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There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about exercising with resistance bands, what benefits can you expect?
Resistance bands are a type of fitness equipment that are basically elastic cords. You can use this piece of exercise equipment to modify regular exercises like squats or to do specific resistance band exercises. This article will mostly look at resistance bands as a way to make existing exercises harder.
Some people question how useful this equipment can be but modifying your workouts with resistance bands can offer you some of the following amazing benefits.
Keep in mind that even though there are benefits, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance.
1. Can help you lose more weight
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Exercising with resistance bands can help with weight loss since doing an exercise with it generally requires more energy compared to exercising without one.
A big factor in how many calories you burn during a workout is your weight. To move around your body needs energy, measured in calories. The more weight you carry, the more energy you need to fuel movement.
For example a 155-pound (70 kg) person doing squats for 15 minutes burns around 110 calories.
On the other hand a 185-pound (83 kg) person doing squats for 15 minutes burns around 131 calories.
There will likely be a difference in how much a resistance band increases calorie-burning vs the same resistance in body fat but that just shows how a resistance band can benefit weight loss.
Another way workouts help you lose weight is by increasing your muscle mass which in turn helps with burning more energy with everything you do. Resistance bands workouts help increase muscle mass too compared to ones without one.
Using a resistance band or not will likely not make or break your weight loss journey but even a small improvement in your regular exercise will make a big difference over time.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
2. Helps you build more muscle
Some types of exercise will help more with this but generally exercise will help you build and preserve muscle better than sitting still. Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
Generally the more weight you have to move, the more muscle you will build with an exercise. That’s one of the reasons why people go to a gym instead of doing bodyweight exercises at home.
Therefore resistance bands can help you increase the amount of muscle mass you build with an exercise.
What muscles you will work more with resistance bands depends a lot on the specific workouts you do. For example doing squats with a resistance band will help you build more leg muscle than without.
If you are serious about building muscle you generally want to use higher-resistance bands.
And even if you’re currently able to build muscle with bodyweight exercises, at some point your body weight may stop being enough resistance to build extra muscle mass. When this is the case bodyweight exercises modified with a resistance band or strength training exercises where you use external weights are the next step if you want to keep building extra muscle.
3. Improved cardiovascular health
Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.
Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. Working out with resistance bands makes your heart beat faster and thus helps you strengthen your cardiovascular system more. This in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements without resistance bands and build up from there.
4. Can improve athletic performance
This next benefit of resistance bands doesn’t mean that you should use one in your next sports match or competitive race. Instead using resistance bands during your preparation training can help you improve performance.
Getting better at a certain sport or exercise isn’t necessarily done by doing these activities more. Cross-training which is training in a different sport can be useful.
One study suggests that jump height in turn is related to sprint performance (8). This means that adding squats with a resistance band to your routine can improve your performance in basically any sport that involves fast running.
5. Improved bone density
This is helpful for avoiding broken bones. Depending on your age you may not be that worried about something like this right now. However, exercising right now can help you avoid broken bones in 40 years. The things you do today have an impact on the future.
The way many parts of your body work is that by challenging them you set in motion processes that strengthen these body parts. The same goes for your bones, by putting pressure on them you make them stronger in the long-term.
Exercising with resistance bands puts more pressure on your bones than exercising without them. This in turn will benefit your bone density in the long-term.
Generally, workouts on land with a lot of jumping and strength training exercises are the best for improving bone density. Next you have exercises that put less pressure on your bones like walking. Lastly you have exercise in the water like swimming which will still benefit bone density but likely not as much as the other categories.
6. Relatively budget-friendly
Another potential hurdle for many workouts is the budget required.
Some exercises require inexpensive equipment starting at a jumping rope to at-home workout machines of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Even the investment required for gym subscriptions adds up after a while.
Money put into improving your health is generally a great investment but sometimes you can get the same effects with less. Resistance bands are relatively inexpensive. This can be a great benefit depending on your personal situation.
7. Makes your workouts more time-efficient
Another benefit of working out with resistance bands is that it can help you decrease the time it takes to get in a good workout. A good exercise session isn’t necessarily about duration.
For example to build muscle you basically want to put enough strain on your muscles so muscle growth processes start. This doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time out of your day.
A more intense cardio workout can train your cardiovascular system in a shorter amount of time than one at a lower intensity.
Using resistance bands during your workout can help with both of these things. This benefit of resistance bands is especially useful if you have trouble finding enough time throughout your day to fit in a workout.
8. Healthier lungs
To move around your body needs oxygen, the more intensely the more oxygen. Your body absorbs oxygen from the air through your lungs.
Improving how well your lungs function leads to benefits like improved exercise performance and getting tired slower.
9. Improves coordination and balance
Although with some exercises more than others, you will likely challenge your balance and coordination skills with resistance bands workouts (20). By doing this frequently you get better at it like with most skills. Many people forget to implement balance training into their workout routine but it is a helpful fitness component.
The benefits of improved coordination don’t just show up in other technical sports. Daily activities as simple as walking the stairs require coordination.
10. Compact storage
Some pieces of equipment require an entire empty garage to store them. Another benefit of resistance bands is that they are a very compact piece of workout equipment.
Even if you have a very small living space, you can find a place to store resistance bands. When it’s time to exercise you can go outside, do your workout, and then store them back wherever you have some space left.
11. Helps you build faster muscle
Not all muscle is the same, it can be made of different types of muscle fibers. These different types have different properties with accompanying advantages and disadvantages.
A common categorization of these muscle fibers is “type 1, slow-twitch muscle” and “type 2, fast-twitch muscle”. Your muscle groups are not made of one or the other, they are made of a certain ratio of type 1 vs type 2 fibers. The way you train can influence this ratio (21).
The type 1, slow-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for longer duration workouts like jogging, swimming at a low tempo, cycling at a low tempo,… Basically activities at intensities you can do for an extended period of time.
The type 2, fast-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for short duration, fast body movement workouts like sprints, powerlifting, javelin throwing,…Basically activities at intensities you can only do for a short period of time.
As a strength training beginner bodyweight exercises will initially help you build type 2 muscle fibers. However, once you get to a point where bodyweight exercises start being a less intensive exercise they will help you build more type 1 muscle fibers. Resistance bands can help you with building faster muscle for a longer amount of time.
12. You can use resistance bands almost anywhere
A downside of many exercises is that they need you to be in a specific location, or use specific equipment that you generally don’t have at home.
This makes it so you often have to drive, cycle, or walk somewhere for a while. Let’s say you exercise twice a week and going to your workout takes 10 minutes to get there and 10 minutes to go back. That’s 40 minutes less free time per week.
This extra transportation also makes it easier to say no to your workout. Being able to be consistent is key for a good workout plan.
However, with resistance bands you generally don’t have to worry about these things. It is true that being able to anchor your resistance bands can open the door to many exercises but in essence, you can use them as good as anywhere. All you need is a few blocks of free time throughout the day and you can get in a resistance bands workout.
All in all it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one piece of equipment to your workout routine.
One thing you need to remember is that even though there are benefits to using resistance bands, your injury risk is generally also higher.
Especially if you are more of an exercise beginner you want to start with soft workouts without resistance bands and build up from there.
Resistance bands workouts may also require more rest between sessions than workouts without. You can for example implement 3 resistance bands sessions a week instead of every day. How many times a week you should do resistance bands workouts will vary from person to person.
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If you like resistance bands workouts, great. If not there are plenty of other workouts to consider that can also offer a lot of benefits.