Do you work with resistance bands? If not, it’s time to start! Don’t give up dumbbells and barbells. They’re too valuable! But adding bands to your routine will add more variety to your workouts and work your muscles in a way they aren’t accustomed to. By working muscles from different angles and varying the stimulus on them, you can avoid strength and hypertrophy plateaus. Your muscles can use a shake-up sometimes because they adapt to the stress you place on them and stop growing and changing.
How effective are bands? Studies show that you can build strength and power using bands. In fact, a meta-analysis of eight studies found that resistance bands are as effective for strength gains as weight machines and dumbbells. If you’re training at home, bands offer a way to work your muscles without having a roomful of dumbbells or barbells.
Resistance bands work muscles differently than barbells and dumbbells. When you work with bands, the tension increases as you pull the bands apart and the tension doesn’t let up at the top of the movement as it does with dumbbells. You can also use the bands to create tension at multiple angles and planes of motion for an ultra-challenging workout. Because you have to maintain stability as the tension increases, your core gets an effective workout with most resistance band exercises.
If you need more of a challenge, you choose a resistance band with more resistance as they’re available with different degrees of tension. Plus, the risk of injury is lower when you use bands, assuming you anchor them securely! Also, resistance bands are portable. You can even take them on vacation. It’s quite a different story with dumbbells and barbells! They’re a challenge to travel with.
If you don’t have bands yet, here’s how to select the best ones for you.
Selecting Resistance Bands: What Are the Options?
Resistance bands come in different styles and have varying degrees of resistance to accommodate various strength levels. It’s best to choose several bands with various tensions since you’ll need more resistance for certain exercises than others.
Bands come in my different styles, including loops, tubes, flat stretch bands and there is even a figure eight resistance band. Each band type has certain advantages depending on the exercise they are designed for, so make sure to select a band that is appropriate for the exercise type you plan on usin it for.
Resistance Bands Come in Varying Resistances
Resistance bands are color-coded to show how much resistance or tension they provide. The amount of resistance a band has can range from 15 to 200 pounds. Each band is color-coded to show how much resistance it offers. However, the color-coding can vary, so verify how much resistance each band offers before purchasing. Some have the resistance printed on the band or may say ultra-light, light, moderate, or heavy. Usually, lighter colors, like yellow or orange offer the least resistance. Red and blues are intermediate, and the darker colors, like black and purple, offer the most.
When training, start with light resistance and work your way up to the more challenging bands. You’ll need more resistance for your lower body than your upper body. The tightest bands, like the black and purple, you’ll likely only use after you’ve trained for a while and only for lower body exercises. Choose a resistance for each exercise that allows you to control the band, yet still feels challenging..
You can also buy packages of resistance bands that include bands of varying resistance. You might want some accessories too. For certain exercises, you must anchor the bands to a door or other sturdy surface. Some bands have hooks at the end where you can add and remove handles and ankle straps for more versatility.
One problem is some handles on bands are made of plastic and can be hard to grasp. One way to avoid this is to buy resistance bands with handles that are padded for extra comfort. You can find good prices online, but it’s also helpful to visit a sporting goods store and hold the bands in your hands and see how they feel and function. Understand the nuances before buying, so you can choose the ones that are right for you.
Lots of Versatility
Once you have your bands, you’ll discover just how many exercises you can do with them, including ones you can’t do with dumbbells and barbells. Plus, they’re so portable, you can take them to the office and work your muscles during your lunch break! They won’t break the bank either, even if you get a full set and some accessories.
The Bottom Line
You can build strength and power with resistance bands. The constant tension they place on your muscles aids in muscle hypertrophy too. Don’t give up dumbbells and barbells, but bands can be an effective way to vary your routine and blast through plateaus. Now you know what to look for when choosing your own bands. Enjoy the extra versatility and challenge they offer!
- Strength and Conditioning Research.com. “Elastic Resistance Training”
- BMC Geriatr 15, 99 (2015) doi:10.1186/s12877-015-0101-5
- SAGE Open Med. 2019; 7: 2050312119831116. Published online 2019 Feb 19. doi: 10.1177/2050312119831116.
- Int J Sports Med. 2010;31(11):810-7. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1262808.