They’re adorable, colorful, and convenient, but can elastic resistance bands truly replace heavy-duty gym equipment? As it turns out, this versatile workout tool may be just what you need to take your workout to the next level. Here’s what it has to offer.
Types of resistance bands
- Handled Resistance Bands: These tube bands are primarily used for working out and increasing muscle strength and size. The handles provide a secure grip and enable a variety of exercises similar to those performed in the gym with free weights or machines. Stackable resistance bands use carabiners to allow the user to combine bands to increase or decrease resistance as needed.
- Flat Resistance Bands for Therapy: These are commonly found in therapy settings such as physical therapists or sports therapists’ offices. They are wide and flat, making it easy to wrap around your hand and adjust the length, and they can also be cut into smaller pieces or stretched. These bands can also be used for general strength training and are used in Pilates programs for added resistance.
- Loop Bands: Similar to therapy bands, but smaller and forming a closed loop. These are primarily used for leg and buttock strength. These can be found in most gyms and physical therapy offices.
- Leg & Arm Tube Resistance Bands: These closed-loop tube bands come in a variety of styles, including leg bands with ankle cuffs and figure-8 shapes with upper-body handles. These are more muscle-specific and have a more limited range of exercises that can be performed.
- Power & Mobility Bands: These heavy-duty loop bands are most commonly used for cross-training and powerlifting. They are also used to stretch and correct mobility issues, add variable resistance to weight training and assist with pull-ups.
11 Advantages of resistance bands
Maybe you can’t get to the gym or you want to mix up your resistance training. Here are some of the applications for resistance bands.
- Improves flexibility
Have you ever spent the night on a couch and awoke stiff as the Tin Man? If so, you understand how important flexibility is in how well your body functions and feels.
Resistance bands may be useful. The use of elastic bands in a 5-week training program improved the flexibility and range of motion of 23 rugby players in a 2019 study. According to research conducted by elastic band manufacturers, the tension of the bands creates space within joints as you stretch.
Researchers discovered that using resistance bands improved flexibility and balance in elderly people in a meta-analysis of 19 studies with a total of 649 participants. This is especially important for older people because accidents (such as falling) can lead to serious health problems.
- Builds strength
Lifting heavy objects increases muscle strength by providing resistance against which your muscles can work. And resistance bands can provide that benefit without the need for bulky, costly equipment.
Researchers compared conventional resistance training with resistance band training over 6 weeks in a 2020 study of 17 male soccer players. They discovered that both power band training and free weight training improve both strength and power.
- Keeping your balanced
Balance is important for older people to avoid injury, but it can benefit people of all ages. Some studies link physical function to mental health and quality of life.
In one small study, older people completed a 40-minute resistance band exercise program five times per week for four weeks. (The program emphasized scapular strength as a means of improving posture and balance.) Their balance improved, but so did their scores on a survey measuring mental health and physical function.
- Helps you stay on a budget
Don’t underestimate the value of fitness gains, even if they were obtained without the use of expensive equipment! Elastic bands are usually less than $10 each, and you can get a whole set for less than $20. Even the most extreme bands don’t cost much more than $20 per person.
Compare that to the hundreds of dollars you’d probably pay for a full set of free weights or dumbbells. Monthly gym memberships can also be very expensive.
- Provides a convenient workout tool
There is a disadvantage to using traditional weights: many people abandon weight training because it is inconvenient. You may not always be able to go to the gym, or you may not have enough space to store a large set of dumbbells. However, resistance bands are essentially portable gyms.
You also don’t have to sacrifice your fitness level. One report examined the findings of eight studies involving a total of 224 participants. Researchers discovered that band resistance training produced comparable strength gains to traditional strength training using weight machines and dumbbells.
- Supports your physical fitness as you age
Many resistance band studies concentrate on the physical function of aging populations. This type of exercise appears to have several advantages for older people.
- Researchers assessed microvascular function, heart/lung fitness, strength, flexibility, and quality of life in a study of 18 participants. Participants improved their blood vessel dilation, leg strength and flexibility, general health, pain, and fatigue after an 8-week home exercise program.
- A resistance band program based on functional movement was used in another study with 54 participants. Grip strength, arm strength, and gross motor abilities improved more in the resistance band group than in the recreational exercise group. They had faster reaction times as well. Researchers believe that better physical health correlates with better cognitive function.
- A study of postmenopausal women who did resistance band training three times a week found that their insulin, glucose, and blood lipid profiles improved. These are all symptoms of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.
- Keeps safety first
Resistance bands are a good option for older adults and injured people because they are a safer alternative to traditional weights. (However, keep in mind that latex bands may cause allergic reactions in some people.) Also, avoid snapping yourself with a stretched band.)
You can control the difficulty and resistance of the elastic band you’re using by using the proper form. For example, unlike traditional weights, you cannot pick up an overly heavy resistance band and risk injury from it landing on top of you.
- Varies the intensity of your routine
A good set of bands can take you from novice to expert. Change up how you use the bands to do light stretches or intense muscle-building repetitions. Because of their adaptability, you can share bands even if you have different fitness levels than others.
- Aids in the recovery from pain and injury
Resistance band exercises can be beneficial as part of an injury recovery program or physical therapy. One study found that people who did resistance band exercises in addition to a steroid shot for shoulder pain and stiffness fared better than those who just got the shot. How? Strengthening your shoulders while the injection relieves pain may help you have better function and less pain in the long run.
Participants in another study with degenerative knee arthritis did an elastic band workout three times a week for four weeks. It was an effective pain and function intervention, comparable to traditional physical therapy.
- Improves your performance
Resistance band training has thus aided rugby and soccer players. However, there are numerous other examples of the advantages of resistance band training for athletes.
In a 2018 study of 12 young female handball players, elastic band training was added to their regular training for 9 weeks. Their explosive leg performance improved as a result. How does that help? Handball, for example, requires long periods of low-intensity activity followed by brief bursts of acceleration, sprinting, jumping, and throwing.
- Builds functional fitness
Functional fitness refers to your body’s ability to perform daily activities with strength, flexibility, and coordination (think: outside the gym). Resistance band training appears to aid in the development of functional fitness.
A 12-week study of 168 women evaluated functional fitness as well as other factors. The women’s glucose and cholesterol levels had improved, as had their cardiorespiratory fitness, handgrip strength, overall strength, flexibility, and agility.
Participants in another study completed a 12-week program of moderate-intensity band training for 60 minutes three times per week. They improved their grip strength, sit and reach flexibility, one-legged stance, and blood pressure after the program.
Resistance bands are an inexpensive and convenient way to exercise. Rope belt suppliers claim that they can improve flexibility, strength, and balance whether you’re looking for a competitive edge or starting from scratch. You have a safe workout tool that will fit your lifestyle regardless of age or ability for a very small investment.