The Pros and Cons of Resistance Band Training
Resistance bands have somewhat of a bad reputation amongst gym keen beans; their garish colours are most often associated with ‘boxercise’ classes, or something along the same lines, and it’s questioned how much they can really help you to add muscle mass… Well, whilst Chris Hemsworth probably didn’t build arms the size of tree-trunks for Thor using resistance bands, they can be a really handy and effective addition to training plans, that can help to achieve goals other than bulging biceps, because who wants bulging biceps anyway, right?!
What are the advantages of resistance band training?
To kick things off nice and easy; they’re cheap, portable and extremely versatile, allowing you to train anywhere, any time. Any complaints yet?
Core killer: it’s a training that is designed to train the whole body, not just specific muscle groups at a time. Therefore, in order to ensure your body is working as one kinetic chain versus individual segments, it’s crucial that all muscle groups, both upper and lower, must work together through every movement to stabilise the body. This requires constant engagement of the core, which might not sound like a killer, but wait until you try it…
Focus on form: one aspect that makes resistance bands particularly unique is that they are highly ‘directional’. By this, we mean that once they’re set up and you’ve chosen your exercise, you then have to train through a very specific range of motion in order to maintain the desired resistance. In turn, your form and posture must be immaculate to achieve this specific range of motion. Focusing on form and posture is something often left forgotten in most gym workouts, but is crucial to avoiding injuries and balanced muscle growth.
Protects your joints: because it’s not completely gravity dependent, resistance brand training creates considerably less joint compression than free weights, and can therefore be ideal for people recovering from an injury, or even just for those who fancy giving their poor, battered joints a bit of a well-deserved rest.
Drawbacks of resistance band training?
Limited muscle growth: as we mentioned earlier, if you’re looking for Popeye’s arms, or Robert Förstemann’s legs for that matter, solely training with resistance bands isn’t quite the way forward. Bands are indeed more hardcore than many people think, and they can still cause muscle hypertrophy. However, they’re just not quite hardcore enough, and free weights in comparison, remain the best catalyst to achieving muscle hypertrophy and a Schwarznegger-esque physique.
Quantifying gains and progress: for those of us that need numbers to quantify progress, resistance band training may fall slightly short. Because it depends on resistance that is dictated by length of stretch and the thickness and width of the band, it’s often difficult to determine the exact amount of resistance (in kg’s for instance). Therefore, it can be tricky to reflect back on previous training levels to determine progress over time.
To conclude then, resistance band training of course, like almost every training technique, has its shortcomings. However, it’s clear that there are many benefits that are often unfairly overlooked, and resistance bands certainly have they’re place. For most, they will never replace actual weight training, but they can be a fantastic accompaniment to almost any and every kind of training; helping with injury prevention/re-habilitation, flexibility, joint-protection and core-strength. Why not give it a go, you’ll be surprised how much burn you can get from some measly elastic bands…