Resistance Bands

Many times when working out, people are confused what is “best” in terms of getting in shape and building muscle. This usually boils down to an argument of body weight training vs free weights vs resistance bands vs machines.

One of the more heated debates revolves around the use of free weights vs resistance bands for getting in a good strength and muscle building workout. Often times, typical gym rats will scoff at resistance bands as useful for only beginners, “toning” workouts, or pre hab / re hab work.

However, bands are not only great for warming up your body but they can offer one heck of an anabolic stimulus that will kick start muscle building and get you on the road to chiseling an outstanding physique.

The Case for Resistance Bands

Most people who lift weights espouse the belief that the “best” way to build size and mass is through free weights. While free weights are a great way to work your muscles, they are just one way to “skin the cat.” Resistance bands certainly have a place in a well designed workout program.

Advantages of Bands

Portability

There are several advantages to making resistance bands a part of your fitness arsenal. The first and most obvious benefit is their portability. When you’re traveling, you won’t in all likelihood be able to pack your rack of dumbbells or power rack and barbell. Bands roll up into a nice, neat package and can easily be stored in your bag right next to your gym clothes and workout shoes.

Constant Resistance

Dumbbell Bicep Curl

Tension is lost on the working muscle at the bottom portion of a curl when using free weights. Bands create resistance that increases as you curl up and maintain tension throughout the lowering phase.

Resistance bands provide constant tension on the muscle, something not possible when using free weights. When performing a bicep curl with a dumbbell for instance, at the top of the movement, there is no tension on the muscle, and the same with the bottom portion of the movement. Not so, when one is using bands.

Using bands allows a lifter to exhibit constant tension throughout the movement and the resistance actually increases as you near the peak contraction. This allows a lifter to really focus on the concentric (lifting) phase of the movement.

Additionally, you must control the band on the way down and not simply let it go limp. By focusing on now on the eccentric (lowering) portion of the lift, you are giving the muscle a more complete and thorough workout rather than just aimlessly flinging the dumbbell up and down.

Affordability

When starting to build a home gym, most people won’t have the bank account of Donald Trump. That being said, you’ll look for cost-efficient options that are both versatile and provide enough of a training stimulus to force your muscle to grow.
Compared to free weights, bands offer an affordable option for those just getting into the fitness game and looking to fill their home gym with quality resistance equipment.

Easy on the Joints

How many times have you seen lifters rubbing Icy Hot on their knees or elbows or complaining about shoulder pain? This most likely is due to endless years of moving heavier and heavier weights.
All of this heavy lifting creates a lot of wear and tear on joints, ligaments, and tendons. Sooner or later, one of these will give out and you’ll be sidelined with an injury. Resistance bands provide a way to work around an injury or even prevent one from occurring in the first place.

“Bands are inferior to weights”

Here’s a common statement you’ll hear uttered from gym bros all the time. A great majority of people are under the misconception that bands are only good for low intensity workouts or rehabbing injuries.

However, research has shown that resistance bands are just as effective as free weights when it comes to increasing muscle size and strength.[1,2,3,4] This backs up the point that it doesn’t matter what the training stimulus is for your muscles.

In order for muscle to grow they have to be challenged against a form of resistance. It doesn’t matter if that resistance is a dumbbell, barbell, kettlebell, resistance band or water jug. As long as you are increasing the amount of resistance (i.e. weight), time under tension, amount of reps (total volume), your muscles will grow!

A muscle doesn’t care if the weight is brand new and shiny or old and rusty. What it cares about is how much resistance it is overcoming, and when it comes to resistance bands, it’s just another means to an end in the never ending quest to grow more muscle!

Wrap Up

Shaun Clarida Posing

Bands can help you build a chiseled physique and create a muscular foundation like Myokem Athlete Shaun Clarida.

Whether you choose to start using bands or not is a matter of personal preference. Free weights are necessarily superior or inferior to resistance bands in terms of offering an outstanding workout. They are simply two sides of a coin.

If funds are tight or space is a premium, resistance bands may be the way to go. They are incredibly affordable, durable, lightweight and compact allowing you to have a wide variety of them and store them much easier that free weight options. They also pose a smaller risk of injury compared to free weights, which makes them ideal for those who are just starting to engage in resistance training.

Contrary to what many believe, resistance bands allow you to achieve some pretty incredible results and provide a unique stimulus for your muscles that they haven’t experienced before. Now, you’ll never get bodybuilder-huge with bands (you’ll need LOTS of weight for that), but in terms of carving an athletic physique and building appreciable muscle mass, bands are a great option. Better yet, incorporate BOTH weights and bands to gain the benefits of training with both and offer some diversity to your workouts!

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