Benefits of Resistance Band Exercises
Whether you're using superbands or old-school resistance tubing, the benefits of performing resistance band exercises are largely the same.
Bands are lightweight and easy to transport. Just roll a few up and throw them in a suitcase or gym bag and you'll have resistance training equipment available wherever you go.
A band's resistance increases as it continues to stretch, with the greatest resistance at the apex of each exercise. When you lift a dumbbell, you know you're lifting a set amount of weight through a full range of motion. What you may not realize is that at the apex of each movement, you get a little break.
Take, for instance, a shoulder press. As you lift the dumbbells, pressing them overhead, you're working against gravity to push the weight up. When your elbows extend fully, your well-aligned bones help support the weight before you reverse the movement and work with gravity to lower the weights (in a controlled manner) back to your shoulders.
When performing a resistance band shoulder press, the resistance level is relatively light at the beginning of the movement. It gradually increases as you press the band up, reaching its peak resistance when your elbows are fully extended. To maintain form, your stabilizing muscles have to remain engaged at the top of the movement, helping increase joint stabilization, which, over time, can reduce the chance of injury.
Bands can be moved in directions and patterns that weights can't be moved. Gravity is an inherent factor you can't ignore when lifting weights. When you perform a barbell squat, you load up the weight before using gravity to act on that weight to make the squat more challenging. As such, certain movement patterns and exercises are hard, if not impossible, to perform with standard weights.
For instance, you're going to have a hard time performing a heavy dumbbell or barbell chest press while standing upright. Gravity will pull the weight of the barbell or dumbbell toward the floor as you extend your elbows in front of your chest, and you simply won't be able to lift as much weight (or work for the desired muscle groups) because of the physics of the exercise change.
Resistance bands are different. Because even heavy-duty resistance bands are lightweight, as long as one side of the band is anchored, you can easily perform a standing chest press, extending the band to create resistance, rather than relying on gravity to act on a predetermined weight. This means the movement patterns and exercises you can perform with resistance bands are practically endless.
Bands can be used during power and mobility training. Resistance bands aren't just good for strength training. Bands can also add resistance to anaerobic power exercises, such as sprinting and jumping, and agility exercises, like side slides and grapevines. Again, the possibilities are practically endless.
Most superbands specify a resistance amount in pounds or kilograms. This "resistance" number becomes an "assistance" number when using superbands for pull-ups. For instance, a band that provides 15 pounds of resistance during strength exercises effectively assists you during pull-ups by decreasing your body weight by 15 pounds.
Heavy Duty Resistance Bands, or "Superbands"
Some fitness magazines popularized the concept of super straps and introduced them to the box style as a way for athletes to perform pull-ups. But soon, the use of heavy belts expanded and the market exploded. When buying a super band, please consider the following:
- Colors and weights aren't standardized. Every brand has a different color-coding system to identify different resistance levels. And from brand-to-brand, resistance levels vary between bands. When making a purchase, pay attention to what the color-coding and resistance levels are for the bands you're purchasing.
- Use several different bands. Because different muscle groups tend to be stronger than others (for instance, your quads are typically stronger than your biceps), having several different bands on hand is helpful for full-body training. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to purchase a light, medium, and heavy band to enjoy a well-rounded routine.
- The long loops can be anchored to vertical or horizontal posts. Simply wrap the band over a horizontal post (like a pull-up bar) or around a vertical post (like a sturdy street sign or jungle gym post), then pull one side through the other side until it's secure. Once in place, you can do many of the exercises that normally require a cable system such as biceps curls, triceps push-downs, and seated rows.
6 Resistance Band Exercises for a Full-Body Workout
If you're ready to give superband training a try, the following exercises provide a full-body workout routine.
To perform a squat press, stand with your feet on the resistance band, securing it in place. Position your feet roughly shoulder-distance apart, toes angled slightly outward. Grip the top of the resistance band in both hands, bending your elbows and "racking" your palms at your shoulders, your palms facing forward. The vertical portions of the band should be positioned to the outside of your body, almost as if it's boxing you in.
Press your hips back and lower your glutes toward the floor as you bend your knees. When your hips drop just below parallel with your quads, press through your heels and drive your hips forward to return to standing. As you do, press your arms straight up over your head, extending your elbows fully. Bend your elbows and lower the band back to shoulder-height. This is a single repetition.
Kneel on the ground and wrap a superband behind your back, gripping one side of the looped band in each hand, with your palms "hooked" inside each loop so the band can't get away from you. As such, you should have two lengths of band flat across your upper back, right where your scapulae (shoulder blades) are located.
Get into a push-up position with your palms under your shoulders, your knees lifted, and your body forming a straight line from heel to head. Or modify by starting on your hands and knees. The band should feel tight in this position. If not, adjust the band in your hands as needed.
From here, bend your elbows, lowering your chest toward the floor. Just before your chest touches down, reverse the movement and press yourself back to the starting position, pushing against the band's resistance.
If you're unable to perform a traditional pull-up without assistance, superbands can make it possible. Securely attach your superband to a pull-up bar. Place one knee inside the stretched resistance band as you reach up to grip the pull-up bar with both hands. If you're unable to reach, use a step or box to get in position. When hanging from the bar, the band should be stretched, your knee inside the provided loop.