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Do resistance bands actually work?

There is no doubt that you have seen resistance bands all over the internet. The hashtag #resistancebands has 500,000 posts from around the world, with men and women alike using them during heavy lifts, for at home workouts, warm ups, cool downs and everything in between. It’s safe to say they’ve taken the health and fitness world by storm, but let’s get down to the real question – do they actually work? Or are they a fitness fad that’s on its way out? Let’s review.

What are resistance bands?

Resistance bands are the bands used in elastic-resistance training (ERT), a type of training that has been integrated in powerlifting for decades, but has only recently made its way into the mainstream. They are typically made from rubber or material and work to provide resistance to increase the intensity of an exercise, working in a similar way to weights, but with a few key differences.

When a resistance band is used in an exercise, it causes a variation in the load being lifted throughout the range of motion. To see this in an example – when you squat with a barbell on your back, the resistance is the barbell working against gravity. In the concentric part of a squat – the lowering down – you are working with gravity, but only in the eccentric part of a squat – the movement upwards – are you working actively against resistance in the form of moving the barbell through gravity.

Do resistance bands actually work?

So now you know how they work, the next question is whether they actually work? Resistance bands get a lot of stick, but in reality, they are extremely effective and a multitude of studies can back this up.

A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy in 2017 examined the effects of using resistance bands on muscle activation during a squat. The participants were asked to perform a three rep maximum squat and a bodyweight squat for maximum reps, while the electromyography and kinematics of four muscles were measured. The researchers found that resistance bands significantly increased muscle activity compared to unbanded squats, provided knee stability and increased activation of stabilizing muscles.

As well as increasing muscle activation, studies also show that using resistance bands in a warm up increases explosive exercise performance. This is because resistance bands help to generate force efficiently through different ranges of motion. In fact, according to 2008 research, if you combine free weights with resistance bands – you’re going to experience superior increases in strength, power and muscle mass, compared to just using free weights.

So to summarize: yes, resistance bands work. It’s why 95 percent of all elite athletes routinely used resistance bands as part of their training, and why they’re taking the fitness world by storm. If you’re not on the resistance band train yet, it’s about time you get on it.

Emilina Lomas

Freelance Health Writer & Holistic Nutritionist

@emilinawellness | emilinalomas.com

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