Resistance Bands Benefits

This is an in-depth article about the benefits of using resistance bands. The research we discuss should entice you to give resistance band strength training a fair shot. It did for us. 

Before, I learned how to use bands and understood resistance band benefits, I always wondered, “Do resistance bands work?” and I thought there was no chance that bands could be as good as weights.

Probably because they are light, flimsy, and way less intimidating than a rack of cast iron dumbbells. Holy smokes…. was I wrong. They are better!

If you have made these assumptions about resistance bands, here’s why you need to start pumping elastic.

resistance bands benefits

This Benefits of Using Resistance Bands article is one of three Ryan and Alex Duo Life blog posts about working out with resistance bands. The others are our full-body Resistance Bands Workout Routine and How To Use Resistance Bands.

Our “Aha” Moment

When we started traveling as digital nomads two years ago, we were forced to strength train with resistance bands. To begin, we streamed a program that included a “bandifier.”

A bandifier is a person on the screen demonstrating how to do each move with resistance bands instead of dumbbells. This was how we learned.

For our lifestyle, the key motivation to use resistance bands was their light weight and portability. We need the ability to work out anywhere, otherwise we can’t stay consistent.

However, before we were forced to use resistance bands, their convenience advantages fell on deaf ears because I didn’t think you could build muscle with resistance bands.

After my first week of workouts with bands, muscle fatigue and soreness made it clear that this was a false assumption. Things were looking up. And grass grew greener when I started learning about all the benefits of using resistance bands. 

I wish we learned how to use resistance bands sooner. We love the freedom that comes with not being tied to a gym.

I could have been using resistance bands for many years, as I tried to stay healthy on business trips. Instead, I would pack dumbbells in my trunk and spend hours sifting through hotel gym pictures online, looking for the one with a dumbbell rack in their gym.

No more of that. Resistance band training opens up a world of opportunity. We hope these resistance band benefits open up your eyes like the did mine. Next step, commit to our free Resistance Band Workout Routine so you can get results too!

What is Resistance Training?

Before we jump into the benefits of resistance bands, let’s talk about the different resistance training, or strength training, methods.

Because using some form of resistance – machines, free weights, kettlebells, resistance bands, bodyweight – to build muscle is a critical part of any fitness plan, even running.

Machines at the gym

We don’t use or recommend the weight machines at the gym. When you use the machines, you’re limiting your range of motion and engaging fewer muscles.

Free weights

These are weights that aren’t attached to a machine, which means you have a free range of motion. Therefore, dumbbells, kettlebells, and weighted medicine balls are all free weights. 

Free weights are far superior to weight machines because you engage stabilizing muscle groups to keep the free weights in alignment through the range of motion. The stabilizer muscles are what keep our joints safe and healthy. 

Resistance bands

Resistance bands (a.k.a exercise bands or resistance tubes) are the same as free weights in the sense that they aren’t attached to a machine. Resistance bands are effective because they challenge muscles in the same way as free weights.

They bring to the table resistance, free range of motion, and variable speed. However, bands offer unique benefits that dumbbells do not. 

Studies show that the number of muscle fibers activated and the force provided by the muscles are similar to an elastic resistance band and free weight dumbbell resistance.

Do Resistance Bands Actually Work?

Are resistance bands effective? Can resistance bands build muscle? I was skeptical at first. But, the answer is yes as long as you know how to use resistance bands correctly (that includes tracking your resistance like you would your weights).

We cover this in depth in our “How to Use Resistance Bands” article, so the following points are only a summary.

1. Don’t skimp. You need to have multiple bands, otherwise, your results will suffer. At least three bands of varying resistance levels, but ideally four bands. More on selecting the right bands soon.

2. Mark center. Once you have your bands, use a sharpie to mark the center of the band. This will help you avoid muscle imbalances. A mirror is really helpful as well. 

3. Patience is key. It takes some time to learn proper form and figure out which band is best for each muscle group. If you decide to start our Resistance Band Workout Routine, give yourself a month at the very least to learn proper form.

4. Stay safe. Make sure you check your bands regularly for damage or voids. Yes, resistance bands can break (fortunately this doesn’t come from experience).

While resistance bands are safe, if they are damaged they can snap. Use the door attachment (not a metal pole or tree trunk) and a non-abrasive mat.

Weights vs. Resistance Bands

Can resistance bands build muscle like free weights do? Are they effective? These are great questions. I am all about working smarter and not harder.

After strength training with resistance bands for the past two plus years, I can confidently answer, “Yes!”. They are just as efficient and even better when it comes to safety and functionally training your body for the real world. 

Although, resistance bands are not the best if your goal is to look like the Incredible Hulk, they are perfect if you fit the below description (like me).

Bands are ideal for the individual who travels significantly, prioritizes strength training, is more focused on functional strength training for athleticism and mobility rather than bodybuilding, and would like to reduce injury while freeing themselves from the gym or equipment.

To back up my conclusions about the efficiency of using resistance bands, let’s dive into the resistance band benefits. If you want to see how effective resistance bands are for yourself, here’s our free Resistance Bands Workout Routine below. 

Resistance Bands Workout Routine

Download and instantly access the full workout calendar and resistance tracker sheet.

- Videos of 55 leg, core, back, arm, shoulder, and chest exercises with resistance bands.
- Professional instruction to ensure proper form.
- An 8-week calendar and weight tracking sheet with built-in variety and periodization.
- Access to all future revisions to the program.
- Support. We're always here to help.

Or, download for free.

Resistance Band Benefits vs. Weights

1. Don’t limit yourself to gravity

When you’re lifting weights, your muscles are fighting the force of gravity. Gravity is only a vertical force, and therefore only provides resistance in a vertical plane. Pumping elastic requires fighting tension.

Tension forces provide resistance in all directions. This multi-directional resistance allows for more muscle and joint engagement, especially helpful to build strength and prevent injury during functional or sport/hobby specific movements.

A significant benefit of using resistance bands is that they can help you train for movements that take place outside of the vertical plane. For example, lifting a heavy backpack while twisting to position it on your back or swinging a softball bat.

Training your body to safely execute these everyday movements, what many refer to as “functional fitness,” is most worthwhile because it applies to our lives, allowing us to enjoy the results of hard work.

2. Recruit MORE muscle

I was shocked by the challenge the resistance bands delivered. The soreness was considerable, possibly more so than from lifting free weights. Since I am an engineer, I had to dig in and compare the dynamic forces between lifting free weights versus resistance bands. 

With a free weight, the force is typically in the vertical plane. This is important because most injuries from lifting weights happen when your muscles are trying to support forces outside the vertical plane. Within the vertical plane, the force is constant because gravity is constant.

With resistance bands, the force is variable, increasing linearly as the band stretches further from its relaxed state. For example, during a bicep curl with free weights, the force decreases during the latter half of the biceps range of motion because the weight falls toward your shoulder and relaxes.

A benefit of resistance bands is your muscles don’t get that relaxation opportunity. The band keeps tension on the muscle during the biceps entire range of motion. This is one reason why resistance bands recruit more muscle fibers.

The second reason: you can’t cheat. With free weights, there is always the option to use momentum to assist you instead of muscle fibers. If you’re trained to strength train with free weights properly, the use of momentum is minimized. However, when fatigued and knocking out those last few reps, it’s hard to avoid utilizing momentum.

With the bands, using momentum is not possible. One study found that subjects who included elastic resistance bench press training in their strength training plan had a significant improvement in bench press performance compared to subjects who only used free weights.

3. KISS: Keep It Simple Safe

We love simple, that’s why we stick to the structured, highly engineered, at home workouts through Beachbody On Demand. The workout program that inspired the use of bands is called LIIFT4.

However, safe always trumps simple because exercise injuries can knock us out of the game, physically and mentally. Although resistance bands can break if you’re not careful, they are safer for several reasons.

1. They put less pressure on our joints.
2. Make improper form difficult because momentum is not an option.
3. Train our muscles for movements outside the vertical plane. Meaning, they train us for real life.

As previously mentioned, most injuries happen in the horizontal plane. The classic example is rotating your back while lifting something heavy. Have you ever been injured, and prescribed resistance band workouts from your physical therapist? There is a reason for that.

Since bands are safe, they are regularly used for physical therapy, rehabilitation, and injury prevention. Resistance band training is huge for preventing rotator cuff injuries.

One study from Louisiana State University, using collegiate baseball pitchers as subjects, concluded that resistance band training strengthened the rotator cuff muscles better than free-weight dumbbell training. Safety is a significant benefit of resistance bands. 

Read more: How to start your free Beachbody On Demand trial.

4. They’re Cheap, Minimalist, and Portable

Weights are expensive, usually $0.50 – $1.00 per pound. If you are working with limited space, the PowerBlock weights (WAY better than the Bowflex weights in my experience) are a good solution.

However, much less portable than bands, which you can take them with you everywhere without any hassle.

Read more: How to build a home gym.

Resistance Bands Pros and Cons

When strength training with resistance bands, you still need a plan. Meaning, a calendar consisting of workouts with variety and instruction on what to do and when.

Making up your own workouts is a bad idea since our human nature is trained to keep us from experiencing discomfort. Structure, variety, and periodization are critical in an optimized fitness plan.

Currently, bands are providing us with a significant challenge. We have done LIIFT4 and P90X3 using the bands, both streamed through Beachbody On Demand.

If you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced strength trainer who doesn’t have a bodybuilding competition in sight, bands are perfect. If you are trying to build serious mass, a combination of bands and free weights would be necessary.

Read more: Is Beachbody On Demand worth it?

The only disadvantage that I see with bands is that they’re less trackable than weights, making it hard to measure progress. Fortunately, adjusting tension is easy, and I haven’t had problems reaching muscle failure during each move.

To make bands trackable, mark the center with a sharpie, and you can record the distance from the center. For example, during squats, my feet are currently placed 10 inches from the center of the blue band. So, I record B10.

To learn more about tracking your resistance during your resistance band workouts, check out our article, ‘How to Use Resistance Bands.

Which Resistance Bands Are Best?

If you don’t already have bands, we have used and approved the below. Remember, it’s recommended to have at least three bands, ideally four, to cover all muscle groups. 

The B-LINES® Resistance Band Kit:

  • Standard Kit – this best-selling set among women contains one 15-lb. pink, one 20-lb. magenta, and one 30-lb. red band.
  • Super Kit – this best-selling set among men contains one 20-lb. magenta, one 30-lb. red, and one 40-lb. green band.
  • Extreme Kit – this extreme set contains one 40-lb. green, one 45-lb. blue, and one 50-lb. black band.

Or the SPRI Resistance Bands:

Alex is 5’4″ and weighs 105 pounds. She mostly uses Very LightLight, and Medium. For reference, she typically bicep curls, shoulder presses, squats, and bent-over-rows 10 lb., 12 lb., 25 lb., and 20 lb. dumbbells, respectively.

Ryan is 6’1″ and weighs 175 pounds. He mostly uses MediumHeavy, and Ultra Heavy. For reference, he typically bicep curls, shoulder pressed, squats, and bent-over-rows 20 lb., 25 lb., 50 lb., and 40 lb. dumbbells, respectively.

 

additional reading

Resistance Bands Workout Routine

Download and instantly access the full workout calendar and resistance tracker sheet.

- Videos of 55 leg, core, back, arm, shoulder, and chest exercises with resistance bands.
- Professional instruction to ensure proper form.
- An 8-week calendar and weight tracking sheet with built-in variety and periodization.
- Access to all future revisions to the program.
- Support. We're always here to help.

Or, download for free.

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Hey we're Ryan and Alex

The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”

After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.

The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.

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