If you had of asked me a year ago how to get a good strength workout, I would have told you to go and get a set of weights. As for resistance bands? They weren’t even on my radar. Now, fast forward 12 months and boy has my view drastically changed! Not only are resistance bands now very firmly on my radar, I also run a weekly class using purely bands - and it’s one of my most popular classes too!
Now, I really do have my clients to thank for my new found obsession with resistance bands. You see, the majority of my classes were HIIT based bodyweight sessions, but my female clients kept asking me for a class that involved a little less jumping and focused more on strengthening and toning their ‘problem’ areas (bums, thighs, abs and arms), with a bit of flexibility work thrown in too (because they don’t ask for much haha!).
To set the scene, I operate in a small country town (pop. 300), and I share the local recreation complex with the other local sporting clubs. Storage is sparse and my client numbers are never going to be in the 100’s, so anything I deliver needed to cater for all fitness levels, offer HEAPS of variety (I get bored easily), and not require me to have huge amounts of equipment. And so, my journey towards band loving began...
While I might have woken up and realised that resistance bands are a fantastic addition to any workout, there are many still out there who doubt the way they work, with some not even knowing what they are! To help you get a better understanding, I’ve put together a brief run down… enjoy!
What Are Resistance Bands?
Before I started using resistance bands for myself, I had a perception (which you may have too), that they were for rehab purposes. While they are often used for injuries and rehabilitation, resistance bands also provide muscle-building tension and allow anyone to practice weight-bearing exercises (which are essential for your health, in particular muscle and bone development), without the need for heavy weights.
Usually made out of strong rubber, resistance bands are essentially a workout tool that help build strength during a workout by utilising your body’s own weight. With resistance bands, you can do just about any type of strength training exercise, including chest presses, rows, shoulder presses, tricep extensions, bicep curls, and even squats.
What Makes Resistance Bands So Great?
First and foremost, bands aren’t scary! Up front, there is nothing intimidating about the little bits of rubber. In fact, they look pretty innocent when compared with say, battle ropes, or large sets of weights. When it comes to exercise, it’s important to feel comfortable and safe, and I’ve found that because the idea of resistance bands is a lot less scary than other options, people are more willing to give the class a crack!
One of the things I love most about bands is that they provide such fantastic variety. They can be manipulated to almost any angle and can work pretty much any and all muscles in your body. Bands also allow you to perform isolation exercises, which is handy if you want to target a specific muscle (such as tightening those ‘tuckshop triceps’). And if you want to get really sweaty and make those muscles move, you can add them into the mix with compound exercises (ones that use a lot of muscles). Try a few lateral push-ups with a band around your wrists and you’ll see what I mean!
Lastly, for me, I love how easy they are to use! They’re mobile, cheap and have a much lower risk of injury compared to lifting weights. And the payoff is amazing! During a bands session, the most common phrase to come out of my client’s mouths is ‘I didn’t realise this would be so hard!’ I’m constantly getting feedback from my crew about how ‘good’ sore they feel in the days after a bands class. And I find that clients are much more happy and likely to return if they can feel the results of a session! You can also purchase resistance bands in various tensions, making them suitable for all different types of fitness levels, from beginner to expert.
I also had a chat to Ryan @LoddonValleyPhysiotherapy as I wanted to delve a little deeper into why physios started to use bands for rehab. For Ryan, the biggest benefits of bands are that ‘they provide constant resistance, whereas weights are affected by gravity. This constant resistance allows for better efficiency and when you do exercises the load on the muscle is maintained for a longer period of time’.
The piece of advice that changed my thinking about resistance bands the most? Your muscles are blind - they don’t know what is causing them to work. Anything that creates tension and resistance on your muscles will help them change.
And so, after a lot of research, I honestly do think resistance bands are the most underrated piece of exercise equipment you could own!
If you too are after some exercise equipment that you can actually use, is cheap, delivers results and takes up less space than your mobile phone - go and grab yourself some bands! If you’re not sure which tensions to use, always remember that you don’t want to comprise your form. If you can’t perform the move with good technique (for example if your knees are collapsing in as you squat), then you probably need a lighter band.
Claire Harrison from Loddon FITT