I don't know if it's just me, but it seems as though resistance bands have become the new booty building trend of 2017. It really hit me when I was doing banded walks and my guy friend said that I "looked like all of the Instagram girls doing their butt workouts." I was slightly offended, but I had to laugh because there was some truth to his statement. I was using the band to target my glutes, but my utility and love for resistance bands goes way back.
In fact, they actually have meaningful place in my heart because they always remind me of the good ole' volleyball days. So, after my friends comment, I felt like I has a responsibility to write a post about the multiple benefits resistance bands bring to the table.
To start off, let's talk about the two main types of resistance training, free-weights and elastic resistance. Free-weight training is the use of weights that aren't connected to an apparatus (i.e. dumbells, barbells, and kettlebells). Elastic resistance training is the use of rubber tubes or bands, where the elasticity or "stretchiness" of the band determines the difficulty of the exercise. These two forms of exercise share very similar properties, but we will focus on the main advantages of elastic resistance training.
1. They are just as effective as free weights
If you measured the effectiveness of these forms of resistance by looks alone, you would probably laugh at someone who told you that resistance bands are just effective as free weights.
However, despite their flimsy appearance and their association with "girly exercises", multiple studies have shown that elastic resistance training produces a similar increase in muscle activity and force as free-weight training. (1) In some cases, elastic resistance can actually be more effective. (If you try doing a bicep curl with a band instead of a dumbell, you might be shocked at how much harder it can be.)
2. They are inexpensive
I considered making this numero uno on the list because who doesn't like a good deal? It is also the reason why I have a variety of resistance band workouts in my workout program, The Working Girl's to Fit.
3. They are light and portable
If you travel a lot, bands are a must!
4. They are used for rehab
I still remember the first time I sprained my ankle. I jumped up, hit the ball, got a kill, and then landed directly on another girl's foot (she had illegally come too far under the net). I felt okay at first, but then it swelled up to it was the size of a grapefruit. Since that day, I have sprained my ankle at least five times and band exercises have helped me recover by strengthening the muscles that support my ankle.
5. They can help prevent injuries
Shoulder, knee, and ankle injuries are all common in volleyball. When I played at UCSB we used bands for mobility drills during our warm-ups and for strength training in the weight room to target the muscles that help stabilize our joints.
6. They work your muscles through the entire range of motion
One main difference between free-weights and elastic resistance is that free-weights rely on gravity to provide resistance. Because of this, you only experience resistance at a certain part of the movement. If you think of a bicep curl, there is little to no resistance at the very bottom or very top of the movement. With resistance bands, your muscles are under continuous tension throughout the range of motion. This also means that there's no real cheating with elastic resistance training.
7. They can increase explosiveness, speed, and agility
Funny enough, lateral band walks (that have now become so popular) were one of the exercises I did the most when playing volleyball. As a libero, I needed to be able to change directions or dive towards a ball at any second. Band walks were the perfect exercise because they directly targeted the muscles I needed to develop to become more explosive on a lateral plane. Using resistance while running or jumping will also increase your speed and vertical.
9. They have less of a risk for Injury
If you've ever dropped a heavy weight on yourself, you will definitely relate to this one.
8. They can be used by any age group or level of experience
Because the risk of injury is lower with resistance bands, they are ideal for any age group. Also, along with providing resistance, they can also assist you with some exercises such as pull-ups.
10. They are more useful for building strength for everyday tasks
Resistance bands do not require gravity, so they are able to provide resistance vertical and horizontal planes. Elastic training, therefore, can play a bigger role in functional training by being able to mimic more realistic everyday activities.
All in all, I highly recommend using bands and free-weights, and even both of them in conjunction. The fastest way to get results and break through plateaus is to mix it up :) If you are looking for more band exercises, check out my program, The Working Girl's Guide on the 38Plank app!
References 1. Stoppani, Jim Elastic Resistance Vs. Free Weights (2) Aniansson, A. P., et al. Effect of a training programme for pensioners on condition and muscular strength. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics 3:229-241, 1984. 2. Boyer, B. T. A comparison of the effects of three strength training programs on women. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research 4(3):88-94, 1990. 3. Ebben, W. P. and Jensen, R.L. Electromyographic and kinetic analysis of traditional, chain, and elastic band squats. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 16(4):547-550, 2002. 4. Fornataro, S, et al. Investigation to determine differences in strength gains using Thera-Band at fast and slow training speeds. Physical Therapy 74(5):S53, 1994.. 5. Heinecke, M., et al. Comparison of Strength Gains in Variable Resistance Bench Press and Isotonic Bench Press. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: 18(4): e361, 2004. 6. Hughes, C. and Page, P. Scientific Basis of Elastic Resistance. In The Scientific and Clinical Application of Elastic Resistance (Page, P. and Ellenbecker, T. S. eds) Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL: 3-14, 2003. 7. Matheson, J. W., et al. Electromyographic activity and applied load during seated quadriceps exercises. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 33(10):1713-1725, 2001. 8. Mikesky, A. E., et al. Efficacy of a home-based training program for older adults using elastic tubing. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology 69(4):316-320, 1994. 9. Page, P. A. Posterior Rotator Cuff Strengthening Using Theraband(R) in a Functional Diagonal Pattern in Collegiate Baseball Pitchers. Journal of Athletic Training 28(4):346-354, 1993. 10. Schulthies, S. S., et al. An Electromyographic Investigation of 4 Elastic-Tubing Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction. Journal of Athletic Training 33(4):328-335, 1998. 11. Stoppani, J. Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. 2005. 12. Treiber, F. A., et al. Effects of Theraband and lightweight dumbbell training on shoulder rotation torque and serve performance in college tennis players. American Journal of Sports Medicine 26(4):510-515, 1998. 13. Wallace, B. J., et al. Effects of elastic bands on force and power characteristics during the back squat exercise. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 20 (2): 268–272, 2006.