Strength Training Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are just what they look like: large elastic bands that allow you work against resistance to build strength. Working against resistance increases the intensity of your workout, by forcing our muscles to work harder to perform a given movement. Convenient, inexpensive and portable, resistance bands are fast becoming a popular addition to home workout routines.

Choosing Resistance Bands
Strength training resistance bands may be flat loops that resemble large elastic bands or narrow tubes with handles attached at either end for better grip and stability. What you choose to work out with will depend on a several factors, including the amount of resistance you're looking for and kinds of moves you want to be able to perform, and which areas of your body you want to target.

Beginners will find working out with flat loops or simple tubes easier and should look for resistance bands that come in sets and offer a few different tension levels. Experienced users who've used bands before and want to add them to a home gym may want to consider advanced band kits that feature specialized shapes, like figure-8s or rings, and hardware that attaches the bands to doorframes.

When you're shopping for resistance bands, be aware that the bands are color coded based on tension level, but that color-coding systems vary across manufacturers. Purchase a set of resistance bands instead of individual bands to help you tailor your workouts to your fitness levels. Thin, low-tension bands for example, will challenge your triceps, but you'll probably want higher tension bands to work your legs.

Resistance Band Benefits
Unlike free weights where gravity plays a role in the downward movement, you're in control of each and every part of the movements you perform. In this way, resistance bands are similar to cable weight machines-they're just a lot less expensive. By changing bands to work with higher or lower tension, you're able to customize your workout to your needs. Best of all, you can take them with you, whether you want to work out on the road or just take your workouts outside.

Like exercise balls, resistance band strength training is often prescribed by physical therapists to help build strength and recondition muscles after injury. Muscles work against varying levels of resistance that can be easily adjusted by the user and movements can be as gentle or powerful as injured muscles need. Building strength slowly and steadily in this manner also keeps muscles safer from further injury.

Working out with resistance bands can also help improve your game. Most sports-specific movements can be mimicked using the resistance bands so that the muscles used for that action can be strengthened and conditioned.

Workout Tips
Don't be fooled by their appearance: resistance bands can provide quite a bit of tension, so you still want to make sure you warm up your muscles with at least five to ten minutes of light cardio exercise like walking or jogging in place.

Choose the band that provides you with enough resistance that you can your muscles working, but not so much that you can't perform the exercise properly. If you're struggling to maintain proper form, you're using too much tension and should change to a band with lower tension. A good motto to keep in mind is "Keep it light, do it right." Your primary goal during any workout is safety, then strength.

Sample Resistance Band Exercises
Resistance band sets generally come with instruction manuals and/or DVDs that show you how to perform various exercises correctly. Be sure to read through all of the instructions or watch the entire DVD before you start using your resistance bands.

Some common resistance band exercises include:

  • Side steps. Choose a resistance band that provides moderate resistance when placed around your ankles when your feet are hips' width distance apart. Ben your knees slightly to protect your lower back, engage the muscles of your core and step one leg to the side. Allow the other leg to follow. Repeat the movement up to fifteen times, then repeat the series in the other direction using the opposite leg for an equal number of steps.
  • Bicep curls. Step on one end of the proper resistance band and grasp the opposite end in one hand. Stand up tall, knees slightly bent to protect your lower back, elbows tight at your sides. Pull upon the band, performing the same movement you used in a traditional bicep curl. Return to the start. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch sides.
  • Bent over rows. Step on the proper resistance band with your left foot and grasp the opposite end in your left hand. Step back once with your right foot. With your knees slightly bent to protect your lower back, bend forward until your torso reached 45 degrees, keeping your back flat. With elbows close at your sides, pull the band up toward your torso, bringing your shoulder blade together. Return to your starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch sides.
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