Have you ever wondered why resistance bands are so versatile and challenge your body so much in many different ways? Let me share with you a bit of history!
Resistance bands were originally utilised during the early 20th century to help people rehabilitate after muscle injuries and in the treatment of cardiac rehab patients. This was due to their light resistance and ability to perform any of the prescribed exercises safely and progressively. This also allowed physical therapists to enable their patients to keep consistent with their rehab programmes.
Seeing how this benefited patients/people recovering from injury, the fitness industry soon caught on to their potential to further develop and challenge muscles in a safe and progressive way, via many different resistances and types.
The reason that resistance bands are so challenging for the muscles is that they provide progressive linear resistance or accommodating resistance. What this means is that the resistance/tension gets greater / increase the further the bands are stretched apart.
So, why is this important? Well, let me explain. When we perform any resistance-based exercise (free weight or bodyweight) we find that different parts of the exercise are easier and some parts are harder, ie the bottom part of a press-up can feel really tough, but the top part, not as challenging which can make it difficult to overload or increase one part (easy part) intensity of the exercise without increasing the other part (the difficult part).
As you will see in the graph above when a band resistance is added to an exercise, the amount of force produced is much greater (even on its own) than a weight on its own (which starts to simmer down). This increased force/output is added at the part of the movement that we would have found previously to be less challenging (top of press-up) with overloading/increasing the difficulty of the bottom part of the press-up.
This is just one exercise example of where this can be used, as it can be applied to most exercises to increase the difficulty and improve a person’s strength at a specific part of the movement they find most difficult, this is sometimes also known as the strength curve. Every exercise has a beginning, middle, and end, and generally, the parts (not always) that we are most challenging are the beginning and endpoints, due to the angle of the joint, which makes it difficult to apply as much force (see pic below).
This is the beauty of bands (along with other tools like chains) that help us challenge the parts we are not able to produce as much force at. Plus this also allows us to maximise a muscle contraction into its very shortened range.
As you can see in the picture above, the resistance is greatest at the top of the movement, but this is where we can get maximum force/tension production, which is important, as the muscles do not know the weight. All they know is tension.
Types of Resistance Bands
There are many types of resistance bands in use nowadays, ranging from very thin to thick, along with different modifications.
Flat bands: These are generally very thin, but elastic and are used in rehabilitation programmes.
Pull-up bands: These bands are quite thick, due to being used for one’s own body weight, or to attach/connect a barbell to a frame or the floor.
Resistance tubes: These bands have handles on the end of them as they allow the person to hold onto and mimic many free weight exercises, with the advantage of being easy to take with you.
Figure 8 band: These are not as long as the previous bands, but can be used for just as many exercises also.
Lateral resistance bands: These are generally used to develop the muscles in the legs especially for the glutes, and are used a lot in sports performance rehabilitation and conditioning.
Some of the benefits to using resistance training with bands are:
Cost: They don’t cost a lot of money to buy.
Portable: They can be taken with you around the world and don’t take up too much space in a suitcase.
Adaptable: They can be used for many different exercises, even just one band can challenge people of all strength levels.
Stretching Assistant: They can be used to help assist in difficult ranges of movement that we want to be more flexible in.
Easy to learn: There are many add-ins to them, which make them easy to learn and get good at.
As mentioned earlier you can see that bands have many different usages and can benefit people of all levels:
Rehabilitation: Flat band being used for rotator cuff rehabilitation.
Strength training: Resistance band is being used here to help with the pull-up exercise.
Powerlifting: Resistance bands are attached to a weight on the floor to help a powerlifter’s ability to get stronger at the top range of the bench press exercise.
Powerlifting (reverse band): This is a different, but similar way of assisting the powerlifter in a part of the exercise that they find a bit more challenging but less challenging in other parts. It will allow them to get more comfortable with much heavier loads over time with injuring themselves.
Combat sports: Resistance bands are used to allow combat athletes to develop more striking power, but challenge the end range of the technique, but without doing damage to their joints. This may also develop speed along with power.
Sports performance/acceleration: Bands can be used to help develop an athlete’s acceleration to increase and improve their performance.
As you can see, resistance bands have many different usages and do not discriminate against training experience, strength levels, or affordability.
They are a great addition to anyone’s exercise programme and hold many benefits. From a coaching perspective, they are an easy tool to prescribe the optimal exercises to help clients closer to their health and fitness goals. If you haven’t got a set already, they are definitely worth picking up.
If you have any questions about resistance band, their use, or are looking to begin a programme, get in touch.
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”,