Resistance-bands are the latest rage since the pandemic hit. The bands provide a unique form of resistance that’s different from traditional weight training with dumbbells and barbells and are super easy to transport if you’re traveling. This means you can get the benefits of extra strength without needing to spend hours in the gym lifting weights.
According to a 2019 research paper published in SAGE Open Medicine, band-resistance training provides strength gains similar to traditional free-weight training. As long as you use enough band-resistance, you can recreate the difficulty of a free-weight workout.
Free weights use gravity as resistance, which means that the weight is always pulling down towards the ground. Bands allow you to use different angles by attaching them to different surfaces. You can also use bands to recreate traditional exercises like squats and deadlifts.
Resistance bands, usually made from a synthetic fiber like latex or rubber, can be looped around your legs or arms which helps create more tension while you work out. This tension makes it more difficult to do movements, and engages more muscles, that will help you build strength and muscle.
Both the average person and athletes benefit greatly from using elastic resistance bands. The strength gained from using resistance bands is similar to training with dumbbells and weight machines and can even increase the stabilizer muscles to a greater extent than the traditional weight training. This muscle group supports the body’s larger muscles and joints during movement and helps prevent injury. Strengthening these muscles improves movement and stability and is why resistance bands are often used for rehabilitation.
Resistance bands come in a wide variety of lengths, types, and tensions. Typically, the bands are coded by a unique color that indicates different levels of resistance, and the user can select the correct band according to their needs. The tension offered by elastic bands can range anywhere from 15 lbs. to over 300lbs! That is pretty darn hefty for a piece of rubber!
Bands also give you variable resistance. They get tighter as they stretch, meaning an exercise will have different amounts of resistance at different parts of the movement. In contrast, when you lift a 30-pound dumbbell, it’s always going to weigh 30 pounds.
The band brings all four major properties that are critical for any form of resistance training program:
Using the bands for strength training greatly benefits older people to increase muscle lost with aging. The bands can also help reduce frailty, improve balance, flexibility, and body composition (giving you less body fat and more muscle).
Often times, those who start weight training using traditional weights give up within the first year due to the logistical difficulties and financial costs. Resistance bands provide a great alternative to building strength and encouraging long-term use.
All the same, resistance bands have their drawbacks. You only reach the maximum resistance when the band is extended as far as it can go. But with free weights, resistance is consistent throughout the movement. You can also easily add more resistance (by lifting a heavier weight) or remove resistance (decreasing the weight you’re lifting). Though you can use a band that has greater resistance to get more strength gains, these gains may not be as great as with using weights. One option to increase resistance levels with bands is to add or stack bands. There is also some support for using resistance bands in conjunction with free weights to maximize strength gains: with the fixed resistance from the free weight and the varied resistance from the resistance band.
Resistance bands are still a very effective way to build muscle and strength. Given that they are inexpensive and easy to access, they are a good option for people getting started with exercising, athletes, physical therapists, those who travel for work, or who don’t want to pay for a gym membership. This means almost everyone can get the benefits of strength training without needing to lift heavy weights.
The bottom line is that strength training matters. Resistance bands build strength and offer effective exercise options for all levels from virtually anywhere. They are versatile, affordable and their compact size (in comparison to dumbbells) have made resistance bands the reigning champion in exercise gear.
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