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There is a varied amount of fitness band uses, from rehab to body toning, the many benefits of resistance bands will be outlined below. Do resistance bands work? and if so, what do they work for and how effective are they?
We’ll cover these questions and more, so you have a better understanding of how resistance bands work.
Let’s jump in!
What do resistance bands do?
So we know that resistance bands are either lengths of elasticated tubes or lengths of durable, flat rubber or latex. But what are resistance bands used for? Well, exercise bands are used to train muscle groups in a variety of health and fitness situations by stretching the band and working against its resistance. The thicker the band, the more resistance it offers.
There are several types of resistance bands to choose from, but which you should choose and the advantages of resistance bands of each type will depend on the type of training you are doing and your training goals.
Do resistance bands work?
Resistance bands work. There is no question about this. To develop a muscle in terms of strength, function and size, we need to work it through its range of motion against resistance and this is exactly what resistance bands are designed to do.
There are, however, some trainers that won’t benefit from training with resistance bands as much as others. An example of this is that if you are a powerlifter and looking to hit personal best lifts in bench press, squats or any other big compound lift, training exclusively with a resistance band workout routine won’t help you achieve this.
If you are someone who is looking to tone up, lose weight, rehabilitate an injury, want to stay in shape while you don’t have access to a gym or you want a simple home gym solution, resistance bands will work for you, as long as you have a plan that aligns with your fitness goals.
How effective are resistance band workouts?
Resistance band workouts are very effective if you find the right one, you stick to it and your diet fits with your goals. This is true for pretty much any type of fitness training though. The big issue with this question is that the effectiveness really depends on the trainer understanding how resistance bands work.
The further you stretch a resistance band, the bigger the resistance becomes, this means that at the beginning or an exercise movement, it can be significantly easier on your working muscles than at the top of the movement.
If you perform a bicep curl for example, at the mid range of the movement, when your arms are slightly bent, the resistance will be much lower, when you reach the top of the movement, and your biceps are fully contracted, the resistance level will have become higher as the band is stretched more.
So, do resistance bands build muscle? If you are trying to build serious muscle or strength, of course, resistance bands will work to some degree but there are far better, more effective options out there for this training goal. But this all depends on the trainers current fitness level or progression with their goal.
Moving your body in any way, burns calories and stimulates muscle. If you are following a good resistance band workout plan regularly, you will burn calories and tone muscle. In other words, you will “burn fat and tone up”.
So, Do resistance bands really work? If you want muscle tone and fat loss and are following a good exercise plan, or you are working on function or rehabilitating an injury, they will absolutely work!
If you are aiming for world record lifts in bench press, squats or deadlifts and plan to use resistance bands as your training method, not so much. Powerlifters will however, use resistance bands, but this will normally be in conjunction with their barbell lifts, and this is a whole other topic.
Benefits of resistance bands
Resistance band training benefits will vary depending on the trainer and their fitness level. Total beginners to exercise will benefit from improved strength and muscle function a lot more than a veteran of weight training would. This is not to say that veteran weight trainers won’t benefit, at all from training with exercise bands.
There is a factor called “progressive overload” involved here, in short, it will take a lot more for a bodybuilder to develop muscle definition than it would for a total beginner to resistance training, so the benefits of exercise bands will be far greater and more appealing for the beginner.
Here’s a list of resistance bands benefits and cumulative benefits from regular exercise that we can count on when it comes to our physical well being. The range of effect of each benefit will be dependent on the trainers fitness levels, exercise intensity and method of training.
There are also benefits of working out with resistance bands that some other methods of training don’t offer, they:
- Improve muscle function
- Improve muscle tone
- Improve muscle strength
- Improve cardio fitness
- Improve mobility
- Help with fat loss
- Are small and compact for easy storage
- Are an easy travel training solution
- Offer variable resistance training
- Are inexpensive when compared to a lot of other training equipment
- Are very versatile and can be used in many different situations.
- Are great for rehab, beginners and home workouts
1. Benefit of resistance bands for legs
There is a big scope for lower body training with exercise bands, you can target your hamstrings with movements like leg curls, hit your quads with leg extensions and of course, you can experiment with compound exercises like squats. The best resistance bands for leg exercises are probably the tube style as they tend to be more robust.
I want to give two examples of resistance band leg training to highlight the versatility of these things and talk more specifically about the resistance band squat benefits that differing levels of trainer can utilize.
The beginner: Everyone should start by perfecting their exercise form, so bodyweight squats are ideal for this. Once our leg muscles are developed enough for us to safely perform bodyweight squats, we can move on to using resistance bands.
Bodyweight squats are great, but to develop muscle effectively, we need some overload. This is where we start to see the benefits of using resistance bands for squats. In my experience, it’s best to use a set of resistance bands with handles for comfort.
The biggest benefit for using resistance bands for leg exercises, especially squats, is that you can stack the bands as you progress. Legs have big muscle groups, and stacking bands makes for a solid progression path.
The powerlifter: Powerlifters or strength trainers can benefit from using resistance bands exclusively, but this will usually be to warm up muscles and joints, before getting into the big lifts.
Due to the variable resistance (touched on in the previous section), these guys can really exploit the advantages of resistance bands. With their heavy squats, they can attach a single band or multiple bands to each side of their barbell and anchor the other end to the floor.
This is a massive benefit as throughout their lift, the resistance will increase rather than remain constant. This means that each rep performed will give a cheeky weight bonus to their lift. If a strength trainer trains like this regularly, they will have a better chance of overcoming a plateau.
2. Upper body resistance band benefits
When I was introduced to them, I thought the purpose of resistance bands was for upper body training or simply warm up exercises. As I’ve worked more with them, it’s become apparent that the more creative we can be, the more we can benefit from them.
As we have more moving parts up top, we can use our exercise bands to do a whole lot with upper body training.
Although resistance bands can be used for progressive overload, there is a big benefit to using them to warm up joints before performing working sets.
If we take the exercise “barbell shoulder press” for example, this is a big compound movement that makes use of all three heads of the shoulder and, as there is a lot going on in the shoulder girdle, injuries can easily happen in this area if we don’t prepare suitably.
By performing lateral raises and front raises with a light resistance band before hitting working sets of shoulder press, we will be suitably preparing the shoulder muscles and joints for bigger lifts. This is just one example of the warm up benefits of resistance bands used in the upper body.
It’s true to say that resistance bands use with rehabilitation has many benefits in the lower body as well as the upper body, but there seem to be more common injuries needing rehab occuring in the upper body.
Sticking with the shoulder, rehab bands are very beneficial for recovery following rotator cuff injuries. If you are struggling with a shoulder or any other injury, go and see a physiotherapist, and take their advice on the benefits of resistance bands for your recovery.
3. Resistance band training benefits for seniors
The older we get, the longer it takes our bodies to recover, our bone density lowers, muscles shrink and lose strength and the list goes on. But, if we stay active, we can stay stronger for longer!
The benefits gained by using resistance band training for some seniors are extremely valuable. Depending on this fitness level of course. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again that I personally know seniors that are fitter and more healthy than a lot of twenty year olds.
The main benefits:
- Improves flexibility (good for function and everyday activities)
- Muscle development (Helps protect bones and joints)
- Improved coordination
- Improved balance
- Can help maintain bone density
There is a place for resistance band training for everyone. They are fairly inexpensive, but the question, “how long do resistance bands last?” crops up a lot. These things are designed for workouts, but they do need a modicum of care, and wrapping them around sharp-edged surfaces can damage them, so be careful.”
4. Benefits of exercise bands for rehab
Every physiotherapist that I know has an appreciation for resistance bands and in my experience, they are widely used in conjunction with bodyweight training for rehab.
What do resistance bands help with when it comes to rehab? The main benefit of using resistance bands for rehab is that once normal movement is restored after an injury, we can use the same movement with a resistance band to start to strengthen the muscles that might have been inactive during recovery.
5. Benefits of using resistance bands for stretching
There is one huge benefit of using resistance bands for stretching and this is to correct posture. A common problem for a lot of people is poor shoulder posture. Rounded shoulders are common with non trainers and indeed people who regularly engage in resistance training.
This posture problem is often due to working positions in non trainers and it can be developed through resistance training where certain muscle groups are neglected and others are over developed. Bad exercise form can also cause this.
Resistance bands can be used to work on correcting this shoulder issue by holding a band at tension above our head with straight arms and pushing our arms down and back whilst also maintaining the straightness of our arms. This will open up the chest and engage the rear delts.
This is just one example of stretching with resistance bands, but it’s a big subject and they can be used to stretch most muscle groups.
6. Benefits of resistance band training for runners
Runners will benefit from using resistance bands in a few ways. First they can use them for general muscle strength in the legs or upper body, but I would suggest that stretching sessions would be beneficial to this type of fitness.
Post run would be an ideal opportunity to use resistance band stretches for the hamstrings and to maybe release any tension in the shoulders. If they are to be used before a running session, I would advise a short warm up before performing any stretches. This will reduce the risk of injury while stretching.
7. Benefits of working out with resistance bands for bodybuilding
Is resistance band training good for bodybuilders? Well, the benefits of using resistance bands for bodybuilding is fairly broad. Although exercise bands will not be the number one choice of training equipment, they can be used to enhance a training session in a number of ways.
Stretching is definitely something that can be considered by bodybuilders along with warming up joints and muscles before getting into the working sets of an exercise session.
A creative way to benefit from resistance bands in bodybuilding workouts is to attach bands laterally to dumbbells where the exercise being performed stops using gravity to engage the muscle.
An example of this is dumbbell pec flys. If we lay on a bench and start repping out a set of dumbbell flys, at the top of the movement, we are no longer using gravity to work our pecs. If we anchor a band to either side of a power tower or other solid object and then attach the band to the dumbbells, it will give more resistance through a bigger range of movement, adding a lot more quality to the exercise. This will be similar to doing dumbbell flys using a set of low cables.
Again, this is just one example of the use of exercise bands in bodybuilding and there are many other ways to explore and enhance our bodybuilding workouts.
What are resistance bands good for? Our conclusion
Resistance bands are good for anyone! I’ve said this plenty of times before, but here it comes again; I think everyone who has an interest in fitness of any kind should own a set of resistance bands.
Hopefully you can see from this post that resistance bands are not only for a subset of fitness enthusiasts, they are good for everyone, from rehab to bodybuilding, to seniors wanting to stay active all the way to power lifters.
Although resistance bands are a fantastically versatile piece of exercise kit, it does help to keep gaining knowledge of their uses along with the mechanics of the body. The more we learn about this, the better we can utilize this versatility.
Are resistance bands good for building muscle?
Resistance bands are good for building muscle to a certain extent. This depends on the current fitness level of the trainer. A seasoned bodybuilder will find it hard to build more muscle using resistance bands exclusively, as they will need more of a progressive overload.
But a total beginner will definitely be able to build an amount of muscle. Resistance bands are a great resource to get started on this journey.
Can you get toned using resistance bands?
You can get toned using resistance bands. If a sensible routine is followed regularly and exercises are performed correctly, muscles will tone. There is also a need for progressive overload, meaning, you will have to work in each of your sessions at an intensity that challenges you.
Do resistance bands burn fat?
Yes, resistance bands burn fat if you train correctly and with the right intensity. If fat loss is the goal, I would advise that regular, full body circuit training is the choice. This will not only burn fat, but it will also tone muscle which in turn will burn more fat.
To get good progress in fat burning, diet also has to be on point.
Are bands better than weights?
Bands are better than weights in some situations, but not all. This depends on what you are planning to get out of resistance band training. If you are rehabilitating an injury, bands could be better as the goal of rehab is to restore movement and muscle wastage due to injury.
If you are looking to build big muscle mass, weights are better in most cases.
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