How do YOU work out?
- Are you a free weights person, who loves to push their limits with the heaviest possible dumbbells and barbells?
- Are you a runner who loves the great outdoors--running on trails, forest paths, and park tracks?
- Are you a cardio nut who spends all their time on the treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike?
- Are you a bodyweight workout fan who focuses on functional strength by doing Push-Ups, Pull-Ups, and Jump Squats?
- Are you a machine-lover who can't get away from the Smith Machine, Cable machines, or that All-in-One Total Body Workout machine?
- Are you a CrossFitter who works with Kettlebells, massive tires, and other awesome weights?
However, you choose to work out, GOOD FOR YOU! The fact that you're pushing your muscles to their limits is awesome--it's just a matter of time until you see the results you want.
But what if there was a way to see more results with the same amount of exercise? What if you could enhance your strength, power, endurance, and stamina without changing up your workout routine? With the simple addition of resistance bands, there's very real potential for drastic improvement!
The Benefits of Resistance Band Exercises
It may sound crazy to think that a piece of flexible elastic/rubber could help you get to fit more efficiently than a 200-pound barbell or a weight machine. Well, perhaps the resistance bands ALONE won't be the more effective option, but there are a lot of benefits of resistance band exercises. Let's let science do the talking:
Enhance Jump Performance
Whether you're performing Jump Squats, playing sports, or trying to keep up with fellow CrossFitters, resistance bands can help to improve your jump performance. A 2015 study found that a warm-up using resistance bands enhanced acute jump power to the same degree as Barbell Squats. Both types of exercise far outperformed static stretching.
If you're warming up for an athletic event that involves explosive lower body power, using resistance bands can be a great way to get ready!
Increase Sprint Speed
Getting into sprint training or trying to run faster? Adding resistance bands to your regular workout can make all the difference!
A study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that combining a heavy barbell load and resistance bands (accounting for 30% of the 1-Rep Max weight) caused an optimal post-activation potentiation effect. In simple terms, a quick lower-body workout (5 sets of 3 reps, using 85% 1-Rep Max weight) helped to activate the leg muscles and make them more efficient during sprint testing. The sprinters ran "significantly" faster after a lower body workout using resistance bands compared to a 5-minute rest or a workout with just free weights.
Promote Better Muscle Activation
One 2014 study found that using resistance bands with free weights helped to increase muscle activation during power loading. Electrical activity in the muscles was higher when resistance bands were added to free weights, leading to higher voluntary muscle activation.
To put this simply, adding resistance bands to free weights can help your muscles work better and harder when you train!
In one 2015 study, 26 women suffering from Type 2 Diabetes underwent a 12-week training program. For 5 days a week, they trained twice a day with elastic resistance bands. During this time, their fasting glucose, insulin, C-peptide, and post-prandial glucose levels were monitored. Fitness metrics were also evaluated: hip-to-waist ratio, body fat, physical strength, weight, etc.
By the end of the 12 weeks, all of the women showed overall improvement. Their fasting glucose, post-prandial glucose, C-peptide, and insulin levels all improved, as well as their body fat, hip-to-waist ratio, grip strength, and peak exercise time and load. Basically, they got fitter and get their diabetes under better control.
Granted, ALL exercise can have a positive effect on your health--both regarding general fitness and disorders like diabetes. However, for untrained women, the resistance bands proved a highly effective training option!
These are the conditioning-specific benefits of using resistance bands, but there are many OTHER benefits that you can obtain by adding resistance bands into your workouts:
Adaptability -- The beauty of resistance bands is that you can use them for literally ANY exercise, and in ANY position. Want to make your push-ups harder? Easy! Want to increase the strain on your biceps as you curl? No sweat! Want to make those squats more difficult? Done!
The fact that they're elastic bands means they can be stretched from any angle you want. They are adaptable to just about every exercise you can do, making them perfect to add to your regular workout.
Portability -- Imagine trying to bring a weight bench or adjustable dumbbell set with you when you traveled for business or on vacation. No one has that much free luggage space, and there's no way you'll pay for the added weight.
But resistance bands weigh next to nothing, and they're beautifully compact. Simply roll them up, slip them in your suitcase, and you're ready to work out no matter where you are. If you travel a lot, resistance bands can be your best friend!
Compatibility -- How fit are you? Can you bench press 300 pounds, or do you struggle with an 80-pound barbell? Resistance bands are compatible with anyone of any fitness level. Even the least fit person can work out with the slimmest band. For the uber-fit, it's easy to grip ALL the resistance bands at once as you work out.
No matter how fit or out of shape you may be, the elastic bands can keep up with your training.
Enhanced Effectiveness -- Resistance bands force your muscles to contract through even the "easiest" portion of the workout. Take Bicep Curls with free weights, for example. Once you get the weight past the half-way part, the movement becomes much easier.
But with resistance bands, the tension remains consistent throughout the movement. In fact, the tension increases the more you stretch the bands, making that "easy" part of the exercise a lot harder. This leads to better muscle activation and ultimately more effective results from your training.
Variety -- If you do the same workout day in and day out, you're going to reach a "plateau". You will have pushed your muscles to their limit, and they will have adapted to the training. You'll feel the burn, but there won't be any muscle growth. That's the downside of consistency! With resistance bands, you can change things up easily.
Adding resistance bands to your existing free weight workout will force your muscles to work harder--even if you use the same amount of weight. To change things up, remove the free weights and perform bodyweight exercises with the resistance bands to increase the difficulty. That variety will help you get over your fitness plateaus, helping you get closer to your ultimate fitness goals.
Safety -- It's difficult to push yourself really when working out alone. You don't want to drop a heavy weight on yourself as you lift, so you don't lift the same amount of weight as you would if you were working out with a spotter or trainer.
But with resistance bands, there is no risk of injury. You can push your body to its limits without fear of dropping a weight plate on your foot or a barbell on your chest. The exercises will still be difficult, but there is a much lower chance that you'll hurt yourself as you train to fatigue.
Greater Mobility -- When you lift heavy weights, your body tends to get locked into a certain range of motion. Take Bench Pressing, for example. You've learned to control the raising and to lower the weight to enhance chest muscle activation and reduce your risk of wrist, elbow, and shoulder injury. But that can backfire after years of training! That limited range of motion can reduce the flexibility and mobility of your joints.
Resistance bands, on the other hand, don't place the same amount of strain on your joints. You can perform strength training exercises that help to enhance joint mobility and flexibility, keeping your body moving well even as you build muscle.
Cheap -- This is one of the HUGE selling points for many people! If you're operating on a tight budget, the last thing you want to do is drop $30 to $50 PER MONTH for a gym membership. Even spending $40 for a DVD workout video may seem like a lot. After all, you'll get bored of the video after a few months, so you'll just have to buy another.
A set of resistance bands will run you anywhere from $50 to $150, but it's a one-time investment. There are literally THOUSANDS of exercises you can perform with resistance bands--pretty much any exercise you can do with free weights, you can do with the elastic bands. There's no risk of growing bored with your workouts, as you can frequently change them up. All you have to do to increase the resistance is work with the next band, or use two lighter bands.
The bands will be much cheaper in the long run, and you can work with them for years to come.
As you can see, there is a lot to love about these elastic resistance bands. If you want to get fit, resistance bands are definitely an option to consider!
How to Incorporate Resistance Bands into Your Workouts
So you know what makes resistance bands a great option, but now what? Time to put some "landing gear" on this plan!
Below, we've come up with a list of the best exercises you can do with resistance bands--either with the bands alone or using them in tandem with free weights. Add these movements into your training routines, and you'll see results in no time!
- Push-Ups -- Do a regular push-up, but grip a handle in each hand with the resistance band running up your arms and around your back. The tension will increase as you push up, making the simple bodyweight exercise even harder!
Image Source: Lean It Up
- Squats -- You don't need weight to make squats more challenging. Run the band beneath your feet and hold the handles at chest level. The tension will decrease as you squat, but increase when you stand.
- Bicep Curls -- For your biceps, it doesn't get better than this! Hold the band down with your foot, and curl the handles to your shoulders. You'll love the burn from the consistent tension throughout the full range of motion.
Image Source: PopSugar Fitness
- Band Pull-Downs -- Don't have the strength to do Pull-Ups yet? Run your resistance bands over your Pull-Up bar, and pull the handles toward you. It's a "reverse pull-up" that will help you build back, shoulder, and bicep strength.
- Standing Chest Press -- Hate Push-Ups? Try this exercise: run the bands around a pole, and stand with your back toward the pole. Extend your arms directly in front of you, like a Bench Press but standing up.
Image Source: Women’s Health Mag
- Overhead Press -- For your shoulders, this is the best way to go! Secure the resistance band beneath your feet, and push the handles upward until your arms are fully extended.
Image Source: Skinny Mom
- Lateral and Front Raise -- This is one of the best ways to work your shoulders--lateral, anterior, and posterior! Stand on the tube, and raise your arms (elbows locked) first out to the side, then to the front.
Image Source: Strive4Fitness
- Overhead Triceps Extension -- Build strong triceps with this bad boy! Stand on the weight band, and hold the handle behind your head. Without moving your elbows, extend your arms, then return them to their original position.
- Kneeling Crunch -- This is a great abs exercise! Run the band over your pull-up bar, get on your knees, grip the handle behind your head, and crunch downward until your elbows touch your thighs.
With a very simple and handy tool, you should be able to exercise different parts of your body. It's amazing how this can be done in the comforts of your home. The convenience should never have you thinking twice about working out again.
If you want to see results, doing these resistance band exercises can definitely be the way to go!