Using Bands for Resistance Training

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I am writing this about 15 minutes after my roommate sent me some videos from the morning show on the Sports Hub.

I admittedly didn’t catch the beginning of what he sent me so I did kind of miss the whole conversation. What I did catch was that they were talking about using resistance bands for training.

My guess is that they were discussing how Tom Brady claims to only use bands, as opposed to free weights, in his training.

One man called in and said that resistance bands target the tendons and ligaments and not the muscles. The hosts of the show quickly dismissed that.

I do not know anyone’s opinion on the matter so I am not trying to criticize any takes. Instead, I want to discuss the use of resistance bands.

I have gotten a lot of questions about resistance band exercise before and it can be a slightly complicated topic. Resistance bands do fit as a piece of a well rounded program.

They are not smart enough to actually target tendons and ligaments vs. muscles. When we use resistance training there are benefits to all connective tissue. Bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles are put under stress with resistance. When these tissues are under stress they become stronger.

So what is the deal with bands? How do they fit into good training programs?

They Work Really Well, at First

If you are new to any type of training, it provides tremendous benefit to start.

Bands do provide resistance, which will load the tissues. Building strength and durability is helped here by this stress. If you are new to training, or just using bands, there will be benefit.

Resistance Bands are Limited

Overload

To continually make progress, we have to overload the tissues. This goes hand in hand with adaptation. Whenever a new demand is placed on the body, the tissues will adapt in response to that demands.

As a result, we must gradually increase the stress on the system. This can be done with sets, reps, and loading. At some point the same resistance band is not going to provide the same benefit it did at first.

You will either need heavier bands or switch to free weights over time to overload the tissues. Bands also wear out, meaning the resistance decreases in the same band.

Slack

The actual execution of band exercises also needs to be addressed. This is not the fault of the bands but rather the people performing exercises with them.

For resistance bands to do their job, there has to be adequate tension in the band. Bands can be really difficult if the right amount of resistance is used.

I have seen a lot of great exercises performed but with too little tension. This can be manipulated with stronger bands or putting more of a stretch in the bands.

If you are performing an exercise and could have done 2-4 more reps in a set, you need more tension.

Great for Stability and Rehab

Resistance bands are a staple of mine in core exercises. When developing core stability, tension is the key.

The most beneficial aspect of a band vs. other resistance is variable resistance. As the band lengthens in an exercise, the tension increases. This usually works in conjunction with how much force is produced in an exercise.

Take a band chest press. The exercise is hardest when the hand is closest to the body. As you push the band away, we get stronger while the band tension increases.

Variable resistance cannot be matched with free weights. Using variable resistance to build stability is really helpful.

This is important for rehab because stability is often the name of the game. Certain joints need stability before they can develop higher levels of strength.

Better than Nothing

If you only have bands and access to nothing else, use the bands. They are beneficial, but at the same time they are limited.

Some gym memberships are as low as $10/month. Resistance bands definitely cost more than that if you are upgrading them as needed.

I always recommend that we seek out free weights whenever possible. A well rounded program is always going to be better than only utilizing one discipline.