You may be new to training and or considering buying some exercise equipment for home and you may be surprised to find out that resistance bands could be the best place to start with your training routine. Below are some reasons why you should consider resistance bands as a serious option for your training*
*If you are a body builder or a power lifter, bands still have a place in your training as they can add additional resistance.
Resistance bands are another tool which we can use to help increase our strength and fitness levels, along with those in the diagram below.
6 reasons to train using resistance bands
- Studies have shown resistance bands deliver similar strength gains to training with conventional resistance (free weights and resistance machines). If you follow the overload principle – i.e. by increasing the number of repetitions or resistance of the band when things become too easy.
- They improve muscle mass. There is some evidence which shows resistance training using resistance bands improves muscle mass. This however is not likely to be as great when compared to free weights and resistance machines. The reason being as we lengthen the muscle, the resistance becomes less when using a band. Think of the bicep curl, with a band as we lower the arm back down the resistance becomes less as the band is shortening. With a free weight or resistance machine the weight stays constant throughout. However, older adults and people new to training this can be beneficial, see the next point.
- Training with resistance bands does not create as much muscle damage compared to free weights and resistance machines. This is due to the strength curve, where the resistance will be lighter at the start of an exercise compared to the end. As the muscle lengthens (lowers a weight) the band becomes less taught. As the muscle contracts, the band becomes tighter, providing more resistance. This means you will not have the dreaded ‘DOMS’ following a resistance band workout and can train more frequently.
- For the elderly, those suffering from COPD and osteoarthritis, studies have shown training using resistance bands to have the same benefits and health improvements through increased strength, improve balance and exercise capacity, when used following a structure program. One study showed that two 30 minutes sessions a week improved quality of life scores which consisted of questions on physical health, mental health, social relations and environmental health.
- Fat free mass increased and fat mass decreased when training occurred using resistance bands. These results were seen by training twice a week with an all over body workout.
- Training with resistance bands has been shown to strengthen the immune system. As we age immunological changes can increase the risk of infections as our immune system weakens. Keeping fit and active can help improve our immune system. Resistance band training has also been reported to decrease plasma levels of TGF-ß which is related to some autoimmune diseases.
Resistance bands are a handy piece of kit to have at home, as they are easy to store and can fit in a draw or up on a shelf. They are also quick and easy to use. Open the bag and off you go! You do not have to take or add weights during a workout, just pick up another band (easier or harder) or adjust your hand position on the band to increase/decrease the resistance. They are also portable, and you can put them in your rucksack and take down the park, use in the garden and even take on holiday… so no excuses not to work out! They are also great as you do not need a lot of specialist other equipment to go with them, like a weights bench to support the extra load of a dumbbell.
Research has shown that training using resistance bands is an effective way to train to increase strength and endurance, improve body composition and quality of life. They are less intimidating to use and can help to progress from bodyweight exercises by adding that little bit of resistance we need to keep improving.
Resistance bands are not superior to free weights or bodyweight training, but they are just another great option in training. They are another tool in our training toolbox which we can use to help improve our health and fitness, with the added benefit of being packable, portable, and easy to use.
If you are looking to purchase some resistance bands we recommended buying at least three, so you have a range to use as some exercises will require a medium strength band, whilst others a heavy strength band. You can always double them up for extra resistance!