Resistance bands are a popular type of training equipment that has become part of many people's workout routines in the last few years. One catalyst for the skyrocketing popularity of bands is the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, many people found themselves without access to a gym and were forced to find alternative ways to stay active.
Fortunately, gyms are open, but resistance bands are going nowhere because many people recognize their brilliance.
Stick around to learn precisely what bands are, how to use them, what benefits they offer, and much more.
What are Resistance Bands, and how do they work?
Resistance bands are long pieces of elastic material designed for strength training. There are two primary types of bands: open-ended, usually with handles on both sides, and looped.
You can use resistance bands to perform various exercises, warm up before training, and do mobility work. Bands can also work as an addition to bodyweight and gym exercises.
For example, you can tie a looped band on a pull-up bar and let it hang like a noose. Then, step inside the band, grab the pull-up bar, and perform band-assisted pull-ups. The band would remove some of the resistance, making it easier to do pull-ups. Using bands with different tensions helps build strength and is a great way to practice pull-ups.
Similarly, you can tie bands to a barbell for power and explosiveness training. The band stores energy as it lengthens, challenging the top of each repetition.
Speaking of energy, resistance bands have linear variable resistance (LVR). There is almost no resistance initially, but tension rises as you lengthen a band, similar to a slingshot.
The advantage of LVR is that you cannot use momentum to complete reps like when lifting free weights (dumbbells, barbells, etc.). Instead, it would help if you flexed your muscles increasingly harder as you get closer to the top of each repetition. Doing so could lead to better muscle activation and a stronger mind-muscle connection.
How to Pick the Correct Resistance Band
Getting used to resistance bands takes some time. They can feel awkward initially because the tension you feel differs from what you experience when using free weights and gym machines or doing bodyweight activities (e.g., push-ups).
When selecting a resistance band, you should consider the following factors:
- Resistance level: Bands come in various resistance levels, ranging from light to heavy. You should be able to train through a full range of motion and reach the top of each repetition without swinging your body or using momentum. The repetition should feel progressively more challenging, culminating in peak contraction before returning to the starting position.
- Material: Most manufacturers use latex, rubber, or a combination of materials. Latex bands are more durable and long-lasting, but some people may have an allergy to latex. Rubber bands are a good alternative and are often more affordable.
- Length: Resistance bands come in different lengths, and the length you need depends on the exercises you plan to do and your height. A band that is 4 to 6 feet (120 - 180 cm) long is suitable for most exercises.
- Thickness: The thickness of the band also affects the resistance. Thicker bands provide more resistance, while thinner bands are more flexible and provide less resistance. You will have to experiment and see what resistance works best on specific exercises.
- Portability: If you plan to use your resistance band while traveling, look for a lightweight band that is easy to transport. Some bands come with carrying bags or can be wrapped around your wrist for easy transport.
The right resistance level depends on your fitness level and the exercises you plan to do with the band. For example, if you are doing curls with a band, you should feel increasingly more tension in your biceps as you flex your elbows. As a result, the contraction at the top should be intense, and your elbows should remain at your sides from start to finish.
Like with other exercises, pick a tougher band for compound exercises (e.g., resistance band lat pulldown) and a thinner one for isolation activities (e.g., bicep curls).
Ultimately, the best resistance band for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Try out a few different bands to see which one feels most comfortable and provides the resistance you need for your exercises.
A brief look at Resistance Band Colors and Tension Levels
There are three ways to determine the toughness of a resistance band:
- By color
- By overall appearance (e.g., how thick it is)
- By what is written on the band itself
Most manufacturers make different color bands to differentiate them. The six colors most commonly used are black, red, blue, green, and yellow. You can come across other colors: silver, brown, beige, pink, and gold.
In most cases, the five traditional colors are organized as such:
Each manufacturer will list the resistance range on every color band, making determining which one you should use in your training easier.
For example, a yellow band might be listed as 5 to 15 lbs (2.2 to 6.8 kg). In other words, it initially provides 5 lbs of resistance and grows up to 15 as you lengthen it. You should be careful when lengthening a lighter band because you might push it beyond its limit and cause it to snap.
Thickness is another way to determine which band from a set provides the least or the most resistance. Some manufacturers make all their bands in the same color and differentiate them by writing the resistance on each.
There are several types of resistance bands, each with unique features and benefits. However, let's go over the most common ones.
The power resistance bands are massive rubber bands often used for more advanced strength training exercises. They are a continuous flat loop that can be used for various purposes.
Mini-bands, on the other hand, are much shorter and wider. Mini bands are commonly used for increasing strength and stability for the lower body (and upper body with certain exercises).
Then, there is a third type to bring to your attention: the tube resistance bands. Typically, with handles attached to both ends, they are made to mimic gym machines and dumbbell exercises. They easily anchor to the door or a bar/pole. Similarly are the figure 8 resistance bands. These bands are shaped like in figure 8; however, they focus on specific muscle groups, such as the shoulders or chest.
Each resistance band has its benefits, and the best type for you depends on your fitness goals and preferences. Try out a few different types of resistance bands to see which one works best for you.
Ways to Use Resistance Bands
The beauty of resistance bands is that you can use them for many things and in numerous situations. Here are some examples:
- As tools for warming up or doing mobility work
- As part of your gym routine (in combination with various movements)
- When training at home or on the road
Lighter resistance bands are the perfect tools for mobility and warm-up work because they do not provide much resistance. For instance, you can grab a light band and do some light curls to warm up your biceps before a workout.
You can also add resistance bands to your gym routine to make certain exercises easier or more challenging. One option is to attach bands to your barbell for power training. The bands will lengthen and provide peak tension at the top of each repetition.
Alternatively, use bands to make some exercises easier. For instance, perform band-assisted pull-ups by wrapping a resistance band on a pull-up bar and letting it hang like a noose. Step over it, suspend yourself in the air, and the band will make the exercise easier.
Finally, you can use bands for exercise alternatives. For instance, perform resistance band chest flyes if you do not have access to a cable machine. You can use a resistance band door anchor to secure the band in a high or low position and exercise as usual.
If you need help with how to make the best use of a Resistance Band, you can get help from fitness apps like Fitbod and Hevy for guidance and support.
For instance, Fitbod provides fully customized training plans based on available equipment, training goals, schedules, etc. In addition, you can add the tension level (e.g., light, medium, etc.) in the app and track your progress in the long run.
Likewise, the Hevy exercise library features many resistance band exercises for all major muscle groups. You can organize your workouts in seconds, log each set with a simple tap, and track your performance from week to week.
How to adjust the Resistance of your Bands to fit your needs
Regardless of your workout goals or current abilities, adjusting the resistance of your bands is necessary for providing your muscles with the right amount of tension.
More resistance would make the training too easy, forcing people to do too many reps to challenge themselves. In contrast, too much tension would impair trainees' ability to train through a full range of motion and safely provide the necessary workout stimulus.
So, a middle ground between too easy and too hard is needed. Fortunately, you can adjust the tension you get from your bands in several ways.
Let's discuss some tactics.
1. Match Different Bands
As discussed above, bands come in multiple shapes and sizes. Manufacturers often color-code bands based on the tension they provide. That way, you can more easily identify the resistance of a band during workouts.
The traditional way to use resistance bands is to take one and do the desired exercise. But, if one band in your set is too light and the other is too heavy, you can adjust the tension level by matching colors to get exactly the tension you need.
For example, let's say that the yellow band offers 5 to 9 lbs of resistance, and the blue one is 15 to 20 lbs. Combining the two would provide you with 20 to 29 lbs of active resistance.
The same goes if the toughest band in your set does not provide the necessary challenge. For instance, if the black band is 40 to 50 lbs, but that is not enough, you can add red, blue, green, or yellow to increase the difficulty.
There are countless ways to mix your bands to get the resistance you need and provide your muscles with the necessary overload.
2. Attach Bands in different Ways
How you attach a band will determine how you can do various exercises and how much resistance you will get. Thinking about this is particularly important when working out in a hotel room and are limited on exercise options.
Here are a few ideas:
- Resistance band door anchor - using a special door attachment that typically comes with a band set is a great way to set the band at different heights and train your muscles from various angles.
- Around objects - secure your band around poles, railings, and heavy furniture.
- Partner work - ask the person you are traveling with to hold the band while you are working out and return the favor; this allows for dynamic training and more enjoyable workouts.
- Using your own body - for instance, step over one side of a resistance band to create an anchor point and perform movements like overhead presses, lateral raises, and bicep curls.
Pro tip: When stepping on one end of a band to create an anchor point, you can adjust the resistance by changing your foot stance. Having your feet wider apart stretches the band, increasing resistance. In contrast, having them closer reduces the resistance.
3. Stand closer or farther from the Attachment Point
The third practical way to adjust the resistance is to get closer to the attachment point or move away. Being closer leaves more slack in the band, reducing the resistance; in contrast, being farther stretches the band, making the top of each repetition more challenging.
Be careful, though. Stretching the band too much can cause it to snap.
4. Double Up
The final way to adjust the resistance is to bend a band in half, effectively doubling the resistance it provides. Doing so can be particularly helpful on movements where you need a lot more resistance – for example, deadlifts.
Which Resistance Band to buy?
As you know from this article, resistance bands are fantastic for your home or travel fitness gear. However, hundreds, if not thousands, of different products and manufacturers exist due to the product's simplicity.
The best resistance band product for you depends on your fitness goals and needs. Here are some popular and highly-rated options to consider:
- TheraBand: These bands are made of high-quality latex and come in various resistance levels, from extra light to extra heavy. They are durable, versatile, and a popular choice among fitness enthusiasts.
- Fit Simplify: These Power Resistance Bands are premium-grade latex with different resistance levels. They are lightweight, portable, and can be used for various exercises, such as pull-ups.
- Black Mountain Products: This set includes five Tube Resistance Bands of varying resistance levels, handles, door anchors, and ankle straps. It is a comprehensive and affordable option for those looking to get started with resistance band training.
These are just a few examples of the many resistance band products available. While the options mentioned above are excellent choices, you might want to consider a product from one of the two industry leaders: Freeletics and Pull-up and Dip.
- Freeletics: Offers premium resistance bands designed to meet the demands of serious athletes. Their bands are meticulously crafted with top-quality materials, ensuring both durability and versatility.
- Pull-up and Dip: Their bands are engineered to provide optimal resistance levels for a wide range of exercises. Their products are 100% natural latex and very long lasting with same resistance.
It is also helpful to read reviews from other users to see how the product has worked for them.
Final Words on Resistance Bands
Resistance bands can be a valuable addition to your fitness regimen to increase your strength and flexibility or improve your overall health and wellness. You can take them on the road, combine them with many barbell and bodyweight exercises, and provide the necessary overload for long-term progress.
And they are not just for beginners; a study from 2014 found that the Resistance Band Push-Up produces similar strength gains as Bench Press, with an equivalent stress level.
In conclusion, resistance bands are an affordable way to achieve your fitness or rehabilitation goals. Are you looking for something else? Check our article with 6 cool Fitness Gadgets and Gear to take on the Road.