Elastic Resistance Bands – how and why to use them

Resistance bands are small, portable, inexpensive, and easy to use anywhere and anytime. If you need some help (or some convincing) to get your resistance training underway, this is for you!

Resistance bands—also known as workout bands or exercise bands—are stretchy, elastic, rubber bands or tubes or loops that are used for both physical therapy and general fitness.

They have been in use since the early twentieth century when they were used primarily on the rehabilitation of people with damaged muscles. But in the 1990s, they made a move into the fitness industry and they have grown more and more popular ever since.  They are so popular and versatile that you can regularly see pro athletes and elderly fit folks alike using them.

Advantages of resistance bands

One of the most attractive elements of these bands is how cost-effective (even if you regularly snap them as I do). While you can easily spend hundreds of dollars purchasing a home weight system, you can find a good set of resistance bands online (*affiliate link*) for about twenty bucks. Sure, you can get into fancier and more expensive systems (like the X3 Elite Band which I also have but have never snapped), but most of us will do just fine with the cheaper option.

An unexpected but cool thing about resistance bands is that they can feel a little unsteady or wobbly, which means that you will need to work harder to maintain good form. This is a good thing! This instability factor means your workout targets what we fitness pros call your stabilizer muscles as well as other muscle groups. Where a weight machine may allow you to lift a heavier load, resistance bands allow you to develop greater control, which can make you more stable and protect you from future injury.

Unlike free weights or weight machines that only allow you to perform a limited number of movements, these bands provide resistance to just about any motion, in almost any body position. With a little ingenuity—and some heavy furniture to tie the bands to—you can do nearly any workout.

How to use resistance bands

In this video, I demonstrate a quick but effective upper body workout that you can do with any suitable gauge of an elastic resistance band.

The movements involved are:

  1. Bicep Curl
  2. Tricep Kickback
  3. Lateral Raise
  4. Front Raise
  5. Standing Row

In the video, I do two sets of five reps of each movement, but you can choose the number of reps and sets that match the resistance gauge of your elastic bands and (of course) your current fitness level. Just make sure you get close to failure while still being able to maintain good form by the end of each set.

In this video I demonstrate these resistance band Lower body exercises:

  • Deadlifts
  • Lateral Steps
  • Hip Bridges
  • Standing Kickbacks
  • Lying Leg Extensions
  • Monster Walks
  • Reverse Lunge
  • Kneeling kickback

In this video, I demonstrate some easy and quick ways to use resistance bands to strengthen your ankles (and shins and feet). This is what I would call a pre-hab workout because it’s designed to prepare your body for things like jumping and running. 

This video demonstrates a 4 movement upper-body workout that you can do with an elastic resistance band, any time and anywhere.

After a quick warm-up rotation, do a few reps of these 4 exercises:

  • Lateral Pull-downs
  • Lateral Raises
  • Band Pull-aparts
  • Band chest-press

I only do one set of each movement in the video but I suggest you do two of three rounds of the entire circuit, depending on your fitness level and your time available.

Here is a reasonably well-rounded, full-body workout you can do with just a set of mini-bands and your body weight. You don’t even need to change into workout clothes as long as you are wearing things you can move in – which you really ought to be doing anyway – dress for the job you want 🙂

But the exercises don’t end there! The good people over at rubberbanditz.com have a library of exercises you can do with resistance bands and ACE Fit has a database of exercises you can do with your bands as well. So if you need some more inspiration, these are great places to go.

A word of warning: Because resistance bands leave you in total control over how you move and use the band, you need to remain focused on your form for each and every exercise.

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