In the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, “resistance was futile” against the Borg arch villains. But when it comes to exercise and staying in good shape, resistance is NOT futile, and can be one of the best ways to have a great workout—anytime and anywhere.
Resistance bands are the “great democratizer” of the exercise world. Sure, you could join an expensive gym and have access to their shiny exercise machines and racks of free weights. Or you can buy a set of resistance bands for about the same cost as one single month’s membership at the gym and effectively perform all of the same exercises (and more) any time you want and wherever you want to do them. With resistance bands, you can easily exercise at home without having to convert a whole room into a mini-gym to hold all the equipment. And the bands are lightweight, so you can toss them in your luggage and take them with you when you travel. This makes it easy to exercise in your hotel room!
Ease of use is not the only advantage of resistance bands over weights and machines.
With resistance bands, you can perform pretty much all of the same exercises you can perform using free weights or specialized exercise machines at the gym. For example, by simply standing on one end of the resistance band and pulling upwards, you can do biceps curls. By securing the band at the top of a door jam, you can pull downwards to do pulldowns or triceps pushdowns. You can wrap the band around a vertical pole and perform the same motions as bench presses or butterfly presses to work on your chest. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your own imagination. You can even use your resistance bands in conjunction with other pieces of exercise equipment you have, such as stability balls, Bosu balls, steps, or wall mounts.
Another advantage of resistance bands over free weights or exercise machines is that you get to decide where the resistance comes from, and keep it constant during the full range of motion. With free weights, resistance is determined by gravity, so for example when you are performing biceps curls the resistance is stronger during the upswing of the curl (when you are working against gravity) than during the downswing of the curl (when you are being assisted by gravity). With bands, the resistance is constant, forcing you to use more muscle groups, and improving your coordination and balance at the same time you build strength.
The main benefit of bands, however, is the variety that can be built into a workout.
We could list dozens of ways to use your resistance bands in this article, but our advice is to just use your imagination to think up your own new ways to exercise using them. One quick Google search will give you dozens of “starter” ideas, but then (if you’re like most people) you’ll discover the fun of inventing your own workout routines and start inventing new exercises of your own to add variety to your workout.
And variety is essential for several reasons. First, it keeps you from getting bored with the same old routine and makes it more likely that you’ll develop an exercise habit that sticks. With resistance bands and a little creativity, you can have a different workout almost every day, and never fall into the rut that many people experience with their exercise routines at the gym. All it takes is a little creativity. Just for starters, you can change the anchor point of the bands and create resistance from wherever you want it—the side, overhead, below, wherever. If you play sports, you can also use the bands to mimic movements you want to strengthen, such as your golf swing or tennis serve. No machine in a gym allows you to do that through the full range of motion.
Resistance bands—especially the type with detachable handles that can be “mixed and matched” to produce different levels of resistance—are great for all fitness levels. You can benefit from them as a beginner, but if you use a little creativity you can benefit even more from them as an advanced exerciser. So go boldly forth and invent new exercises, because no matter what the Borg said in Star Trek, resistance is NOT futile.