How much do you know about resistance bands and the benefits of working out with them? You may be thinking: ‘how beneficial could it possibly be to workout with resistance bands?’ or ‘there’s no way that I would see the same results from using an elastic resistance band as I would with free weights or machines.’
What if I told you that you could see the same results and even more with using a resistance band as you would with using machines and free weights? Would you want to learn more about resistance band training and all the amazing benefits that come along with it?
Below, we’re going to explore resistance band benefits, how to use them, and some exercises you can do with elastic resistance bands.
What are Resistance Bands?
Resistance bands have been used for over 100 years in fitness programs and more recently in rehabilitation. The reason why resistance band training is a cornerstone of many rehabilitation programs is its versatility (1). Many exercises can be performed with a single band or tube, and the resistance can easily be increased or decreased by switching to a different colored tube or band.
Typically, bands and cords come in a variety of colors and either flat sheets (resistance bands) or longer cables (resistance cords) (2). Often, each of the colors corresponds to the difficulty or resistance level of the band.
For example, Sunny Health & Fitness strength training bands come in 8 total colors, with 8 total levels of resistance. We offer a resistance band combo pack that includes white (10LB), purple (25LB), blue (50LB), and green (75LB) ranging from lightest to heaviest. We also offer heavier resistance bands for individual purchases: including yellow (100LB), orange (140LB), red (160LB), and black (180Lb).
How do Elastic Resistance Bands Work?
When it comes to working out with resistance bands, it’s simple: as you stretch a resistance band, the resistance increases. This resistance provides a progressive stimulus to the muscle to build strength and to help increase lean muscle mass (2).
Working out with resistance bands allows you to exercise single or multiple joints at one time, making exercises more functional and efficient. Resistance band training provides a full spectrum of resistance training options, from rehabilitation to wellness for any individual, young to old. (2)
Resistance bands can be used on their own, or in tandem with squat racks or power racks to help aid with exercises like pullups, make compound exercises like deadlifts and squats more challenging, or make rotational movements like standing core exercises more practical and effective.
6 Benefits of Resistance Band Training
When it comes to resistance bands, I like to say, ‘the proof is in the pudding’. There are many benefits of adding resistance training to your routine, I’ve listed the 6 top benefits below.
Gain Muscle Strength & Hypertrophy
Most people have this perception that training with a resistance band cannot produce substantial gains of muscle strength or hypertrophy.
However, when Aboodarda & colleagues (2011) compared psychological responses to Elastic Resistance Band Training (ERT) and weight machines, they found that elastic resistance is an adequate training stimulus for muscular hypertrophy (1).
Additionally, a study by Colado and Triplett (2008) compared 10 weeks of elastic and machine-based exercises at the same intensities.
Researchers found no significant difference between the groups: both elastic and machine-based groups significantly increased their strength and muscle mass (1).
This means resistance band training can be just as effective at building strength and muscle as machine-based strength training.
Increase Muscle Activation
Sundstrup & collaborators (2012) also found that ERT provides better muscle activation patterns compared to machines.
For example, performing an abdominal curl-up with elastic tubing reduces activation of the hip flexors by 58% when compared to an abdominal machine and provides 24% more abdominal muscle activation (1).
Furthermore, performing a lunge with an elastic band significantly increases activation of the posterior chain muscles when compared to a lunge with dumbbells (Jakobsen et al. 2013) (1).
The research demonstrates that ERT provides as much benefit in strength gains - if not more - as more expensive and bulky weight-training equipment.
Build Neuromuscular Control & Stability
Resistance bands offer many more movements and directions of motion for exercises (such as side-to-side movements), which can provide a higher level of neuromuscular control when compared to machines.
Resistance bands also allow us to exercise multiple joints and planes in a standing position (rather than seated on a machine), thus bringing more stabilizer muscle activation into the same machine-based exercise.
Cost-Efficient Way to Strength Train
We’ve already learned that resistance bands are an effective way to strength train. In addition, they’re much more cost-effective than machines, racks and the many accessories of a full strength set up.
Add Versatility to Workouts
Resistance bands offer a versatile and effective way to add resistance training to any workout! If you don’t regularly strength train, resistance bands can add the element of strength training to your routine.
Plus, if you have access to squat racks and power racks, resistance bands can add a whole new dimension to your reps and sets. The options are endless!
Portable & Convenient
Who doesn’t want a cost-efficient, effective, and versatile option for working out anytime, anywhere? The compact size and lightweight of resistance bands make them easy to pack away and travel with. This allows you to workout wherever you want and with little space. Take them with you so you never miss a beat!
8 Exercises to Help Kick Start Your Resistance Training Routine
I’ve shared 8 of my favorite resistance band exercises that make up a full-body work out below.
Using higher resistance with fewer repetitions will increase muscle size and power, whereas using lower resistance with more repetitions may help keep you trim. Just be sure to choose your volume (sets and repetitions) and your intensity (resistance level or color of band) based on your end goals.
If you’re an adult, perform 8 to 12 repetitions for 2-4 sets to increase strength and power or 15 to 25 repetitions for 1-2 sets for muscular endurance, while resting for 2 to 3 minutes between each set. If you’re middle aged and above, or just beginning your fitness journey, a single set of 10-15 reps can be effective.
- Good Mornings
- Bent Over Rows
- Squat Press
- Leg Extension w/Chair
- Bicep Curls
- Triceps-Kick Back
- Russian Twist
Stand on both sides of the resistance band with the band running between your heel and arch.
Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward, and that the band is sticking out on either side of your feet. This will make handles for you to grip from a pronated position.
Inhale as you bend the knees and push your glutes & hips back, making sure your back is straight and your chest is up, all while grabbing the loops on each side of your feet.
As you extend your knees, slowly exhale, and contract and push your glutes forward as you stand to an upright position, making sure your back stays straight and your chest is up.
Pause at the upright position for a moment, as your core works to stabilize you.
2. Good Mornings
Stand on both sides of the resistance band with the band running between your heel and arch.
Make sure your feet are shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward and that the band is sticking out on either side of your feet. This will make handles for you to grip from a pronated position.
Grab the loop on each side of your feet and come to an upright position. Make sure your legs are straight, but knees are not locked out (with a micro bend).
Inhale and hinge at your hips to a 45-degree angle (do NOT bend the knees) and make sure your back stays flat, shoulder blades back, and head in-line with your spine.
Exhale & return to an upright position, squeezing your glutes and engaging your core.
3. Bent-Over Rows
Depending on the resistance, open the band and place both of your feet in the middle of it. If more resistance is needed, stand on both sides of the resistance band with the band running between your heel and arch.
Make sure that your feet are shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward, making sure your back is straight and your head is in-line with your spine.
Grab the band and make sure that your hands are facing the outside of your knee and slowly inhale.
With elbows straight, slowly exhale and pull the band up towards the bottom of your ribcage. Make sure to pull the band until your elbows form a 90-degree angle, squeezing your shoulder blades together (imagine trying to squeeze a pencil between your shoulder blades).
Exhale and release your arms to straight.
4. Squat Press
Open your resistance band and place both feet on the band.
Make sure that your feet are shoulder-width apart and toes are slightly pointed out.
Your hands should be at your shoulders gripping the band in a prone position.
Inhale as you bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor while pushing your glutes and hips back and keeping your back straight and chest up (hands stay near your shoulders).
Exhale as you straighten your legs making sure your back is straight and chest up.
When you reach the top of your upright position, push the resistance band up and overhead, engage and tighten your core to help press the band overhead.
5. Leg Extension with Chair
With one side of the resistance band, anchor it in a low position on the side of your chair. Bring the other end under the back-leg support of the chair and through. Looping the other end around your ankle with the band positioned behind you.
While seated, step away from the anchor to create more tension/resistance on the band and position your feet hip-width apart and inhale.
Shift your weight to the foot that’s planted onto the ground (the foot that’s opposite to the foot that has the band around its ankle) and lift the resisted foot off the floor, keeping your toes pointing up towards the ceiling.
Exhale and extend your knee to straighten it out in front of you, keeping the toes pointed up at the ceiling.
Inhale and slowly return to the starting position.
6. Bicep Curl
Open the resistance band and place both feet in the middle of the band, shoulder-width apart and toes forward.
Grab the opposite corners of the band, with your wrist facing up towards the ceiling and your arms straighten and slowly inhale.
Slowly exhale and curl your hands up and to your sternum, squeezing your biceps and keeping your elbows in nice and tight into the side of your ribcage.
Exhale and slowly lower your hands and straighten out your arms.
7. Triceps-Kick Backs
Open and step in the middle of the band, with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward.
Lean your chest forward so its almost parallel with the ground and take a slow deep inhale while you move your elbows so that your upper arms (triceps and shoulder area) are aligned with your body.
Slowly exhale and move your forearm and hand only, making sure that your elbows stay in place.
Move your forearm and hands until your elbow almost locks out and squeeze your triceps for a second or two.
Inhale as you slowly bend your elbow and lower your hand back to the starting position.
8. Russian Twist
Sit on the floor with the resistance band and wrap it around your feet with your legs straighten with a slight bend. Grab one side with each hand and pull towards your stomach until your arms are 90-degrees and in line with your shoulders and head.
You can keep your heels on the ground, but if you want more of a challenge you can lift your heels off the ground (the higher they are, the more difficult).
Bring your back to a 45-degree angle and move your hands to one side, trying to get them as close to the floor as possible.
Keep your gaze forward and make sure that there’s no slack in the band. Continue to breathe and keep your back in that 45-degree angle.
Pros & Cons of Resistance Bands
To help you decide if resistance band training is right for you, I made a ‘pros & cons’ list to help give you a better understanding if it’s something you want to do. If you’re still on the fence and not yet quite sold on the idea of working out with resistance bands, maybe I can help you make that decision.
- Accommodate a wide variety of fitness goals and movements
- Add versatility to your strength training routine
- An effective way to gain muscle strength and hypertrophy
- Increase muscle activation during strength workouts
- Build neuromuscular control and stability
- Increase power through plyometric movements
- Provide rehabilitation throughout recovery from various injuries
- Portable and convenient
- Can be difficult to quantify resistance used during an exercise since to force produced by each band depends on the stretch
- Need to be aware of safety and avoid sharp objects during use
- Those with latex allergy should avoid use and consider alternative options
What Are Your Thoughts on Resistance Bands?
So, do you still feel the same way about training with resistance bands as you did before you read this article?
I personally, use resistance 90% of the time that I train. It’s better on your body and it’s more beneficial than using free weights or machines. The bonus is that it’s a one-stop shop for strength training anytime, anywhere. What more can I say? The proof is in the pudding.
1.) Strength Band Training “The Best Exercises & Programs For Sport, Rehabilitation, and Fitness”, Third Edition. 2020, Phil Page & Todd Ellenbecker.
2.) Strength Training “Muscle Anatomy, Nutrition Goals, Assessments, Equipment, Exercises, Workouts, Programs, Age Adjustments, Target Areas, Safety. National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2007, Lee E. Brown.