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Choosing and Using Resistance Bands

Spice up your workouts

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Updated April 09, 2014

When it comes to strength training, most of us stick to the usual free weights and machines or, if we're feeling frisky, we may venture over to the cable or free motion machines at the gym. What you don't see a lot of is work with resistance bands or tubing.

We're often confused about what resistance bands do and how to use them, but they're a great way to workout while you travel or add variety to your usual routine.

Resisting Resistance Bands

Some of the problems people often have with resistance bands:

  • The resistance feels different. When you use free weights, gravity decides where the weight comes from, so you get more resistance during one part of the movement (such as the upswing of a bicep curl) than the other (the downswing). With bands, the tension is constant, which makes it feel harder. Bands work much like a cable machine, allowing you to keep constant tension on the muscle. You'll also incorporate more stabilizer muscles to keep the band in alignment throughout each exercise, adding a different dynamic to the same old moves.
  • Resistance bands aren't as challenging as machines or dumbbells. With weights, you know exactly how much you're lifting. With bands, you can only go by how it feels and the tension on the band. That doesn't mean you're not getting a good workout, though. If you use good form and the right level of tension, your muscle fibers won't know the difference between weights or bands. Plus, bands offer more variety because you can create the resistance from all directions--the side, overhead, below, etc.
  • You don't know how to use them. It can be confusing trying to figure out how to use a band. Keep in mind that you can perform the same exercises as you do with free weights--the difference lies in positioning the band. For example, you can stand on the band and grip the handles for bicep curls or overhead presses. You can attach it to a door and do lat pulldowns or tricep pushdowns. You can wrap the band around a pole for chest exercises or shoulder rotations. The possibilities are endless and you'll find there are a number of exercises and workouts available to you.

Why You Should Try Resistance Bands

  • They travel well. You can easily pack them in your suitcase for travel and do exercises in the car or in your hotel room.
  • They increase coordination. Because there's tension throughout the exercises, you have to stabilize your body. This helps with coordination, balance and it also helps you involve more muscle groups.
  • They add variety. With weights, you're often limited as to how many exercises you can do. But, the resistance band allows you to change your positioning in multiple ways. This changes how your body works and how an exercise feels.
  • They're inexpensive. Bands range anywhere from $6 to $20, depending on how many you get and where you buy them, which is nice for the budget-conscious exerciser.
  • They're great for all fitness levels. Depending on how you use them, bands can be great for beginners as well as more advanced exercisers. You can use them for basic moves or to add intensity to traditional moves.

Next, get tips for buying resistance bands.

Page 2: Buying Resistance Bands
Page 3: Exercises and Workouts with Resistance Bands

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