“Does that thing really work?” a friend asked while I was strapping a resistance band under my foot.
“Of course!” I shot back.
“It looks far too easy,” he remarked, inching closer to see if beads of sweat had started to form on my forehead. “Are you even getting a workout?”
I calmly replied, “Just because I’m not grunting and grimacing in pain doesn’t mean this is a breeze. I choose to internalise.”
Resistance bands (also called exercise bands or fitness tubes) have garnered a poor reputation for strength training.
They may not have the same status as free weights or weight machines, but they have multiple applications, including muscle isolation, integrated strength training, high-energy sports conditioning and rehabilitating after an injury.
They can still give you an effective strength training workout, especially when you’re travelling or in the office, and need a quick boost.
Basically, these portable bands work by adding resistance to your exercises, i.e. by pulling on an elastic band anchored in place.
They come in different sizes, lengths and colours to denote the level of resistance for the band.
The most common ones are the bands with handles, loop bands and therapy bands.
Nowadays, there are also latex-free bands, made of synthetic rubber, which provide the same performance and benefits as natural rubber latex bands.
While they don’t cost an arm and a leg – unlike weights – resistance bands are not as durable, and over time, can stretch out, rip or get sticky in a humid environment.
They can also tear on sharp and uneven surfaces.
That aside, there are plenty of benefits to using resistance bands.
In the past, weight training was considered the only way to get stronger, but with today’s heavy duty resistance bands, even the strongest are challenged.
Our muscles do not know the difference between weights and resistance bands. All they know is to adapt and react to the stimulus that is being applied to them.
So, whether you’re using a dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell or a resistance band, it makes no difference to the muscles and they will continue to increase in strength.
However, if your intention is to build big bulk, then you have to use heavy weights combined with a specific diet.
Resistance bands may not be able to provide the amount of force needed to stimulate muscle fibres for the growth that you desire.
By solely using resistance bands, your muscles get toned, but they will not bulk up. But if you combine weights with resistance bands, the impact is doubled.
Remember, variety is key when it comes to increasing your performance and fitness level.
When using resistance bands, you are fighting the tension in the bands, but are free to move in any direction. This freedom allows you to recreate and mimic the body’s natural movements, thus slowly increasing your strength and allowing for easier daily movements such as opening doors, carrying groceries, climbing stairs, etc.
As resistance bands isolate the muscle you are training, they allow you to focus on and improve your form.
With free weights, you’re likely to engage different muscles to compensate for the difficulty level. For example, when doing bicep curls with dumbbells, when the going gets tough, you may start to sway your back to get the weights up.
This puts a strain on your back and defeats the purpose of using just your biceps for this exercise.
A number of leg exercises can be performed on the floor, which allows you to watch your form better.
Resistance bands are a friendly, non-intimidating tool that can provide more than enough resistance and strength training options to obtain the sought after gains.
My undergraduate dance students have been using resistance bands for their strength training purposes, with exercises targeted to imitate dance movements.
When I initially introduced them to the bands, the boys wore broad grins, thinking they were in for an easy time.
One cheekily commented, “Isn’t this a low impact, light workout, teacher? It’s for sissies!”
Those grins quickly disappeared 10 minutes into the first class.
The students attend resistance training class once a week (I doubt they practise the required two sessions outside class time) and by the end of the 14-week semester, the transformation on their bodies, and on stage, is simply amazing.
Not only are they highly toned, but their movements also flow much more effortlessly.
Even if you don’t want to use resistance bands for strength training, they are still a great tool for stretching and increasing flexibility.
Regularly stretching with resistance bands can improve mobilisation at the hip and ankle joint, and helps increases blood flow, which facilitates the body’s ability to heal and repair itself.
Go get yours today!