Updated: Jan 9
Resistance bands are a great way of increasing your strength whilst keeping continual resistance on muscles without the use of gravity.
There are loads of different resistance bands that you can use, each with varying difficulties in how you can use them. Each one however uses probably the most portable piece of equipment in the gym.
Resistance bands are 100% overlooked in the gym. They're portable, cheap and you can use them for pretty much any muscle group, body type or workout you can think of. However, because of the limitless options, you may need to read up on how to use resistance bands for workouts.
Depending on the workout you're doing, resistance bands can make an exercise easier or harder, increase aerobic capacity or boost strength, for lower body or upper body.
There are a load of different types of resistance bands with different styles, colours, strengths and a wide range of exercising too. But how do you use resistance bands for leg workouts or how do you use resistance bands to build arm strength? Read on to discover how resistance bands can make your workout stretch to where it needs to be. (Pun absolutely intended!)
What Are Resistance Bands?
Resistance bands are either elastic or material loops that come in a wide variety of thicknesses (resistance), shapes and sizes to help you with your workouts.
Elastic resistance bands are often larger in length and come in a coded variety of thickness (or lbs of resistance) with colour denoting resistance. Typically the darker the colour, the greater the resistance, but this is not always the case. Becuase of the length of the elastic resistance bands, this can sometimes have more uses for the different muscle groups around the body. For example you can use a resistance band to do bicep curls but then also back squats too.
Material resistance bands are often smaller loops that tend to be intended to be used around the legs for leg workouts. Often called booty bands or glute bands, these come in an even wider range of colours, patterns and designs. The better resistance bands for leg workouts have a rubberised strip on the inside of the band to help prevent the band from slipping down your leg as you use them.
Your choice of resistance band will depend entirely on the type of resistance band workout you would like to do, what you can afford, your ability and of course the versatility that you're looking for. Each are both in their own right and there are some benefits to each that are not replicated by the other.
When choosing your resistance band take into account the amount of resistance you need. For example if you are using a resistance band to make it easier for you to perform pull ups you'd want a band with increased resistance if you are starting out. On the other hand if you are using a resistance band to increase strength on a bicep curl you'd want to have a resistance band that you can perform the movement with but also is not too much for your ability.
How to Use Resistance Bands for Workouts
Resistance bands are often really easy to use for almost every person, regardless of ability, skill or fitness level.
Just like in the gym choosing your usual set of dumbells, you are able to scale up or down by choosing a lighter or heavier resistance on your bands, alternatively you are sometimes even able to increase the resistance by shortening the loop on the same resistance band (by folding it back on itself if you want a shorter loop or holding further down the band if you're using the band as a single band).
Which resistance band should I use?
When choosing the type of band you need to pick for your workout, take a look at the movements and see why and how you're using the band. We have outlined below some of the exercises, workouts and movement patterns you can use for the array of different styles and types of resistance bands.
If you are starting out on your fitness journey, it is always better to start out light, focus on form and then increase the resistance of the band without sacrificing form. If you can do around 10-12 reps of your chosen movement without feeling any resistance then you will want to move to a band with more resistance.
As a general rule, you want the last 4-5 reps to be a strain (but not a struggle). If you are unable to control the movement then it is a sign that the resistance is too high for you so reduce the resistance down.
What are the benefits of using resistance bands for workouts?
Resistance bands make it easier for you to get benefits from both the eccentric and concentric portions of exercises and movements. For example if you are squatting in a leg workout, you're primarily using your quad muscles, as you decend in the squat you are starting an eccentric motion then when you asced you are using a concentric motion.
A resistance band used in your squat makes both of these motions harder for you, therefore give you more resistance and increasing your gains. Making the movement more efficient at using your muscles.
This also means that your muscles spend more time under tension which improves overall function and strength of the muscle.
Here are a few different types of resistance bands for workouts you might need:
Tube Bands with Handles
Also called "handled bands," tube bands basically look like jump ropes made out of cylindrical rubber. On each end, you'll find heavy-duty pulley handles made of nylon or plastic for a secure grip. Most commonly, these bands are used for moves like shoulder presses and biceps curls. For those who want to save the strain on their hands
Large Loop Bands
Exactly like they sound, these bands form a large, closed loop like a rubber band, usually about 40 inches long. Typically, they're flat and thin, which is why they are sometimes called "flat and thin bands" or sometimes "superbands." Kown best for assisting with pull-ups these bands can be used for a variety of workout moves.
Think large loop bands, but make them bite size. Just like with giant loop bands, these come in a variety of thicknesses and can be used in some seriously creative ways for an insane workout. And you've probably seen them on your Instagram feed as a glute workout tool, because you can get a serious peach pump when you put them around your ankles, says Jeffers.
But they don't *just* go around your ankles. Mini bands can also go around your knees, thighs, wrists, and upper arms.
Check out our pick for best resistance bands for leg workouts here.
Figure-eight bands are typically made of the same cylindrical rubber as tube bands, but form (surprise!) the shape of an 8. Usually these bands have a built-in handle on each loop, making them great for upper-body workouts.
Therapy bands are the same material as large loop bands, but usually thinner and don't form a loop. "I like to use these resistance bands for shoulder pre-hab and rehab of the shoulder, to increase the stabilization of the rotator cuff-these muscles that are so often torn in people," says Folden.
While they're typically used in physical therapy for mobility, they can also be used for fitness reasons.
Need ideas about yout next resistance band workout? Check out our best resistance band exercises for leg workouts here.