What Are Resistance Bands?
Most gym’s now have a selection of Resistance Bands, also referred to as Exercise Bands or Strength Training Bands. However, their low-tech design makes them unappealing and at first glance, and appear to be like ineffective pieces of kit. As a consequence, Resistance Bands are often simply overlooked. However, if you have used the cable or pully-machines at the gym, you’ve already engaged in the same strength concepts that resistance bands are built on.
Resistance Bands are the ideal system to start a fitness programme, as you can pick up their techniques in a matter of minutes, no matter what fitness level you’re at. One of the main reasons for this is that they can be used to modify many already familiar exercises. A set of bands can be used on their own, with hundreds of drills to choose from. As you progress, you can include various gadgets, benches or chairs to diversify your fitness regimes. In fact, there are some innovative routines designed around the use of a chair for less mobile or disabled individuals. The only limitation is your imagination.
Resistance Bands are so versatile, they can be utilised to bulk up muscle, tone your physique, develop strength, increase stamina or rehabilitate muscle and joints from injury. Because they are offer low-impact force, there is less risk of training injuries. Once you learn to how to use them, they have limitless applications . They can be used pre or post sporting activity, or at any time to generally improve flexibility in the joints and muscles.
What Are The Different Types Of Resistance Bands?
There are a few different types of bands, with new variations coming onto the market periodically. Resistance Bands came to prominence around the late 1980s. The use of Resistance escalated in the 1990s when their significance was exploited by the physiotherapy profession, for strength, mobility, and rehabilitation. Resistance bands were much more convenient to use than heavy, expensive and complicated weight training equipment. Their ease of use and low cost, caused a surge in popularity.
The profile of Resistance Bands are either flat or tubular in shape. There are two main types of flat bands. The first is wide and thin, and can be cut to the required length, with the option of attaching handles, and are mainly used nowadays in physical therapies. More recently flat Exercise Bands are now manufactured in a continuous loop construction, without handles. These are commonly known as Loop-bands.
Loop-Bands — These can be looped round equipment in the gym, or any stable structure, such as a pillar, lamppost or fence. With a specially designed attachment, they can also be anchored to a door, for more versatility. They can be knotted to make them smaller, to increase resistance. You can also use your feet to stretch and anchor the band, to suit your height and skill level.
The simplistic uncluttered design of Loop-bands means they are less bulky and therefore easier to store or carry around. They are more difficult to grip than Resistance bands, but this can be overcome by wearing full finger gloves. There are specialist gloves on the market, but regular workwear gloves are cheaper and just as practical.
Loop-bands, however, are more adjustable, as you are not restricted to gripping the handles. Simply move the grip lower or higher along the band to increase or reduce the resistance. They can be attached to doors and support structures, by looping them through special anchor straps.
To confuse matters, Loop-bands have three main categories:
- Loop-bands (Regular)
- Mini Loop-bands.
- Pull-up loop-bands (Pull-up bands)
Mini-bands – are used more for hip, knee and leg corrective exercises.
Pull-up bands, — as their name suggests they are used for either assisted or resisted pull-ups.
The tension allows the user to pull their body weight up much easier than they would otherwise be able to, making for a smoother progression with this complex exercise. They are also used in conjunction with free-weights, which I won’t be covering in this article.
Tube Bands — Exercise Bands that have a tubular shaped cross-section, have detachable or fixed handles at one end, with a hook or carabiner at the other end. I generally refer to these as Tube Bands, and the flat bands as Loop-bands. Tubular band were the earliest version of the exercise bands. The handles on Tube Bands give them the advantage over Loop-bands by being easier and more comfortable to use than Loop-bands. The handles, rings and carabiners allow users create a gym-like workout. Just like the Loop-bands you have the option to anchor them to the arches of your feet rather than on a fixed support or door handle, making them extremely practical and user-friendly.
Each type of Exercise Bands is manufactured in different widths and thicknesses to provide wide-ranging resistance. They are also colour-coded in order to indicate the level of their resistance. Each brand of exercise bands has a range comprising of 4 – 8 different ratios of resistance. In order to expand the range, simply use two or more bands together.
Figure 8 Bands -— A variation of the Tube Bands is the Figure 8 band, named after its shape. The Figure 8 band is one of a few other different types of resistance bands that is convenient to use without any need of additional equipment.
As I previously said, there are a few variations of Tube Bands available, some of them too ‘gimmicky’ for my liking. However, the Lateral Resistance Band, would be a great addition to an Exercise Band kit. The Lateral Tube Band has straps or cuffs, designed to fix around the ankles. This piece of kit is designed predominantly for lower body workouts and is excellent for developing and stabilising the lower body laterals.
When To Use Exercise Bands
Resistance bands have a variety of uses: To Build Strength – each band exerts a particular amount of force on your muscles when stretched and can be used in both upper and lower body training. To Improve Mobility – resistance bands are a great way to help you improve your flexibility, but you can also use them improve joint mobility. For Rehabilitation – bands are invaluable for aiding recovery and are especially useful when it comes to working on hip, shoulder and knee injuries. For Weightlifting – resistance bands are also used in weight training. Wrapped around the ends of a weight bar, they make exercises more challenging so you can level up your one-rep max. Equally, they can be used with dumbbells for a similar reason. For Pull Ups – resistance bands can also help you build up to doing pull ups. Loop them around the pull up bar and place your foot or knee inside the band to support your weight as you train.
The Advantages Of Exercise Bands
1) They Improve the Quality of Your Exercises — With resistance band training, the method of exercise is completely different than if you were using free weights (dumbbells or barbells). Instead of simply lifting a weight, your muscles are under constant tension, in what is known as linear variable resistance. This means the actual quality of each rep is significantly improved. And with your muscles working harder, you are more able to achieve peak isometric contraction, which is the key to getting stronger.
You can simulate any machine or free weight exercise, with resistance bands. More importantly, they allow you to modify the movement to avoid mundane exercise programs. Boring exercise programs lead to loss of concentration, and ultimately leads to injury. Additionally, it’s always good to find new ways to work out and provide your body with alternative stimuli to help it develop.
2) They Help To Focus Your Control — You may feel awkward when first using exercise bands. Your limbs may be little shaky at first, until you get the feel for them. With regular practice, you will soon become accustomed to the style of use. Controlling both the tension and the release, requires extra of concentration, to avoid letting the bands snap back into neutral.
3) They Recruit Your Stabilising Muscles — Exercise Bands are more unstable to use, than free-weights. This just means you work harder to maintain your form. Inevitably you will be targeting your stabilising muscles and engaging more core strength, simultaneously.
4) They’re Fundamental For Functional Training — Resistance bands accommodate all aspects of fitness and they are easy to clean and maintain. This means, regardless of what your goals are for working out, bands will easily fulfil your needs. Cardio, mobility, flexibility, circuit training, core strength, strength training, speed training, plyometric or basic muscle toning are all common exercise goals that resistance bands can easily provide in the freedom of your home without impacting your joints.
There is a lot more functional movement involved when using Exercise Bands compared to traditional resistance training. This form of strength training has a more practical effect on your regular daily living activities.
5) A Great Alternative To Machines — Machine weight training can be ideal for beginners as they teach you the fundamental movement patterns, needed in order to target specific muscle groups. However, they can be restrictive as they are governed by gravity and can force you to move somewhat unnaturally. With resistance bands able to work the full muscle from extension to contraction giving you the maximum results.
6) They are Lightweight — Owning a set of Exercise Bands means you don’t have to train in a gym. You can choose to train at home, a hotel room, a garage or your local park. without taking up loads of space. You can also take your own set to the gym really easily. A complete set of Exercise Bands are so light and compact, they will fit into a small rucksack. For the price of a one-month gym membership, you can buy a basic set of bands, and start training right away.
If you do decide to take them along with you to the gym, you have more freedom in your choice of exercise program. Combine working out with bands with some high-intensity cardio, for weight loss.
7) They’re Designed For Compound Exercises — Compound exercises are when you use several muscles at the same time. They make for a really efficient workout as well as use more energy and improve your coordination. Resistance band exercises are naturally more geared towards compound movements, so you can use them to get a full body workout.
8) You Have Control Over The Angle — Straight bars are great for lifting heavy weight. However, if you have any shoulder or wrist issues, they can sometimes exasperate your injuries. When using resistance bands, you can control the angle you train at. This means you can avoid training in uncomfortable positions while still targeting the right muscle groups.
9) They Promote Better Form – Free weights are dominated by gravity, it’s much harder to cheat and use momentum when using resistance bands. Tension on the bands, has to be maintained throughout each repetition. Therefor your muscles need to be working hard the throughout the range, rather than just at the end of the repetition.
Ultimately, you progress and develop so much faster than with machines or free weights. For example, the benefits of resistance bands can be seen when they’re used with regular dynamic exercises such as squats, glute-bridges, lateral leg raises, glute-kickbacks, squat thrusters, and more.
10) They Teach You To Feel What’s Working And What Isn’t – Because you have so much control over how you are using the band from set up, to positioning, angle and movement, you need to be really focused on the feel of each exercise so you can tell what you’re working. And once you know you’re working the right muscles; you can focus on squeezing them right until the very end to make sure you’re getting a full contraction. Employing resistance bands in the right way can really help you improve the quality of your workouts. And they’re really convenient too.
What other exercise format allows you to strength train the body by pushing, pulling, running, jumping, pressing, squatting or lunging? The pliability of a resistance bands quality allows you to quickly change a simple row into a rotational row or a simple split squat into a step lunge.
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