Resistance Bands: What Are They And How Can They Benefit Me?

The perfect portable gym equipment.

17/01/2018 11:42 GMT | Updated 17/01/2018 13:21 GMT

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Resistance bands are often used in rehabilitation training when someone is coming back from an injury, but more people are now combining them with their workouts.

Rather than being a confusing piece of equipment (like many things we see in the gym), the bands are actually pretty simple.

The are rubbery in texture and come in different colours, sizes, lengths, strengths. You can add them to your training to fire up your muscles. 

edwardolive via Getty Images

I’ve never used a resistance band before, what is it?

Faye Edwards, a PT, is the creator of Third Space’s The Method, which is a class using resistance bands and specific body weight exercises for training.

“Resistance bands are an easy-to-use exercise tool that come in all different lengths and tensions from light to extra heavy,” she explained.

“Some are designed in loops or some are straight, flat or tubular with handles attached. They are can be used to create different workouts.”

PT Alan Levi said one of the key benefits of resistance bands is that they are so versatile as well as being portable, which makes them a crucial piece of equipment for people who are on the go or constantly travelling. 

Why are they good to use?

The different size and resistance levels of these bands give a wide variety of exercise variations that can target all muscle groups in the body, explained Edwards. 

The band is used to create resistance in order to get full muscle fibre recruitment (i.e. work all the muscles). While you’re using them, they force the muscle fibres to contract which will increase both muscular and bone strength.

The fact that using these bands gives us the ability to do a variety of exercises is good, because our body craves it.

“Any good strength coach will tell you that one of the key variables the body craves is variety,” said Levi. “So changing not only the weight, sets or reps of an exercise, but also the tool, is essential.

“What I love about resistance bands is that they alter the strength endurance continuum (the idea that strength and endurance are in competition with each other, so it is impossible to maximise both at once). 

“As the band lengthens the resistance increases, a dynamic which doesn’t occur with other weighted implements, where the weight stays the same throughout the range of movement.”

Resistance bands exercises:

There are many ways to use the resistance bands which work different sections of the body. Just make sure the band you have is durable - a low intensity band will have no value in being used. 

The Glutes

“One of the most effective moves are glute bridge abductions,” explained Edwards.

“Place the band above the knee on the lower part of the thigh. Lay flat on the back, raise your hips all the way up whist keeping the heels pressed into the floor. Whilst the hips stay up, open the knees to create more tension in the band.

“Hold for three seconds and come back to the centre position and repeat for 30 seconds, then recover for another set. 

“This exercise particularly activates the glutes, abductors, hamstrings and it will also engage the core, a guaranteed bum burner.”

The Hamstrings

Place a looped band under your feet and rest the top of the band on your shoulders (not neck).

“The band needs to be a very strong and durable type,” said Levi. “Now all you have to do is ‘bow’.

“Stick your bum back and do not round your back, pay particular attention to keeping a nice natural arch in your lower back as you descend. As you come up you will really feel this exercise in the back of your legs.”

The Row

Attach the band to a solid and immovable object. Holding the band with your palms facing upwards, row (or pull) the band towards you, in line with your chest. When your shoulder blades are touching, rotate your fists outwards (so they’re going out to each side), keeping a nice 90-degree angle at the elbows.

“You will really feel this not only in the mid back but also those delicate (and oftentimes, weak) muscles of the rotator cuff,” Levi said.

The Hip Flexors

Place the band around your lower calves, above your ankles. Keep your legs wide so you can feel the tension slightly pulling on the band. Make a small step to the left, feeling the band relax and then pull tight again as you step out to the left. Go 10 steps to the left and then 10 steps back to the right.

This sideways crab walk may look slightly odd in the gym, but you’ll be working your hip flexors (the hip muscles that are important for standing, walking and running) so they’re pretty important.  

What mistakes do people make when using them? 

Although the resistance bands are a simple tool to use, it is important to ensure that every movement is controlled.

Even when doing the phase of the exercise where the band will have less tension, Edwards said it is important not to minimise the muscle contraction and to keep the tension on the band.

“It is also important to ensure that the right resistance level is used for the right exercise,” she said. “For example, using an extra heavy band above the ankles for a leg raise will minimise a full range of movement and can cause too much stress on the hip area, so in this case it would be more effective to use a lighter resistance to get a full range of movement but still enough resistance to create the right amount of tension to fully contract the muscle.”

If you want to use a resistance band in the gym, chat to a personal trainer about how best you could incorporate it in your training. 

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