Use resistance bands to build muscular strength and endurance without bulky weights or machines. Resistance bands offer resistance by stretching, much like a rubber band. Incorporate resistance bands into your fitness regimen at home or at the gym.
Resistance bands come as 1/4-inch tubes with handles or as flat 4- to 6-inch strips without handles. Bands are color-coded according to various levels stiffness. A stiffer band provides a more challenging resistance routine. Bands are usually composed of latex, but many non-latex versions are also available for sensitive people.
Bands are portable and easily stashed in a closet or suitcase for a quick, on-the-go strength workout. They cost very little, usually $8 to $12 for tubes with handles, and significantly less for bulk rolls of the latex strips. Resistance bands offer constant resistance through both the lifting and lowering phase of the exercise, unlike free weights which are affected by gravity. People with joint problems appreciate the reduced stress the bands put on their bodies as compared to dumbbells and barbells.
Resistance bands offer a way to achieve a total body workout. The American Council on Exercise suggests performing moves like lat pull-downs, chest presses, abductor and adductor lifts—to target the inner and outer thighs, hamstring curls, triceps extensions, biceps curls, lateral raises, squats and crunches for one or more sets of 20 repetitions two to three non-consecutive days per week. Instructors sometimes incorporate resistance bands in yoga or Pilates classes to add variety and encourage muscle growth.
When using resistance bands, move slowly so that you work against the pull of the exercise and benefit from resisting the band’s return to the start position. When performing standing resistance band exercises, bend your knees slightly, contract your abdominals and expand your chest. Hold the bands firmly, but avoid a tight squeeze which can impede blood flow. When using the strips of resistance bands, use the entire width of the band to make movement natural and smooth.
Discard bands with tears or worn areas. Choose a smooth surface to perform your workout—cement and asphalt may tear the band. Store your bands in a dark box or bag to help them maintain pliability. If you are storing many bands, dust them with talcum powder occasionally to help them retain elasticity, suggests yoga instructor and IDEA Health and Fitness Association expert Lisa Wolfe.
About this Author
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.