The best exercise equipment is the equipment you feel comfortable with and will use.
One of the easiest and least expensive ways to get a workout is with resistance bands.
Too many people think that dumbbells and barbells are a more effective way to build strength and muscle than working with resistance bands.
Don’t be too quick to dismiss them though.
Resistance bands have some advantages you won’t get from working out on weight machines, barbells, and dumbbells.
Let’s look at why even serious weight lifters should invest in resistance bands.
It’s not easy to haul around barbells or dumbbells, and you certainly can’t transport around a heavy weight machine.
However, carrying resistance bands with you is a breeze.
Just drop them in your gym bag and take them on vacation or even to the office.
When you get home, toss them in a closet or under the bed.
How convenient it is to get a quick workout in your office at lunch!
Resistance bands make it easy to do that.
With resistance bands, you have a portable gym you can take anywhere.
The Work Your Muscles in More Planes of Motion
Machines have their limitations, but so do barbells and dumbbells.
Barbells and machines are the most restrictive because they limit you to a single path.
Dumbbells offer more flexibility since you can vary the angle with which you work your muscles.
For example, when doing bicep curls, you can rotate the position of your palms and quickly turn a standard curl into a hammer curl.
However, resistance bands allow you to work your muscles in multiple planes of motion without restriction.
That gives you more workout flexibility and the ability to finetune your workouts by strengthening your muscles at different angles.
Resistance Bands Maintain Constant Tension on the Muscles You’re Working
When you work with a dumbbell or barbell, the force on the muscles you’re working varies at different phases of the movement.
For example, when you do a bicep curl, the force on your muscles at the top of the movement falls to almost zero, while the force is greatest at the midpoint of the curl.
With resistance bands, the tension stays on the muscle during all stages of the movement and never falls to zero since the tension isn’t gravity-dependent.
Even at the top of a bicep curl, your biceps have to exert force to oppose the tension in the elastic band.
The fact that you have to stabilize your body as the tension rises means the stabilizing muscles in your core get more of a workout too.
Compared to the cost of dumbbells and barbells, resistance bands are quite inexpensive.
You can buy an entire set of bands with varying degrees of tension for under $50.00.
With some, you have the ability to anchor the bands to a door handle to expand the number of exercises you can do.
You can also get ones with detachable handles.
There’s a lot of potential packed into a set of resistance bands.
Look for ones that give you a free carrying case so you can easily carry them around.
They Help You Avoid Plateaus
Studies show people who work with resistance bands can gain as much strength as those who work with weight machines, barbells, or dumbbells.
In fact, a study found that resistance bands activate muscles in the upper body even more than free weights, likely due to the instability working with resistance bands creates.
So, you aren’t selling yourself out by working with resistance bands.
Varying the stimulus you place on your muscles, by working them in multiple planes, helps you avoid strength-training plateaus.
The Bottom Line
Don’t be fooled by how light and portable they are.
Resistance bands work and they give you the flexibility to exercise wherever you want.
Plus, they’re easy on the joints.
They’re less intimidating to work with if you’re just starting out too.
With resistance bands, you don’t have to join a gym or invest in expensive equipment that takes up room in your home.
You’ve got your own portable gym!
Strength and Conditioning Research.com. “Elastic Resistance Training”
J Hum Kinet. 2018 Mar; 61: 5-13.Published online 2018 Mar 23. doi: 10.1515/hukin-2017-0137.
J Sports Sci Med. 2019 Mar; 18(1): 160-171.Published online 2019 Feb 11.