Benefits of Resistance Bands for Strength Training

young woman working out with resistance band in park

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When you look at a tiny little jalapeño pepper, it’s hard to imagine what a punch it packs until you put it in your mouth. So it goes with resistance bands. It is hard to look at a little band next to a big dumbbell and believe it, but resistance bands are a great strength training tool. They might be small and unassuming, but the power they have sneaks up on you. Just one band can be used to strengthen all major muscle groups, and most people who use them for the first time definitely feel it the next day!

Where Did Resistance Bands Come From?

Resistance bands originated in the early 1900s and were made from surgical tubing. Their original purpose was muscle rehabilitation, though the photos from exercises at that time look similar to exercises used for strength today.

The bands made a comeback in the fitness market during the 1990s and have continued to increase in popularity.

Benefits of Resistance Bands

  • Versatility: While dumbbells provide you with a heavy lift, and weight machines are stable and easy to use, neither has the versatility of the resistance bands. You can begin performing a band squat and immediately add a bicep curl to the move. Or you can easily take a resistance band lunge and add an overhead press. The possibilities are endless.
  • More Muscle Recruitment: Due to the great versatility of the resistance bands, they are also more efficient. A bicep curl with a dumbbell is a fixed motion and the muscles used are predictable. Add the instability of the band and muscle fibers all over your arms and shoulders kick in to keep the band stable. 
  • Affordability: Some are less than $20. Need we say more? Resistance bands are relatively inexpensive—even the good ones! You can buy multiple resistance levels and still keep your costs low.
  • Portability: Putting a treadmill away when company comes over can be cumbersome. Moving the dumbbells under the bed gets to be a hassle. This is not the case with the resistance bands. Small, light and flexible, they can be tucked away anywhere—including your handbag or gym bag! Take them to the office, put them in a suitcase, run them upstairs or downstairs: resistance bands are easy.

Types of Resistance Bands

Rubberized resistance bands come in many forms.

  • Traditional bands are long cylindrical tubes with plastic handles attached to the ends. They differ in thickness, which determines how difficult the band will be to use. This is a great band for basic strength exercises.
  • Braided tubes are four strands of tube braided together. Like traditional bands, they come in a variety of resistances depending on your fitness level but the braid gives you added durability and holds up in the most rigorous training applications like outdoor environments.
  • The flat band is great for physical therapy, mind-body exercise, and seniors.
  • The Superband, made popular by CrossFit, is great for pull-up assistance, partner exercises, and is often used by athletes.

You may have also seen looped bands ankle cuffs. The variety is endless.

How to Choose a Resistance Level

Which one is right for you? The first thing to keep in mind is that you can’t compare a resistance band with a dumbbell. In other words, you can’t say a certain color band is equal to a certain size dumbbell. Physics dictates otherwise.

When lifting weights, gravity plays a big part. You get more resistance when lifting against gravity, but then gravity makes lowering the weight easier. However, when using tubing, you do not fight gravity. Instead, the band is presenting you with resistance in both directions. The ability to move freely when using tubing allows you to mimic and recreate everyday movements.

One of the main benefits of using resistance bands is increasing and strengthening natural movement patterns used in daily activities such as following through on a golf swing, throwing a football, lifting something up high, or even opening a door.

That being said, how do you choose the proper level band for you? The bands are color-coded, yellow (for beginners or seniors), green (light resistance), red (medium), blue (heavy), and purple (ultra-heavy). According to SPRI Products, the number one manufacturer of resistance tubes, the 'beauty of the bands' is to develop muscle strength and muscle endurance. To work on strength, do fewer repetitions, at a higher resistance. For endurance, do more repetitions, up against less resistance. To determine the right color: you should reach moderate to maximum muscle fatigue between 20-30 repetitions. If your chosen band is too easy, you’ll know. If it’s too hard, you won’t be able to complete the exercise repetitions through the full range of motion. 

Keep in mind that one band might not cut it for working out your entire body. Different muscles have different strengths, so you might want to buy two different resistance levels right off the bat!

Resistance Band Workout Ideas

If you’re new to exercise, our Workout Routine for Beginners is a great place to start. Grab yourself a band and experience all the benefits resistance bands have to offer for shaping a stronger, leaner you!

You can also get in a good stretch with a resistance band.

Remember, resistance bands are portable so you can do a workout anywhere.

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Article Sources
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  3. Bergquist R, Iversen VM, Mork PJ, Fimland MS. Muscle Activity in Upper-Body Single-Joint Resistance Exercises with Elastic Resistance Bands vs. Free Weights. J Hum Kinet. 2018;61:5–13. doi:10.1515/hukin-2017-0137

  4. SPRI Products. 10-minute Total Body Resistance Band Circuit Workout. By Chris Freytag. May 21, 2018 Libertyville, Ill.: SPRI Products