If you imagine a rubber band you would use in the office, start by thinking bigger. (But not too big!) Resistance bands can have a few different characteristics, but they’re basically a band of stretchy material (like latex or rubber) that you can use to add resistance just about any exercise.
Groups can come in a set to offer different levels of difficulty. They are usually color coded so you can choose the best level for you. They can come in the form of a large loop (bands that you can grab or attach to the equipment) or as tubes with handles. Resistance bands are also available in kits that allow you to combine grips, bars, and bands to achieve the most personalized workout.
Now for the good stuff: why add those rubber bands to your routine? Let’s see what science says about their real effectiveness.
1. Improves flexibility
Have you ever spent the night on a sofa and woke up as stiff as the Iron Man? If so, you can understand that flexibility is a big factor in how well your body functions and feels.
Resistance bands can be helpful. A 2019 study of 23 rugby players found that using elastic bands in a 5-week training program improved their flexibility and range of motion. Researchers believe that the tension of the bands creates space in the joints as you stretch.
In a meta-analysis of 19 studies with a total of 649 participants, researchers found that the use of resistance bands improved flexibility and balance in older people. This is especially important for the elderly, as accidents (such as falls) can lead to significant deterioration in health.
2. Builds strength
Lifting heavy objects builds muscle strength by providing resistance that your muscles can work against. And resistance bands can provide this advantage without the need for heavy and expensive equipment.
In a 2020 study of 17 male soccer players, researchers compared conventional resistance training to resistance band training over 6 weeks. They found that power band training and free weight training both improve strength and power.
3. Keeps you in balance
Balance is important in helping seniors avoid injury, but it can have benefits for all ages. Some researchers link physical function, mental health and quality of life.
In a small study, older people did a 40-minute resistance band exercise program 5 times a week for 4 weeks. (The program focused on scapular strength as a way to improve posture and balance.) Not only did their balance improve, but they also had improved scores in a survey measuring mental health. and physical function.
4. Helps you stay on budget
Don’t underestimate the value of fitness gains even if you got them without super expensive equipment! Rubber bands usually cost less than $ 10 each or you can usually get a full set for under $ 20. Even the most hardcore bands cost no more than $ 20 each.
You can compare that cost to the hundreds of dollars you would likely have shelled out for a full set of free weights or dumbbells. Monthly gym memberships can also get quite expensive.
5. Provides a handy training tool
There is a downside to training with traditional weights: A lot of people give up training with weights because they can be quite inconvenient. You can’t always hit the gym, or you might not have space to store a large set of dumbbells. But resistance bands are basically a pocket gym.
You also don’t have to compromise on your fitness level. One report analyzed the results of 8 studies with a total of 224 participants. The researchers found that resistance band training produced similar results in terms of strength gains compared to conventional strength training performed with weight machines and dumbbells.
6. Supports your fitness as you get older
Many resistance band studies focus on the physical function of aging populations. This type of training appears to have several beneficial effects on the elderly.
- In a study of 18 participants, researchers assessed microvascular function, heart / lung capacity, strength, flexibility and quality of life. After an 8-week home exercise program, participants improved blood vessel dilation, leg strength and flexibility, general health, pain and fatigue.
- Another study involving 54 participants used a resistance band program based on functional movement. The resistance band group had a greater improvement in grip strength, arm strength and overall motor skills as the recreational exercise group. They also had improved reaction times. Researchers believe that better physical condition is linked to better cognitive function.
- In a study of postmenopausal women training with resistance bands 3 times per week, women had improved insulin, glucose and blood lipid profiles. These are all markers of metabolic syndrome that could progress to cardiovascular disease.
7. Safety comes first
One of the reasons resistance bands are a good option for the elderly and injured people is that they tend to be a safer alternative to traditional weights. (But keep in mind that latex bands may cause an allergic reaction in some people. Also, be careful not to break with a stretched band.)
With proper shape, you control the difficulty and resistance of the elastic band you are using. For example, unlike traditional weights, you can’t take too heavy a resistance band and risk injuring yourself landing on you.
8. Vary the intensity of your routine
A good set of groups can take you from beginner to enthusiast. Change the way you use the bands to perform light stretches or intense muscle-building reps. Their versatility also means you can share groups even if you have different fitness levels from others.
9. Helps you bounce back from pain and injury
Resistance band exercises can be a good part of your injury recovery program or physical therapy. One study found that people who exercised resistance bands with an injection of steroids for shoulder pain and stiffness performed better than people who took the injection alone. How? ‘Or’ What? Strengthening your shoulders while the pain is relieved by the injection could help you function better and less pain in the long run.
In another study of people with degenerative arthritis of the knee, participants exercised with elastic bands 3 times a week for 4 weeks. It was an effective intervention for pain and function, comparable to a group that received traditional physical therapy.
10. Improves your performance
Thus, resistance band training has helped rugby players and soccer players. But there are even more examples of the benefits of resistance band training for athletes.
In a 2018 study of 12 young female handball players, athletes added elastic band training to their regular training for 9 weeks. This improved their explosive performance in the legs. How can this help? Explosiveness is important in a sport like handball which includes long periods of low intensity activity and brief periods of acceleration, sprinting, jumping and throwing.
11. Develops functional physical form
Functional fitness means your body has the strength, flexibility, and coordination to perform your daily activities (think: outside the gym). Resistance band training is proven to help you develop this functional fitness.
A 12-week study of 168 women assessed their functional ability and other factors. The women had improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as increased cardiorespiratory fitness, grip strength, overall strength, flexibility, and agility.
In another study, participants followed a 12-week moderate-intensity band training program for 60 minutes, 3 times per week. After the program, they improved their grip strength, flexibility in sitting and reaching, position on one leg and blood pressure.