If your fitness goal is to tone up and get stronger, you’ve probably already added some sort of strength training to your workout program. Are you ready to turn it up a notch? If so, it’s time to get familiar with resistance band exercises.
As the name suggests, resistance bands provide resistance to a regular bodyweight workout and make it extra challenging. When you’re training your upper body, adding resistance band exercises can help engage all of your major muscle groups from shoulders to back, and chest to biceps. Plus, they’re lightweight, affordable, and easy to sling in your gym bag.
Are you wondering how a simple elastic band can completely transform your upper body workout? Let’s find out together.
What do resistance bands do?
First things first, what do resistance bands do? Essentially, they’re elastic bands that are commonly used for strength training or physical therapy. They help activate and tone the muscles, building strength along the way. Like dumbbells, kettlebells, or other free weights, resistance bands offer a simple yet effective way to get an all-around strength workout at home.
8 benefits of resistance bands
The good news is, no matter your physical health or fitness goal, the popular bands have benefits for everyone. In fact, a study by the Journal of Physical Therapy Science suggests regular resistance band training can improve balance, mobility, gait function, and fall efficacy, having an overall positive impact on elderly people.
Now let’s dive into the benefits of resistance bands further.
1. Tone and strengthen
As resistance bands stretch, they create increased tension in your muscles and cause them to contract. The more you stretch the band, the more intense the resistance gets, and the harder the exercise becomes. You can also create more resistance by holding the resistance band in a way increases tension—like bringing your hands closer together when doing arm moves, for example.
2. Add assistance, not just resistance
Resistance bands can also assist your progress with difficult exercises. For example, for those wanting to get better at pull-ups, simply attach the resistance band to the bar and either under your knee or foot to work your way up to an unassisted version. As you perform the pull-up with the band, your weight is supported by the band, making the exercise more accessible.
3. Great for stretching
Ever experienced back or neck pain? Resistance bands can be used to provide upper body pain relief through some powerful stretching moves. For a great upper back stretch, try this exercise: sit on the floor with extended legs and loop the resistance band around your feet. Grab the sides of the resistance band at shoulder width and gently curl your back away from your feet. You can also simply use resistance bands in your stretch routine after working out. With the help of rubber bands, you’ll be able to gently elongate your limbs and release any muscular tension.
Feeling tight? Try our 10-minute, full-body stretching routine.
4. Lightweight and portable
These bands make the perfect companion to those wanting to exercise when traveling. They are extremely lightweight and can easily be stashed in your suitcase or hand luggage.
5. Suitable for almost everyone
Resistance bands work your muscles like weights do – your muscles contract to generate force to stabilize and control the desired movement. However, unlike weights, resistance bands don’t rely on gravity to provide the resistance. This means that the body can move and expand the range of motion in certain exercises (e.g. lift the arms higher in a sidearm lift).
Resistance bands have been the staple for those in rehabilitation from a sports or muscle-related injury. This is because resistance bands don’t apply pressure in the way that weights do, keeping your joints—and everything else—safe. Moreover, people of any age and fitness level can get an effective workout using resistance bands, as many exercises and stretches can be done from a seated position.
6. Great for injury recovery
Resistance bands have been the staple for those in rehabilitation from a sports or muscle-related injury. This is because resistance bands don’t apply pressure in the way that weights do, keeping your joints—and everything else—safe.
7. Protects your bones and joints
Resistance bands help your bones get stronger pretty much the same way they do your muscles. Strength training, in general, can support your bones to build more cells and become more dense, preventing conditions like osteoporosis and back pain. Because rubber bands provide extra resistance, they increase the effectiveness of strength exercises and kick start bone building. Using resistance bands for training can also lower the impact of exercises, giving your joints a little more love.
Resistance bands are inexpensive, costing anywhere between $5-10. Just bear in mind that the thicker the band, the more resistance it will have so the harder the exercises will become. Select a variety pack so you always have varying resistances to choose from.
How to use resistance bands
You won’t need to change your usual exercise routine either: resistance bands can be added to most bodyweight movement for extra challenge (or assistance). On top of being versatile, rubber bands are light-weight and portable, meaning that you can take them with you wherever you go and work out from anywhere, whether traveling or at home. They’re also super affordable so there’s really no excuse for not investing in these bendy bands.
How to choose the right resistance band
Unsure which resistance band to go for? Choose a very elastic band at first––that means light resistance––and increase the level of resistance as you progress. In general, a thicker band means more resistance. It’s then up to you to play with this resistance to make an exercise harder or easier. Whether you want to push yourself a little more or need a bit of assistance in your training, resistance bands are a great––and often overlooked––piece of gym equipment. And because you can choose the band that’s right for you, resistance bands can accommodate any fitness level, from the absolute beginner to the seasoned athlete.
Types of resistance bands
Fortunately, resistance bands don’t have to break your bank. Depending on the kind you use, you can easily find them for under $10. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, usually based on their resistance level. There are different resistance bands for different kinds of exercises. With so many to choose from, you’ll find it hard to get bored of home workouts.
Therapy bands: Therapy bands are gentle on the body and often used for rehabilitation purposes.
Lit loop bands/mini bands: Are small bands best used to train and strengthen the lower body. This one is popular amongst people wanting to target their glutes and thighs, as it adds resistance while engaging the muscles.
Figure 8: A figure 8 band is shorter in length and features soft foam handles which provide an easier and more comfortable grip; it’s ideal for strength training, sports conditioning, and rehabilitation.
Tube bands/compact resistance bands: Compact resistance bands feature a tube of around 4 feet with two plastic handles on the end. They have the most varied use and can be used to train both the upper and lower body.
4 Resistance band exercises
Add resistance bands to your 8fit workouts to feel that extra burn. Here are four exercises that you can easily add resistance to:
Lateral band walk
Your body benefits from incorporating a variety of movements into your workout routine. Whether you’re coming back from injury, want to modify difficult exercises or break out of a training plateau and see significant progress, resistance bands can be a great tool to get you one step closer to your goals. Give them a go, you’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
Resistance band workouts
Looking for a full workout? Try our full-body resistance band workout.
We've got also got a six-minute, total-body resistance band workout for you.