By Dr. Mercola
Resistance bands are made of strong, thin rubber with handles at the end, and come in a variety of resistances depending on your fitness level. With resistance bands, you can do just about any type of strength training exercise -- chest presses, rows, shoulder presses, tricep extensions, bicep curls, and even squats -- without the need for heavy weights.
If you've never tried resistance bands, or you're new to them, you may be surprised at how much benefit you can get from what is essentially a reinforced rubber band, but as is often the case, the simplest tools are often the very best for your health.
10 Benefits of Adding Resistance Bands to Your Workouts
1. Incredibly Cost-Effective — Resistance bands are inexpensive and can be purchased for under $10. Even more extensive kits, which may include DVDs and other exercise equipment, can be found for under $40, including Kathy Smith's Stay Firm Upper Body and Core Kit, which comes with a "figure 8" resistance tube that is specifically designed to challenge your core muscles.
2. Adaptable for Multiple Fitness Levels — Whether you're a beginner or an expert, resistance bands are for you. They come in a variety of resistances, including light, medium and heavy, and you can further adjust the intensity of your resistance-band workouts by giving the band more or less slack. You can even use multiple bands at once to increase the challenge.
3. Used with Familiar Exercises — You can often use familiar strength training moves with resistance bands, which means you don't need to learn a complicated new routine. For instance, resistance bands can replace the weights you use for biceps curls, or can increase the intensity of your push-ups.
4. Whole-Body Exercises — Resistance bands can be used for a comprehensive, full-body workout that challenges virtually every major muscle group in your body.
5. Save on Storage Space — Resistance bands take up virtually no space to store them, which means you can use them at home even if you have very little extra space. When your workout is done, simply stash them in a drawer until your next session.
6. Excellent for Travelling — Resistance bands are lightweight and easily portable. You can stash them in your suitcase when travelling and use them to get a good workout right in your hotel room.
7. Add Variety — Your muscles quickly adapt to movements you do often, which is why adding variety to your workouts is key for challenging your muscles. Resistance bands can be alternated with free weights and exercise machines for ongoing variety.
8. Easy to Use Alone — It's not a good idea to lift heavy weights without an exercise buddy, but resistance bands can be safely used on your own. They're ideal for exercising any time, at home or on the road.
9. Can Be Combined with Other Equipment — Resistance bands are so versatile that you can even use them along with weights, allowing you to get the benefits of two types of exercises at once.
10. An Effective Workout — Resistance bands are incredibly simple, but they're also extremely effective at working your muscles. Additionally, resistance-band training can help you boost stamina, flexibility, range of motion and more.
Resistance-Band Exercises You Can Try Out Now
In the video above, Mercola.com's personal trainer Jill Rodriguez shows you a variety of resistance-band exercises that you can easily incorporate into your workouts. Below are more instructions for some of the more popular resistance-band exercises as well, as explained by ResistanceBandsX.com:1
• Squats: While standing with your feet at shoulder width distance, hold the handles of the bands using both hands and stretch it up to shoulder level. Do a full squat but prevent your hands from moving. Do this gradually, then stand back up, and repeat the same routine.
• Bent Over Rows: Place your left or right foot on the band while the other foot is kept at the back. Slowly bend forward until you are at 45-degree angle position. Gradually pull the band up to the level of your waist while your elbows are kept in. Proceed with the rowing motion while you are squeezing your shoulders. Go back to your starting position and do the same using the other foot.
• Horizontal Chest Press: While lying with your back on the band, take both ends of it and hold it in. Slowly raise your left or right hand towards the ceiling and then bring it down slowly. Repeat the same motion using the other hand.
• Biceps Curl: While standing on the band, hold both ends using your hands. Slowly curl up your hands towards your shoulders. Ensure that both elbows are bent backwards. Keep the position for a couple of minutes before going back to your starting position and repeating the same routine.
• Vertical Chest Press: Get a chair, attach the band to it, and then stand on the band while your back is facing the chair. Take both ends of the band using your hands and then gradually extend both hands outwards. Bring your hands back to its starting position and repeat the same procedure.
• Overhead Press: Stand over the center of a tube band with feet shoulder-width apart. Grip each handle, positioning your hands at shoulder level with palms facing each other so your thumbs touch your shoulders. Press straight up, rotating your palms forward as you fully extend your arms. Lower back down slowly and repeat.
• Overhead Triceps Extension: Sit on a chair or bench, placing the center of a tube band beneath your glutes. Grab a handle in each hand, and stretch your arms up, bending your elbows so that your hands are positioned behind your neck. With palms toward the ceiling, press your arms straight up until they fully extend. Lower back down and repeat before switching sides.
Why Strength Training Is Important
I've explained why resistance bands make a smart addition to virtually any strength training program, but perhaps you're wondering why you should be strength training to begin with.
Strength training will improve muscle and bone strength, which can help prevent falls and fractures, but it also increases your body's production of growth factors, which are responsible for cellular growth, proliferation and differentiation. Some of these growth factors also promote the growth, differentiation, and survival of neurons, which helps explain why working your muscles also benefits your brain.
So, while weight-bearing exercise, like resistance or strength training, can go a long way to prevent the loss of bone quality and density, and can help reverse the damage already done, interestingly enough, strength training also has brain-boosting side effects, which can help you avoid age-related dementia.
You can use either gym equipment, resistance bands, free weights or a combination for your workouts. Gym equipment or resistance bands may be safer if you're a novice, as free weights will require better form and control. Whichever one you choose, I recommend having a trainer take you through each exercise to make sure you have the proper form performing the exercise, to avoid injury.
Try Super Slow Movements with Your Resistance-Band Workout
Finally, if you want to take your strength training up a notch, try super-slow weight training, which actually produces many of the same health and fitness benefits as high-intensity interval training, which is a key aspect of my Peak Fitness program.
These two forms of exercise may at first sound like complete opposites—super-slow versus high-intensity—but the combination of slowing down your lifts and lifting to failure turns it into a high-intensity exercise that generates a cascade of metabolic adaptations that improve your muscle strength and fitness level.