Resistance exercise bands

 

Resistance exercise bands are not essential kit in helping you achieve your fitness goals, but they can be a wonderful introduction to anaerobic training. If used properly they can be an efficient and inexpensive way to help improve strength, flexibility and mobility.

Stretching the band and the muscle

Resistance bands come in a variety of sizes and widths suitable for all ranges of fitness. The secret is to find the right one for you. And while they are great for stretching, helping to improve flexibility and mobility of muscles and joints, as the bands can increase or reduce resistance, this can also assist joints into new ranges of movement, while also helping to build muscle.

The importance of resistance training

Resistance training builds muscle and strengthens bones, which becomes even more important as we age. Muscles help prevent the onset of frailty, and as our body’s shock absorbers, reduce the risk of fractures if we do fall. When it comes to preserving or increasing muscle mass, there really is no better alternative than resistance training for men or women. However, the idea of lifting weights can be off-putting to many people, so resistance bands can be a great way to start.

Reasons to use resistance bands

Muscles generate the mechanical stress required to keep our bones healthy, thus when muscle activity is reduced it increases our susceptibility to mass of bone loss.

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, resistance training in addition to building muscle mass can promote mobility, improve health related fitness and improve bone health.

Resistance bands for weightlifters

Powerlifters have been using resistance bands to help improve strength for a long time, but recently they have been popping up more often in most gyms. Their special attraction is the extra resistance they can add throughout the range of a movement. If we take the bench press as an example, by placing a band on either side of the bar and fixing it to the ground, resistance will increase through the concentric contraction of the lift.

If you have issues with ‘explosiveness’ in the bench press, or at lockout, resistance bands can be a useful to help improve that part of the lift.

Resistance bands can also make a movement easier and reduce resistance, for example, in the case of an assisted pull up. Hook the band on the pull-up bar, then place your foot in the band; hey presto, the band can help your pull-up. This is a great example of how bands can help your body to accommodate heavier loads, so over the long term helping you increase your strength.

One of my favoured uses of a thicker band is to help people reach depth in a squat. If you don’t have full range of movement in the squat, attach a band to a fixed pole, step inside the band, facing the pole, placing the band around your backside. Then squat to full depth. You will discover the band offers extra assistance and support, so helping correct weaknesses – most likely a lack of tension in the glutes or ankle mobility – in being able to hold the squat position.

When it comes to fitness there are some things we all want to achieve, ranging from boosting strength to improving flexibility and mobility of muscles and joints. Resistance exercise bands offer special benefits if used correctly. Adopt the right bandwidth and you can achieve a lot, while they may even help nudge you into a whole new world of anaerobic exercise.

Benefits from increasing resistance

Fighting muscle sarcopenia

As we age our body deteriorates, with muscle sarcopenia (the loss of muscle as we age) increasingly common. Muscle is vital to our lives and health, so losing it degrades both. Age-related loss of muscle mass and strength robs us of the ability to perform even the most basic tasks as we get older. And while it is most often evident in the physically inactive, it can even affect those who remain physically active throughout their life.

Fighting osteoporosis

This should be of concern to both sexes. While it’s well known that women are prone to the loss of bone mass as we age, men are not immune. Although the risk is lower, it should not be ignored.

Helping to improve balance

The simple skill of maintaining good balance reduces the risk of falls, which as we age can be life changing for anyone also suffering from muscle sarcopenia and osteoporosis. Think bone fractures, joint replacements, as well as unnecessary pain and severe deterioration of the quality of life.

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Alex is a registered Master Trainer and Nutritional Advisor with Level 4 qualifications in obesity and diabetes. He is also a strength specialist and a Ni Dan in Shotokan Karate.

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