What are resistance bands?
Turning back the clock to the 20th century, if an individual was suffering from an injury, they would seldom be directed towards utilising resistance bands as part of their physiotherapy or rehabilitation sessions. Fast forward to the current times and you’ll have noticed resistance bands become a staple equipment for fitness fanatics.
In a nutshell, a resistance band is a band that is literally flat or tubular in shape that induces muscular contraction when used and was originally made from surgical tubing, and comes with significant advantages that a user could avail of, with consistency being key.
What are the different types of resistance bands?
It is important to note that there are various types of resistance bands based on various uses, that could possibly leave you feeling skeptical. Bands tend to vary in terms of colour, size, shape, handles, looped vs non-looped. Apart from that, levels of resistance, quality and price need to be considered.
1. Figure bands
This type of band targets both the upper and lower body. It is best used for pushing and pulling exercises in the sagittal and lateral plane of motion. It acts as the name suggests, wherein it has soft handles at the top and bottom of the figure 8 shape.
- Figure 8 bands can also be used similarly to mini bands and tubes to mimic dumbbell and machine exercises.
2. Power resistance bands (Loop bands)
This band can be used for a variety of training purposes, whether it's athletic focused or bodybuilding focused. It is essentially a massive rubber band that acts as a continuous flat loop. Encompassing versatility, it allows you to work through all three planes of motion.
- Bodyweight assistance (pull ups, dips, muscle ups).
- Bodyweight resistance (push ups, bear crawls, box jumps).
- Full body workouts (squats, shoulder presses, thrusters).
- Warm ups (Increase the stretch and new stretching positions you’d otherwise have trouble getting into).
- Couple them with free weights for added resistance (squats with bands, bench press with bands).
- Can be added to a pole or bar for pulling and pushing exercises and rehabilitation exercises i.e Rotator cuff
- Physical therapy (people suffering from leg, knee and back injuries and help in recovery from torn ACL and MCL, knee replacement, patella and meniscus rehab).
Resistance bands that have handles attached to both ends, thereby mimicking gym and dumbbell exercises are known as Tube resistance bands. These can be easily anchored to the door or pole. Hitting all muscle groups can be certainly be acquired, especially for folks who don’t have access to a gym or train outdoors and want something simple and portable.
- Exercises that involve pressing and pulling such as chest presses, back rows, shoulder presses.
- Also beneficial for P90X programmes.
4. Mini bands
Used for increasing strength and stability in your lower body, these prove to be effective and versatile. Much like power resistance bands, mini bands are much shorter and wider. Fresh designs come with a fabric, covering the bands for added comfort and to stop the band from rolling up, which is a common occurrence with the very light resistance mini bands. Essentially anyone who has a gym membership will see these bands used in a variety of ways.
- Targeting shoulder complexes effectively. Also, a good tool for shoulder and elbow stabilisation.
- Works well to prime correct form for movements like handstands and muscle ups if you’re into calisthenics.
- Helps in glutes and hip activation when placed just above your knees or ankles.
- Weight training.
- Activates your core and hips during lifts like squats, hip thrusts and leg extensions.
5. Light therapy resistance
It is made for people regaining strength after an injury and for old people who want a very low impact workout. These bands can measure up to 7 feet, and are thin, light free bands, meaning they do not loop.
- Pilates and fat burner workouts, where a little resistance is all you need to get a really good burn. Many women use light therapy bands in this way for muscle toning.
- Warm ups for dynamic stretching and static stretching at the end of a workout. These types of bands can help you increase the stretch and improve mobility/range of motion.
How to choose the right resistance bands
There are a number of things to consider when purchasing bands for training. Here are some tips to make sure you spend your money wisely.
1. Keep it simple
There are a wide variety of bands available—figure 8's, double bands, circular bands, etc. If you're just getting started, stick with your basic long tube with handles. Once you figure out how to use it, you may want to buy other types later for variety.
2. Comfort should be your main priority
Some bands you find in stores offer interchangeable handles, which means you have to take them off, and on to use different bands. Some have handles that are larger than normal or made of hard plastic. These are minor issues, but they can make using your bands more difficult than it needs to be.
3. Mix it around
It's best to have at least three—light, medium, and heavy—since different muscle groups will require different levels of resistance. Most bands are colour-coded according to tension level (e.g., light, medium, heavy, very heavy). Take a look at the tension level for each colour so you can buy a variety.
4. Purchase complimentary accessories
One key to using bands is having different ways to attach them. If you have a sturdy pole or stair rail in your house to wrap the band around for exercises like chest presses or seated rows, you may not need extras. But, if you don't, you may want a door attachment. You can also buy ankle cuffs, different handles, and other accessories.
Can resistance bands help build muscle?
The question that is probably asked the most, and the answer is a big yes. Resistance bands can be used to build muscle as they recruit stabilising muscle groups, and provide extra intensity to already challenging body-weight exercises. The key is to use a “progressive overload approach”, doing slightly more sets and reps over time, and pairing training with proper nutrition.
Resistance bands vs Weights
Dumbbells not only take up a decent chunk of space in your home, but are also difficult to transport. Resistance bands are simply the opposite. They are user-friendly, lightweight, easy to transport and barely require space in your home or gym bag.
Both, Dumbbells and resistance bands provide resistance for your muscles to tear and become stronger. However, unlike dumbbells, resistance bands create greater muscle growth by constantly maintaining tension on the muscle throughout the movement.
Resistance bands are also easy on the pocket. They are far more affordable than dumbbells, and have proven to be more widely available too.
Why is resistance band training good?
All, in all the choice depends on you. It’s always good to find new ways to work out and provide your body with alternative stimuli to help it grow and adapt. Using resistance bands can feel a little shaky at first and getting the feel for them simply takes time and regular use. Employing resistance bands in the right way can really help you improve the quality of your workouts and they’re really convenient too. Ultimately, this is going to help you progress and develop. Hence, they are a really fantastic training tool for anyone looking to build holistic body strength.
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