Training with Resistance Bands
In this day age you will see them commonly in most gyms. They are elastic, colourful and if not used securely carry the added danger of ending up smacking you in the face. No, not my fancy underwear but gym resistance bands.
What are they?
You can find many forms of bands. They can be cut from a big roll. They can be tubes with handles at the end. Or they can be smaller closed loop bands. They will all vary in tension and therefore resistance. Each brand will have a colour scheme from lightest to heaviest. However, each make uses the colours differently so there is no universal scheme. Depending on how you attach a band during an exercise can also make it easier or harder.
Why are they so popular?
The bands are cheap, though in a gym environment we will get through a lot of them and will frequently replace frayed or torn ones. They are portable, easy to store and carry around with you. Quite often, trainers will have them in their box of tricks if they are in parks or homes but also we would recommend them to clients going on holiday as they can be used and do not take up much space in their luggage.
What are the benefits?
They are versatile and let you target a multitude of goals. They have been shown to improve strength. Also power with a movement like a vertical jump. The eccentric part of a movement (the lowering of the resistance) is accentuated with bands and their variable resistance as they get pulled and lowered. This in turn will lead to a better concentric part of a muscle contraction, the lifting part. It can also aid muscle stability if done correctly with control, which can help with remedial exercises. It has also been used by lifters who find a “sticking point”. During a lift they may find a weakness where their strength is defeated. The variable resistance of bands can lead to conquering those points.
How do you use them?
Sometimes you can just hold them or wrap around your legs and they will be effective. For other exercises you may need to stand on them to be anchored. Or even hooking them around a steady object like a door handle or heavy machine frame. It all depends on which muscles you are targeting with the move. They can be used by anyone from beginners to experts.
As part of a strength session it is common to use the bands to activate muscles ahead of lifting big weights. An example would be front pulls for the shoulder blades ahead of a bench press. Doing this will activate muscles and stability within the shoulder joint better preparing you for the heavy lift ahead.
Bands can be used for a wide range of muscles and can be done as part of a strength workout or even combined in a circuit. Hooking the band around a static, stable object can let you do a row for the upper back or a chest press. Standing on the band can let you target the shoulders with a lateral raise or bicep with curls. You can change the resistance as you progress and stand further up on the band to make it tougher. Depending on the angle and distance of the anchor, you may get creative in targeting any muscle.
Whether it is for comfort or sometimes as an essential aid for getting to joints that are out of reach bands can support and help progress your flexibility.
In the early stages of recovery from injuries bands have a crucial role. Even before the strength stage is reached, many injuries can be down to inactive muscles and the nature of the resistance can help turn those on. As an example lateral walks with a band looped around your thighs can turn on the glutes and their firing can lead to healthier hips, knees and lower backs.
Now that you are now in the loop when it comes to resistance bands give them a go. Feel free to come by the gym desk and the trainers can help get you going.