to free weights or even gym equipment.
Resistance bands are also incredibly affordable, with the average cost for a set of bands ranging from $6-30.
By comparison, a best-seller set of weights on Amazon (50 lbs) costs around $110, while a 5 piece set of resistance bands (creating resistance up to 150 lbs) costs around $30.
So, for roughly $30 or less, you could have an entire gym worth of resistance equipment in your home simply using resistance bands.
6- Have Bands Will Travel
And, they’re not just affordable. That entire gym worth of resistance equipment for roughly $30 also takes up less space than a small set of free weights.
Lightweight and compact, resistance bands are perfect for travel, easy to pack in a handbag or suitcase practically unnoticeable.
Yep, this means you can take them with you no matter where you go, ensuring a great, effective workout while traveling, allowing you to continue pursuing your fitness goals no matter your travel or work agenda.
7- Yoga Buddies
Believe it or not, you can even use resistance bands to enhance your yoga workout.
One particularly interesting, and highly beneficial, use for resistance bands while doing yoga is to expand your chest, allowing for maximum lung volume.
Using resistance bands in yoga to strengthen the muscles in your upper back and open up your chest cavity actually increases your lung capacity.
Obviously you can do this outside of yoga as well, but this is just another avenue of use for resistance bands that has proven to be beneficial.
8- Fat Burners
We’ve seen how resistance bands can be an effective part of a strength training routine to build muscle, but how do they measure up when it comes to fat burning?
First, building muscle does indeed burn fat, in and of itself.
But, using resistance bands in a workout is also no cakewalk!
When training with resistance bands, you are demanding a great amount of energy and strength from your body, which equates to a great amount of calories burned in a given workout.
And, the use of resistance bands is also proven to increase your body’s consumption of oxygen even after you complete your workout, which means you get a killer afterburn thanks to the boost in metabolism.
One goal of exercise is to improve your body’s functional fitness level. This says less about your ability to lift heavy things and more about your body’s ability to perform daily tasks with ease.
Only using the machines at the gym or strictly limiting your exercise sessions to barbell activity may not make you functionally fit, but resistance bands will!
Since resistance bands are able to be stretched and pulled in pretty much any direction, offering a wide range of mobility, working out with them aids in the development of coordination and control of your motor skills.
Hayden Steele, creator of the shock training app, explains the functionality of resistance bands stating that “unlike free weights, bands don’t rely on gravity for resistance. This increases their potential for use in more functional movement patterns that mimic everyday life…”
10- The Perfect Combo
And, as great as resistance bands are, providing an excellent workout from warm-up to cool-down, you can also use them in combination with free weights to enhance your workout in even greater ways.
You can do this by completing a heavy set with free weights, followed by doing the same exercise with resistance bands.
Or, you can combine the bands with free weights to act as a single unit.
Working out using a combination of bands and free weights can increase flexibility and challenge or stimulate your muscles in greater ways, amplifying your results.
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