How to Use Resistance Bands
Resistance bands- you have seen them in the accessory corner of your local gym, in your buddy’s gym bag, and in workout videos and posts online, but what exactly are they for? And how are they used?
If you have had these questions about how to use resistance bands and wondered to yourself how these oversized elastic bands could possibly fit into your workout routine, well then congratulations, you have found the right article for you.
In all honesty, if you are not yet using resistance band workouts, I bet this article will help you realize just how easily they can fit into your everyday life.
And if you already do, I am excited to share with you some new and innovative ways to bring your resistance band workouts to the next level and really challenge yourself in both strength and endurance.
That is the beauty of how to use resistance bands: they are for anyone, anywhere. The limit of their usage depends solely on your own creativity. Now, let us get to the facts!
What are Resistance Bands?
The appearance of resistance bands are admittedly quite simple: they are large and often colorful bands, typically made from latex or synthetic rubber, that range in length, size, and their ability to easily stretch.
It is important for you to know that resistance band workouts pretty much always require you to have access to more than one band.
Thankfully, most of the time they come in packs of four or more. This is advantageous to you because more resistance bands means more variety in the workouts you can do and will allow you to achieve progressive overload, meaning that you are gradually increasing the weight and number of reps in your workout as your body becomes stronger.
When you search for your first pack of resistance bands to purchase, you will notice that they range in resistance.
There are extra light bands which typically provide 5 - 15lbs of resistance. Then, the light bands provide 20 - 25lbs of resistance.
Do not underestimate these lighter bands though; even the most seasoned gym goers will use them to focus on toning and strengthening smaller muscle groups.
If those sound too light, during your resistance band workouts you might reach more often for the medium resistance bands (30 - 50lbs) or heavy resistance bands (40 - 80lbs).
Finally, most packs come with an extra heavy option that provides a range of resistance up to 120lbs.
You might now be thinking, how can one little band offer up so much resistance? Before you think it is too good to be true, let me explain the concept of linear variable resistance.
Basically, this workout science term breaks down to the very simple concept that states that the more you stretch out a band, the harder it becomes to stretch it. Let us imagine that we are wrapping an elastic band around a box to hold it closed.
Now, if you put the band once around the box, it is an easy task. But, if you want to loop that same band around the box more than once, you will be met with more resistance from the band as it stretches out further and further. The same concept is applied here to challenge and strengthen your muscles.
How Do I Find The Right Resistance Bands For Me?
As you begin to incorporate resistance band workouts in your regular workout routine, you will need to decide which bands are best for you.
Thankfully for you, there are only two main types of resistance bands on the market, Tube style and Flat or Loop style, so the decision will be a straightforward one.
Tube style bands are tubular in shape and have handles on either side of them. Tube style bands offer different levels of resistance and accommodate all forms of resistance band workouts; they are great for rows, lateral raises, bicep curls, and triceps kickbacks to name only a few.
These resistance bands feature are comfortable and convenient handles for when you go to grip the band.
Alternatively, the handles can limit the band’s usage since you can really only grip the band at the point of its handles, rather than adjusting your grip to increase or decrease resistance.
Important to note, the handles do make these resistance bands bulky and more cumbersome to pack away in your gym bag.
Next up is the Flat or Loop Style power band. I love these for their versatility and convenient design.
They work the same way as the Tubular bands in that the more you stretch these bands, the more resistance they offer.
What is great about the Flat or Loop style is that they have no handles to limit their usage. You can pull, grip, or step on any part of these bands to create the angle or resistance you need for your most effective resistance band workout.
On the other hand, I do notice that without the handles, these flat or loop style bands can really wear down your hands. I suggest gloves to people who I know are using these on a regular basis, to protect their hands from getting too calloused.
Types of Resistance Band Workouts
Essentially, any muscle group that you can strengthen with the traditional gym set up can be worked out using resistance band workouts.
There are two types of resistance band workouts that you need to familiarize yourself with: anchored exercises and unanchored exercises.
The most simple resistance band workouts to achieve are unanchored exercises. These types of exercises use only your own body and a band; no additional equipment is needed.
What I love about unanchored exercises is the freedom they provide. You can do these exercises at home, in your office, or take them outdoors to the beach or a park.
You can challenge muscles groups like your shoulders, upper back, biceps, triceps, quads, and glutes with these unanchored exercises.
On the other hand, if you are looking to amp up your resistance band workouts with some additional supports, you might consider doing anchored exercises.
These exercises are achieved by anchoring your resistance band to another form of support, like a pole or a door, to achieve different angles of resistance in your workouts.
As always, you must consider safety when performing anchor exercises with resistance band workouts, because a poorly secured resistance band can snap back on you or cause you to fall.
With these risks in mind, make sure that you are only anchoring your band if you are confident it is secure and safe.
If you want to anchor your band to a door, you can purchase a door attachment anchor specifically made to fit beneath, below, or on top of a closed door to hold your band snugly in place.
I personally like to use a lark knot to secure my Flat or Loop style bands to a pole at the park or secure squat rack at the gym and perform chest presses, standing rows, face pulls, or ab rotations that way.
How to Use Resistance Bands?
Here comes the best part- putting these tools into action!
There are a few important ideas I want you to keep in mind while learning how to use resistance band, but they are easy to master.
Soon, you will be on your way to meeting your fitness goals without a second thought.
#1. Consider marking the center of your resistance bands
I do this by making a small line with a permanent marker right in the middle of my band. In doing so, I am able to use this small marker to make sure my workouts are balanced, and I am not adding more resistance to one side of my body over the other.
#2. Change up your foot position
Remember when I mentioned linear variable resistance? Now this concept becomes especially important. While you are doing an exercise like, for example, shoulder front raises, the positioning of your feet determine how much tension from the band you are working against.
Put one foot on the band or use a staggered stance to create the lowest resistance. Step on the band with two feet to increase the resistance.
Want even more of a challenge? Widen your stance to stretch the band more between your two feet and create even more tension for those shoulders to press up against.
#3. Change up your hand position
Depending on where you grip your resistance band can also adjust the difficulty of the workout. Let us say I am doing bicep curls with my band.
If I grip the band at the top of it, the movement will be easier as I will have less tension.
However, I can challenge myself by gripping further down on the band closer to the middle mark I made, stretching it more, and really pushing the limits of my muscles to see them grow.
#4. Change your distance from your anchor point
If you are completing an anchored exercise in front of a door using the door attachment anchor, consider increasing or reducing the difficulty of the resistance band workout by stepping closer or further away from your anchor.
The closer you stand to your anchor, the easier the exercise will be. Too easy? Take a step further out.
I like to count my steps to make sure I remember the optimal position to achieve that workout burn, and repeat that distance or increase it to challenge myself when I return to this same exercise again.
Tips For Successful Resistance Band Workouts
Admittedly, popular workout concepts like keeping a record of the pounds, sets, and reps you have lifted are more difficult to track with resistance band workouts.
I would recommend that you do not get too caught up with worrying how many reps you have completed each set. Rather, when I do resistance band workouts I like to focus on time under tension rather than the number of reps I have completed.
For example, I will try to perform shoulder raises with a moderately challenging band for 30 seconds one week, and then 45 seconds the next.
Once I can complete the exercise for one minute with relative ease, I increase my band to a more challenging resistance.
Another strategy I have found really effective is using multiple levels of resistance bands in a single workout.
Let us say I am performing bicep curls, and I am aiming to complete AMRAP (as many reps as possible) for the duration of 45 seconds. Then, I find myself 30 seconds in and completely fatigued.
Instead of stopping my set and resting, I can drop down to a lighter resistance band, for example a medium resistance to a light resistance, and finish strong with my set.
This is an excellent way to really challenge your strength without compromising your form. As well, I also find myself opting to workout in front of a mirror.
This way, if I notice my form is breaking down because the bands I am using are too heavy, I know to quickly switch to a lower resistance so that I can reduce my risk of injuring myself.
Above all, I hope this article helped you realize how to use resistance bands and the benefits they provide.
The convenience and versatility of resistance bands remain unmatched in the world of fitness, and I would argue that they are one of the most undervalued tools to help people of all fitness levels reach their goals.
Like any new activity, resistance band works do require a level of patience and focus before you master this new skill. New equipment and exercise movement can be intimidating the first time you try them.
However, I guarantee that once you learn how to use resistance bands and incorporate them into your regular routine, you will be thrilled with their convenience and results.