Resistance bands get a bad rap. Athletes tend to overlook them. You hardly ever see resistance bands in gyms, maybe because people think you need to lift “real” weights to build muscle. And non-athletes might think of resistance bands as something to use in physical therapy, if they think of them at all.
But David Hogarth, a physical therapist with Banner Sports Medicine Scottsdale, said there are a lot of good reasons to make resistance bands part of your exercise routine.
You can build strength with resistance bands
“If you use them properly, resistance bands can be quite difficult and can tax your muscles,” Hogarth said. He recommends adding them to your strength-training routine. You can make your muscles bigger and stronger with heavy resistance and eight to 12 repetitions. To strengthen the core muscles (postural muscles) or to build endurance, you’ll probably want to move up to 12 to 30 repetitions.
Almost anyone can exercise with resistance bands
Resistance bands come in a range of difficulty levels. Hogarth introduces them to people who have never worked out before and uses them with athletes who are preparing for their sports.
“Resistance bands are very adaptable and can be incorporated into almost everyone’s workout routine. I love giving resistance bands to people who do not have access to gym equipment because they are so simple and easy to use at home,” he said.
Resistance bands give you dynamic resistance
Dynamic resistance means you work your muscles differently with resistance bands compared to traditional weights. With resistance bands, as you pull on them, the resistance increases and as you relax, the resistance decreases.
“Your tension is changing throughout your range of motion, and your body has to adapt to the changing resistance,” Hogarth said. “Traditional weights do not challenge the nervous system in the same way that bands do. With traditional weights, your resistance does not change, which makes them easier to adapt to. It’s good to mix it up.”
How to get started with resistance bands
If you’re ready to add resistance bands to your routine, consider talking to a fitness professional who can help you learn how to use them best to meet your goals. You can do many different types of exercise with resistance bands, from rows and back-strengthening exercises such as assisted pull-ups to hip-strengthening and core-strengthening exercises. “It really depends on what muscle group you want to get stronger,” Hogarth said.
Start slowly. In general, Hogarth said you should feel a bit of fatigue after six to 10 repetitions of an exercise.
Bands are relatively inexpensive, so Hogarth recommends getting a variety pack so you can figure out which ones offer enough resistance. Plus, you’ll need different resistance levels to work different muscle groups. And as you get stronger, you’ll need to switch to bands with more resistance.
You can bring your workout with you just about anywhere
Resistance bands are light, portable and compact. “It is super easy to carry a band or two with you and exercise anywhere you go,” Hogarth said.
You can keep a couple of bands nearby at work and fit in a short strength-training set when you take a break. You can even bring them along on vacation. “Most people don’t want to carry heavy weights with them on vacation. Resistance bands make it much more feasible to exercise anywhere,” Hogarth said.
The bottom line
Whether you want to start strength training, or you’ve been exercising for years, resistance bands can be a great way to mix up your workouts and build your muscles. To get some guidance and maximize the benefits of your workout, connect with a Banner Health provider.
Here are more ways you can build a solid strength-training routine:
- Five Fixes to Common Weightlifting Mistakes
- How to Keep Your Muscles Strong as You Get Older
- 5 Tips and 5 Snacks for the Perfect Pre-Workout
This article was updated on July 31, 2023.