You don’t need to invest in hundreds of fitness equipment (or a gym membership) to get consistent strength training going. In fact, a couple of resistance bands can be more than enough to get you started. There is so much you can do with resistance bands, thanks to their affordability and versatility. And as it turns out, you can match them perfectly to your workout!
Each muscle group around your body requires a different type of stabilisation, force, and resistance, in order to be challenged. Having a set of the popular loop resistance bands is a great first step, but there are other types of bands you should also consider if you want to switch things up and give your body a well-rounded weight-free workout.
So, how can you use resistance bands differently to challenge your training? And what are other resistance band options out there? Let’s dive in.
What you need to know about resistance bands
If you’ve never used resistance bands before, chances are you have come across them. Resistance bands are essentially wide rubber bands you loop around your body during strength, HIIT, pilates, and stretching exercises.
Designed to create an elastic pull against gravity, resistance bands help contract, strengthen, and challenge various muscle groups without any weights.
This type of accessories can be as efficient at levelling up your strength training as other equipment. A recent study on different body types noted that resistance bands are able to promote similar strength gains to conventional resistance training methods.
Resistance bands helps you achieve this result through:
- Stabilisation: They provide both challenge and assistance during strengthening exercises. When you loop them around your thighs for example, you’re more inclined to keep a correct posture and go at a regulated pace to keep the band in place. Alternatively, when hooked under your feet, they create stabilisation and allow for an exercise to be more accessible.
- Intensity: Resistance bands are elastic. The more you stretch them, the more resistance you’re going to get, and the harder the exercise is going to be. Additionally, the bands often come in packs of low/medium/high resistance, which offer plenty of options for you to adjust the intensity to your needs.
- Stretching: Resistance bands are incredibly versatile and don’t have to be used solely for strength training. This fitness accessory is an excellent tool for muscular rehabilitation, physical therapy and overall mobility training. It can assist in releasing muscular tensions and gently elongating limbs for quicker training recovery.
Resistance bands vs weights
When it comes to strength training, you might be wondering if you should ditch one for the other. Both weights and resistance bands have their place in your workout. However, they should be used in different ways.
- A great option for beginners, injury recovery, and at-home training
- Ideal to build strong and lean muscles
- Help master new and challenging moves
- Activates smaller muscle groups
Resistance bands can be more efficient than weight if you’re looking to activate all your muscles. Weights, for example, require a fixed motion that engages large and predictable muscle groups. Resistance bands offer a little more instability to your muscles, forcing its fibres to activate to keep the band stable.
A small study observed 29 men and women performing 10 reps of upper-body resistance exercises flies and reverse flies, with both dumbbells and resistance bands. The study pointed out that, while larger muscles (such as pectoralis major and deltoideus posterior) were slightly less activated by resistance bands, reps with this accessory significantly activated smaller muscles, including deltoid anterior, medius, and trapezius.
- A great options for all training levels
- Offer a constant and targeted strengthening
- Easy to track progressive weight overload
- Help build significant muscle mass
Weights are ideal to target and strengthen large muscle groups. They offer a fixed stability that is more controlled than resistance bands, thanks to their set weight. A study points out that lifting weights daily, even just for a few minutes, can increase muscle mass by up to 10%. In short, weights can help you build targeted muscle mass in a short period of time.
A well rounded strength training program would include both weight and resistance bands. That said, there is a lot you can do with just resistance bands.
Different types of resistance bands
Loop resistance bands
Workout: Upper body and lower body
Target: Glutes, arms, legs, shoulders, core and their small muscles.
Probably the most popular options of resistance bands out there, loop bands come in packs of three resistance levels. They can be set up around your arms, legs, and ankle to challenge any HIIT or pilates moves (think squats, mountain climbers, lunges, kick backs, clamshell, etc).
The PTP series of MicroBand X+ are perfect to get you started with resistance bands. They feature up to 5 levels of resistance, a weight rating for convenience, and are made of natural latex. The loop is 32cm x 6.5cm wide, giving you a stable, durable, and affordable option to strengthen your upper and lower body.
Tube resistance bands
Workout: Upper body
Target: Biceps, triceps, back, shoulders + more
Any dumbbell exercises can be done with tube resistance bands. Tube resistance bands are meant to be anchored to a door or under your foot to create multi-directional resistance aka you have complete control and stabilisation over the muscle group activated.
The PTP PowerTubes+ and Elite come with various levels - from ultra light to ultimate - to create resistance as heavy as 14.9 kg. The PowerTube+ includes a comfortable handle grip, while the PowerTube elite replaces it with heavy-duty carabiners to easily add/subtract resistance. The perfect type of bands to fully fire up your upper body.
Therapy/flat resistance bands
Workout: Lower body and upper body
Target: Legs, arms, core, shoulders and their small muscles.
Therapy/flat resistance bands are wide unlooped bands commonly used during pilates and mobility exercises to offer a deep stretch. However, this type of band is incredibly versatile and can create stabilisation and controlled challenges to every muscle group, no matter the exercise. Back extension, chest press, crossbody triceps, donkey kicks... Those are some of the workouts that can be enhanced with a therapy/flat resistance band.
The PTP MediBand+ come in 5 levels creating a resistance up to 10 kg. They are made 100% premium latex and tough enough to handle your strongest move.
Thin resistance bands
Workout: Upper body
Target: Lats, shoulders, pecs, biceps, triceps and other small muscles.
Thin resistance bands provide incredible support during chin-ups, pull-ups or even monkey bar exercises. They are thin yet tough and give you that assisted boost needed to propel you up. Give your upper body a 360 degree strengthening with thin resistance bands.
The PTP SuperBand comes with 5 levels of resistance and provides a propelling force up to 34 kg. Made from 100% superior quality latex for smooth movement, the PTP SuperBands are perfect if you’re looking for a safe yet intense training at home.
Whether you’re looking to build strength with fewer repetitions, target smaller muscle groups, or have more flexibility around your workouts, resistance bands are a versatile equipment option your strength training needs.
Laura Alario is a freelance writer, wellness consultant and former yoga-pilates instructor. Find her at lauraalrwrites.com