Everything You Need to Know About Resistance Bands
A fitness routine that includes elastic resistance training—with a resistance band or resistance tubing, for example—is a great way to gain strength or rehabilitate an injury. These portable, flexible tools can complement traditional weight training, but they’re also great on their own.
Physical therapists have relied on elastic resistance bands for many years, and their popularity continues to increase in gyms and even with professional athletes. Here’s everything you need to know about resistance bands and tubing.
What’s the Difference Between a Resistance Band and Resistance Tube?
Elastic resistance comes in many forms. A resistance band is flat and wide like a ribbon. Resistance tubing is straight and long like a band, but instead of being flat like a ribbon, it’s tube-shaped. Resistance bands and tubing are also available in the form of loops.
Bands and tubing are used in similar ways. The one you choose is usually a matter of personal preference. Unlike bands, tubing often comes with handles and anchors for attaching the tubing to a door or wall. Bands can be more comfortable and stable than tubing when wrapped around a part of your body, such as your back or the bottom of your foot.
Elastic Resistance is Progressive
When lifting a weight from the ground, you work against a continuous resistance throughout your range of motion. For example, the weight is as heavy one inch off the ground as it is at shoulder level.
Elastic resistance is different. If you take a four-foot length of resistance band and stretch it just one inch, you’ll feel barely any resistance at all. But stretch it another foot, and then another, and you’ll feel the resistance steadily increase. Likewise as you reverse the motion, the resistance will gradually decrease to nothing.
This progressive change in resistance can be advantageous for bringing more muscle fibers into play at the extension of a movement. It also takes away the possibility of using momentum to cheat your way through a rep, as can happen when using free weights.
Resistance in All Planes of Motion
Since the resistance of free weights comes from gravity, that resistance is confined to a vertical plane. With elastic bands and tubing, resistance can be vertical, horizontal, or at any other angle. This allows for strength training while you mimic all kinds of functional movements—reaching, twisting, turning—that you can’t get with free weights.
Resistance Levels from Easy to Difficult
Elastic resistance products come in a range of resistance levels, from extra light to extra heavy. The resistance level is color coded, usually with yellow on the light side of the range and black on the heavy. These colors are not standardized, though, and can vary depending on the manufacturer.
Resistance Band and Tubing Length
Bands and tubing are available in a range of lengths. Note that in shorter lengths, the progressive resistance action happens more rapidly. For example, stretching a three-foot length of tubing six inches requires more force than stretching a five-foot length of tubing that same distance.
This brings up another advantage of working with bands and tubing: It’s easy to fine-tune the resistance simply by choking up (or down) on your grip.
Anchoring to a Wall
Many exercises can be performed by holding the resistance band with two hands and stretching it, or by wrapping it around your torso or stepping on it. But you can unlock an even wider range of activities when you use an anchor strap to fasten resistance tubing to a wall or door.
Example exercises that can be performed with anchored resistance tubing include rows, knee extensions, and trunk rotation.
Elastic Resistance Accessories
Other accessories that can enhance the capabilities of resistance tubing include extremity straps and fitness bars. And entire home gym systems make it even easier to attach resistance devices to a wall without having to worry about opening and closing doors.
Resistance Band and Tubing Devices are Highly Portable
One of the biggest advantages elastic resistance has over traditional weight sets is portability. No one wants to take their dumbbells with them on the road. But tubing and bands easily fit inside a purse or small pouch. Take them to the park, take them to the office, take them anywhere. With elastic resistance, there’s no excuse for missing a strength training workout.
Cost, Durability, and Safety
A set of resistance bands is much less expensive than a set of weights, and can get you a comparable workout. On the other hand, a set of weights is much more durable than resistance bands. You’ll need to monitor your elastic resistance equipment and replace each item as soon as it shows signs of wear. Damaged and worn bands and tubing can snap during use. Safety first!
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