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An Introduction to Resistance Band Training

Resistance band training is a form of strength training that utilizes large rubber bands, which can be used to strengthen muscles anywhere on the body. Resistance band training provides an effective, portable, and versatile alternative to traditional gym equipment.1,2 Research has shown that resistance band training might help improve hand grip and leg strength and walking speed in women with sarcopenia aged 60 to 90 years,3 as well as potentially improving physical fitness and metabolic biomarkers (e.g., blood glucose, total cholesterol) in older women (average age 75 years).4 Exercising with resistance bands could also improve flexibility, mobility, and muscle stability.5 Furthermore, resistance band training is a great method to for beginners to build strength, as you can utilize less resistance at the start of an exercise than would be possible with a dumbbell. Then, as you build strength, you can increase the resistance of the band.5

Resistance bands come in several varieties. Flat loop bands can be placed around wrists, ankles, or thighs; figure eight bands can be used similarly and have grips that can make certain exercises easier to perform. Tube bands with handles are useful for exercises that could be performed with a dumbbell (e.g., bicep curls, shoulder presses).5 Bands come in different tensions levels as well, with higher tension bands being more effective for exercises requiring more strength.1

Although resistance band training is very safe when done properly, accidents can happen. It is important to keep a firm grip on the band, or else it can snap back and hit your face or body. Additionally, old bands are more prone to snapping during an exercise, so check for tears before beginning a workout.6

Here are seven beginner-friendly exercises to help kick-start your resistance band routine.

Bicep Curl

Stand with both feet, hip width apart, on the center of the resistance band, holding an end in each hand with your arms at your side. Raise your forearms upward by bending your arm at the elbow, making sure to keep your back straight. Lower your forearms and repeat several times.

Chest Press

Hold each end of the band, with the band wrapped around your back. Lift your elbows to shoulder height and bend them 90 degrees so that your hands are in front of you. Extend your arms, then return to the starting position and repeat several times.

Pull-apart

Hold the band at each end in front of you at chest level. Extend your arms away from your torso. Hold for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Lateral Raise

Stand with both feet, hip width apart, on the center of the resistance band, holding an end in each hand with your arms at your side. Raise your arms until they are parallel to the floor, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Squat

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place a loop band around your thighs. Push your hips backward as if going to sit in a chair, until your knees are at a 90-degree angle; make sure your knees stay behind your toes. Hold for a moment, then return to standing. Repeat.

Lateral Walk

Standing, place a loop band around your shins. Step to the side so the band feels tight, then squat about halfway. Holding the squat, step across the room. Repeat, taking the same number of steps on the other side.

Clamshell

Lay on one hip and forearm with a loop band around your thighs. Bend your legs so that your knees are placed forward. Make sure your feet are stacked. Lift your top knee upward, keeping your feet together. Slowly lower, then repeat. Make sure to do reps on both sides.2

SOURCES

  1. Cleveland Clinic. How effective are resistance bands for strength training? 4 May 2022. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/should-you-try-resistance-bands-for-strength-training/. Accessed 20 Nov 2023.
  2. Natale N, Jeon H. 30 resistance band workouts to strengthen your body, according to fitness experts. Prevention. Updated 28 Mar 2023. https://www.prevention.com/fitness/workout-clothes-gear/g39590790/resistance-band-exercises/. Accessed 20 Nov 2023.
  3. Valdés-Badilla P, Guzmán-Muñoz E, Hernandez-Martinez J, et al. Effectiveness of elastic band training and group-based dance on physical-functional performance in older women with sarcopenia: a pilot study. BMC Public Health. 2023;23(1):2113.
  4. Stojanović MDM, Mikić MJ, Milošević Z, et al. Effects of chair-based, low-load elastic band resistance training on functional fitness and metabolic biomarkers in older women. J Sports Sci Med. 2021;20(1):133–141. 
  5. Finlay L. Choosing and using resistance bands. Verywell Fit. Updated 20 March 2023. https://www.verywellfit.com/choosing-and-using-resistance-bands-1229709. Accessed 20 Nov 2023.
  6. Migala J. How to get started with resistance band workouts: an absolute beginner’s guide. Everyday Health. Reviewed 13 Apr 2022. https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/how-to-get-started-with-resistance-band-workouts-an-absolute-beginners-guide/. Accessed 20 Nov 2023.   

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