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All about resistance bands


All about resistance bands

Want to do resistance exercises, but have limited room? well resistance band exercises may be just what you are looking for.

Resistance bands have been around for some time, however they have evolved and many people are finding that these bands can be used for a variety of exercises and purposes. They are great for rehabilitation, building muscle and strength and increasing mobility and flexibility.

What are the benefits and pros of using resistance bands?

  • They aren’t too expensive initially, so can be a cost effective way to workout.
  • Great for both size and strength gain if used properly with the right bands and exercises (more on that below).
  • Can be great for cardio/endurance training.
  • With the right type of bands they can be used for rehabilitation of an injury.
  • They take up very little room and therefore are also very portable and can be taken to work or on holiday and used any time of the day.
  • Very versatile and can be used for numerous types of exercises to hit most of the muscles of the body (see list below).
  • Good choice of variable resistance, ranging from just a few pounds to many hundreds of pounds. They are also colour coded to help.
  • You don’t need to hoist huge weights into position or above you. The bands are light and so there is no risk of dropping or getting stuck under a weight.
  • Can be used to help those who cannot do full pull-ups yet. This can be achieved by attaching a suitable band on a bar overhead and then under your foot/knee to help assist you with your pull-ups.
  • Easy to vary the speed of motion of an exercise.
  • You can do many of the exercises in a seated or standing position as you are not limited to resistance from gravity that is normally applied to bodyweight exercises and the use of free weight.
  • Can be used by those with a hand disability, as you can do many exercises without needing to grasp a weight.

What are the cons of using resistance bands?

  • Can get damaged and end up with a tear and snap.
  • Won’t last forever. Being made of rubber that is being stretched, the rubber will eventually weaken and need to be replaced in the future.
  • Can’t always get the right resistance length on some exercises. Due to the initial fixed length of the bands it isn’t always easy to get them at the length you want for some exercises. (See using resistance bands below).
  • Can be awkward getting the right resistance, even when combining variations of bands together. An exercise may be too easy at the start, but too hard before you reach full range of motion for example.
  • Not easy to make progressive resistance increases. Especially if keeping a journal/record to monitor your progress. The bands have varying resistance as they stretch and the way you hold it, the angle that you use it and the length you hold it at under your feet for example all have an impact on its resistance.

Resistance bands also provide an unusual resistance curve. They provide low resistance at the beginning of its stretch and as they are further stretched and lengthened increased the resistance they provide. This is a mostly unique situation that resistance bands, springs or chain training can provide. This may or may not be an advantage, we live in a world where our muscles work against gravity and although our muscles tend to be weakest at its fully stretched point and mostly stronger from the mid point and towards the end as leverage takes over, the body is used to and will have to work against gravity in functional lifting. It is however still a great tool that works the fibres of the muscle in an interesting way.

Types of resistance bands

It is important to realize there are many types of resistance bands out there. Some are geared towards rehabilitation, fitness and general working out, others are designed towards providing considerable resistance for those looking to build strength and muscle.

All about resistance bands - rehabilitation bands

Rehabilitation bands

Commonly referred to as therapy bands  or TheraBands (TheraBand is a brand by the way). These bands tend to be thin flat pieces of open ended (not looped) rubber or tubes similar to surgical tubes. These are often used by physiotherapists and many other medical professions and sports trainers to aid injury recovery. However they can also be used for general exercise, cardio and fitness and warming up muscles, providing light resistance.

All about resistance bands - mini loop bands

Mini resistance loops

These are short length flat bands that are ideal for those looking to do short range of motion exercises, such as thigh, hip or glute exercises, but also useful for those into calisthenics for assistance during some exercises.

Resistance tubes

These aren’t bands, but they come under the same category. These mostly come with handles attached to them. These allow a more comfortable grip for some exercises, but you will be mostly limited to those types of exercises. These also tend to only have low to moderate resistance however due to the weakness of the clip attachments that can often bend under higher resistance loads.

All about resistance bands - figure 8 bands

Figure 8 bands

These are again tubes. They have handles and are connected in the middle to form a figure eight. being of shorter length and with handles are great for those looking to workout in comfort, if there’s such a thing? Resistance tends to also be low to medium strength.

All about resistance bands - power bands

Power bands

These are generally thick flat rubber loop bands that are ideal for those looking for general or even some serious resistance. These come in various strengths depending obviously on the width of the band you use. Getting more and more popular with those into muscle and strength training.

Buying resistance bands

Resistance bands can be purchased as a set or as individual bands. It is generally cheaper to buy a set and if needed add any others that are not in the set. Watch for really cheap sets as these may not last too long. Conversely you do not need to pay silly money for them, so shop around and compare prices.

Although they are colour coded, be careful as there are at least three main colour coding systems. The bands main colours are, yellow, green, blue, black, red, green, grey and orange. Most sets will have the yellow as the lowest resistance and grey or orange being the highest resistance. While different makes of these bands will place the other colours in a different order, just be aware of that.

Using resistance bands

Obviously what your goals are and what you intend to be using the resistance bands for will dictate how you use them. For rehabilitation and physio work, please consult the relevant expert in the field you require.

For those wanting to use bands for exercise, then you can use resistance bands as follows.

Decide what exercises you want to do, then choose a band type and bands with appropriate strengths (trial an error is the only way to know which band to use).

Do the exercises using the correct form, once you get used to the exercise and resistance, either choose the next band strength up or you can combine two or more lighter bands to provide the required resistance. Another option is to fold them double to increase the resistance, but be careful not too over stretch them if doing this.

If doing single arm/side exercises, such as a single arm shoulder press with the stronger bands be careful and warm-up properly first. The non working side will need to stabilize and counter the resistance and so it can be easy to strain a muscle on the opposing side being exercised.

Doing some of the exercises mentioned below using resistance bands can take some getting used to, especially if you are use to using weights. Make sure you study exercise guides and videos for the correct form and make sure you use a secure anchoring point where, and if needed. Don’t anchor the bands to an object with an edge, as this will create a weak point and break it. Also bear in mind any anchoring of the band can create a weak area on that part of the band.

Clean and inspect the bands for damage on a regular basis. Use a damp cloth to wipe down as necessary. Store them somewhere not too hot or too cold as this can make them brittle and weak.

Just some of the exercises you can do:

Chest:

  • Chest flyes (standing or lying at various angles)
  • Chest press (standing or lying at various angles)
  • Press-ups
  • Crossovers

Back:

  • Rows (standing or seated at various angles)
  • Lateral pull downs
  • Straight arm extensions
  • Pull ups (as assistance)

Shoulders:

  • Various shoulder rehab exercises
  • Side lateral raises
  • Shoulder presses
  • Face pulls
  • Band pull aparts
  • Front raises
  • Bent over flyes
  • Wood choppers
  • Shoulder external rotations

Biceps:

  • Biceps curls (various angles)

Triceps:

  • Triceps press/extensions
  • Triceps kick backs

Legs/glutes/lower body:

  • Leg presses
  • Squats (front and back)
  • Deadlifts
  • Lateral walk/steps
  • Glute bridge abductions
  • Hip bridges
  • Standing and lying hip abductions
  • Standing glute kickbacks
  • Clamshells
  • Standing and lying lateral leg raises
  • Lateral lunges

Abs:

  • Kneeling crunches

Finally

Take care using resistance bands, especially if using them at full stretch, as there is the potential for them to snap. Keep an eye out for weakening of the elastic, tears or damage. For exercises that have you pulling the band towards your face, you need to make sure that they are anchored properly and you may want to invest in a pair of safety glasses to protect your eyes. Do not place bands/tubes with handles under your feet, especially when trying to do a row, as they can easily slip off.  Don’t over stretch the bands (Follow the instructions that should be provided with your bands).  Having said that, they are generally one of the safest methods of training.

If you are looking to build muscle, you have to use the power bands and provide your muscle with enough resistance and continued progression. You can also combine bands with traditional hand weights, by attaching them to barbells and dumbbells to allow added resistance, but also add that unique resistance curve mentioned above. My suggestion would be to ideally combine bands and free weight and body weight exercise in combination or do separate workout sessions for each. After all variety is the spice of life.

Lastly, as resistance bands are made mostly from a latex rubber, be aware if you are allergic to these types of materials.