5 Reasons to Add Resistance Bands to Your Training

5 Reasons to Add Resistance Bands to Your Training

(Last Updated On: March 24, 2019)

 

5 Reasons to Add Resistance Bands to Your Training

You can build strength and muscle in a variety of ways, by working with dumbbells, barbells, or machines, or doing bodyweight exercises. The key is to work your body against resistance in a way that’s challenging enough to force it to adapt and change. Each of these resistance training modalities offers benefits. But there’s one tool for resistance training many people fail to take advantage of in their training routine – resistance bands.

Resistance bands made of sturdy, elastic add resistance, yet they’re lightweight and portable. The portability of resistance bands gives them an inherent advantage over weights that are too heavy to carry on a vacation. Even if you don’t travel, don’t make the mistake of pushing resistance bands to the back of the closet. Here are five reasons to make them a regular part of your routine.

Resistance Bands Provide Linear Variable Resistance

You might think resistance bands aren’t as effective as barbells or dumbbells for building strength or muscle size. Nothing could be further from the truth. Research shows resistance bands activate muscles as effectively as free weights. In fact, resistance bands have some advantages over dumbbells and barbells. When you lift barbells or dumbbells, the force on the muscle you’re working varies depending on where you are in the movement. For most exercises with free weights, the force is greatest at the halfway point of the movement while at the peak of the concentric part of the movement, the muscle tension is almost zero.

Not so with resistance bands. Elastic bands keep tension on the muscle throughout the entirety of the movement and the tension actually increases the more the elastic is stretched. But the proof is in the pudding – what about results?  Research shows resistance bands enhance muscle size and strength as effectively as training with free weights.

You Can’t Cheat as Easily

The problem with free weights is they allow you to use momentum. When you have a pair of weights in your hands, it’s easy to bounce the weight without even being aware of it. When you do, you’re taking some of the load off the muscle and potentially diminishing your gains. With elastic bands, you can’t use momentum. The muscle is forced to maintain tension throughout the rep. As a result, you get more damage to the muscle fibers and, potentially, more growth.

Higher tension also creates more metabolic stress and release of anabolic hormones to help your muscles grow in size. Plus, removing momentum from the equation helps you master your form. Hopefully, when you go back to dumbbells, you’ll have less tendency to throw the weights around.

Good for Variety

It’s no secret that if you keep doing the same routine, you’ll stop making strength and size gains. Plateaus happen when your muscles adapt to the stress you place on them and no longer grow or change. Resistance bands place a different type of stress on your muscles and this can help you bust through a plateau.

Leg Strength and Power

The greatest amount of muscle damage happens during the eccentric phase of an exercise. The eccentric phase is the “negative” phase or the phase of a movement where the muscle lengthens under tension. When you curl your biceps, the portion where you lift your hands toward your shoulders is the concentric phase. When you bring your arms back down to the starting point in a controlled manner or lengthen the muscle, it’s called the eccentric phase. With greater muscle damage occurring during the eccentric portion of the exercise, emphasizing the eccentric phase of an exercise offers the greatest potential for muscle growth.

What does this have to do with resistance bands? In one study, researchers found during leg extensions, participants generated more muscle activation during the eccentric phase of the exercise using resistance bands than they did on a Nautilus machine. Since the eccentric phase creates the most muscle damage, keeping higher tension on your muscles during this phase gives your muscles a greater growth stimulus.

A study carried out at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse showed athletes who worked with resistance bands in combination with free weights developed greater leg power than those who trained only with free weights.

Better for Functional Fitness?

When you work with weights, resistance is created by gravity and this only occurs in the vertical plane. Resistance bands generate resistance in all directions and planes since resistance is created by the elastic tension in the bands and isn’t dependent on gravity. With resistance bands, you can train against resistance in multiple planes. This gives elastic bands an advantage for building functional fitness.

The Bottom Line

Incorporating resistance bands into your training is another way to keep your workouts varied and dynamic and avoid stagnation. Elastic bands stimulate your muscles in a way that’s different from dumbbells and barbells. Although you might see elastic bands as light and portable equipment you can easily take along when you travel, they’re also great plateau busters. You can use them to build strength, power, and muscle size as a substitute for dumbbells or barbells.

Contrary to popular belief, resistance bands don’t “stretch out” over time and become looser and less capable of generating resistance. When you first pull on a new pair of resistance bands, they increase their length to some degree, but once this happens, their length is set and they don’t stretch out more.

To increase the challenge, buy thicker or heavier bands. You’ll find bands that will challenge you no matter what your fitness level is. So, stop making resistance bands play second fiddle. Give them the place they deserve in your workout. You can order our resistance bands at | Shop Now |

 

References:

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 16(4):547-550, 2002.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 20 (2): 268-272, 2006.

FitnessRX. August 2013.

Aboodarda SJ et al. 2011. Electromyographic activity and applied load during high-intensity elastic resistance and nautilus machine exercises. J Human Kinetics. 30(1).

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 33(10):1713-1725, 2001.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 20 (2): 268-272, 2006.

 

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