Why NOT Train with Bands?
Understand this…back in the day, pumping iron was the only way to get stronger, bigger and in great shape. Body weight training, kettlebells and bands were not on the strength training radar for me and many others I trained with. As a matter of fact, I like many of my training partners laughed at bands back then. …. I am not laughing anymore.
As a physical therapist and athletic trainer, the more I learned about how the body functioned, the more I realized free weight training was not the only answer. Honestly, it was my physical therapy patients that really changed my mind set. For most of them, free weights were ineffective at helping them get back to doing what they truly wanted to do. In most cases, it was a painful experience for them to use weights and since I wasn’t into creating more pain for them, weights were not an option.
Fortunately, I discovered resistance bands and instantly my ability to rehabilitate patients faster—with minimal to no pain and with significantly less verbal cuing—made it obvious what I needed to start using to help people get better.
Reasons to Train with Bands
Muscles are dumb. They do not recognize what is causing them to adapt, only that they have to.
What you are about to read in terms of training with bands will hopefully make a lot more sense if you keep that statement in mind.
Let’s talk about band training as it relates to how the body works neuro-muscularly. (I promise I won’t go mad scientist on you)
- Bands strengthen your muscles where they are weakest which is at the end range of movement. Considering how often we function with our arms and legs fully extended, and that 95% of injuries happen when our legs or arms are extended out away from our center of gravity, it makes sense to train the body to be strong and stable where it counts the most. Its call being long and strong and its key to being joint stable.
- Bands allow you to train the body with true horizontal resistance where free weights can only create a vertical gravity dependent resistance. Knowing every step we take require our body to deal with horizontal forces of momentum and ground reaction, it becomes important we strength train with more than free weight vertical resistance.
- A band’s ascending resistance (resistance that gets hard the further you stretch the band) trains the body how to accelerate and decelerate (slow down). With a progressively harder resistance, it trains us how to accelerate movement when performing the concentric or working phase of the movement and how to decelerate or slow down by having to handle a resistance that is forcing you to move faster during the eccentric or recovery phase of a strength exercise. This is a very important aspect of strength training that is needed when you look at how often we must speed up or slow down our body throughout the day.
- Bands allow us to train like athletes because we can simulate movements that are very athletic like shuffling, jumping, running, throwing or hitting. Bands also allow us to do basic movements like pushing, pulling and pressing while in a standing posture. Being able to train using athletic movements allows the body to maintain balance, coordination and agility while improving muscle communication. An athletic performing body has muscles that work very well together.
- Each band creates 30 to 40 lbs of variable resistance that will push the strongest and adapt to the weakest of individuals. It also allows you to quickly change resistance on the fly to maximize each rep, set and workout while keeping the exercise challenging at all times. Meanwhile, free weight resistance remains constant and does not adapt as fatigue sets in. Instead you have to stop and change the weight or start compensating when your muscles stay “no more”
Understanding that information and now combining it with these real world facts, make answering the question of “Why train with bands” even easier:
- Flat, continuously looped resistance bands are the most convenient and portable training tool on the planet. There light weight construction and unlimited resistance allows training to take place anywhere and at any intensity.
- The pliability of resistance bands allow them to simulate any strength training or functional movement which in turn allows muscle coordination and communication to be easily trained and transferred into real life activities or recreational sports.
- Bands are a simple tool which makes them a very user friendly and non-threatening strength training option that can provide an optimal resistance challenge when individuals are ready to get more aggressive with their strength training program.
- As the body ages, strength training must adapt as it relates to allowing muscles and joints to recover while also allowing movements to be modified. Resistance bands can do that as well as adapt to anyone. This instantly makes them by far the most joint friendly training approach for any age.
I understand that many individuals that exercise and specifically strength train regularly have never considered the impact resistance bands could have on their body. To date most have considered it a last alternative. Hopefully this article has opened up your mind and created a level of curiosity that resistance band training may be more of necessity than a last alternative strength training tool.
Dead-weight tools like free weights, body weights, sandbags, kettlebells and machine based resistance all create the same muscle response on the body. On the contrary, resistance bands create a completely different and unique response that has actually been proven to enhance the strength created by dead weight.
However, training with dead weight tools has not been shown to improve flexibility, balance, muscle coordination or distal joint stability as well as resistance bands can. Combining that with the fact that resistance bands are easier on your joints and muscles makes them even more intriguing for those active aging bodies that want to keep their bodies strong.
Knowing all this, why would you not want to at least consider making resistance band training a significant part of your overall strength and conditioning routine regardless of what the goal is?