Does the resistance band reign supreme when it comes to versatility? Quite possibly. There’s no end to the exercises you can do with them. Some people use banded exercises for warm-ups or cool-downs, while others integrate them as part of the actual workout. But one concern some of us have is the efficacy of this tool. After all, you’re not dealing with a huge load (read: weight). So, how effective can they actually be? Do banded exercises really do anything?
Do Banded Exercises *Really* Work?
First, we need to talk about exactly how bands are different from another piece of equipment, like dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells.
How Banded Exercises Are Unique
In the case of dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells, they rely on gravity to provide resistance. When gravity is pulling the weight down, you’re trying to resist.
However, that’s not the case with bands. They provide resistance all on their own, because they force you to constantly stay on tension.
Let’s go through an example.
You’re doing a front squat. As you’re standing there with the bar on your front rack position, yes, you’re needing to support the weight, but your body isn’t doing a whole lot of work. On the negative, you’re in control and on tension but don’t actively need to fight against the weight. The fight really only kicks in as you stand up with the weight. That’s where you’re required to put in the most effort.
Now, let’s look at a squat with a resistance band, perhaps around your knees. When you’re doing banded exercises, there should never be any slack in the band. You’re always on tension. So, you’re fighting the tension when you’re simply standing. You’re fighting it on the way down, and you’re fighting it on the way up.
Are Bands Better Than Barbells?
No. That’s a definite no. And we say this because they’re simply two different stimuli. Bands, barbells, kettlebells, and dumbbells all offer their own unique benefits. It’s not about choosing one over the other.
The Benefit of Bands
As we’ve explained, the cool thing about banded exercises is that they increase the time under tension. And ultimately, time under tension is what triggers strength gains. That’s why exercises like tempo squats are so powerful: They increase time under tension.
And this is why banded exercises can indeed make a difference in your strength, explosiveness, and muscle definition. Plus, bands are really good at targeting those smaller, hard-to-reach muscles that might look tiny but still have a big job to do. This is why banded exercises are also really stellar for your muscle health. As an added bonus, banded exercises are low-impact. Squat too much with a barbell and you can do some damage; but it’s really hard to hurt yourself while squatting with bands.
Now, of course, what bands are missing is the load. You can put 120kg on a barbell and squat it, but it’ll be hard to recreate that load with a band. So that’s why the best approach you can take is to incorporate both styles in your training.
Do banded exercises really work? Yes! They’re excellent for increasing strength, improving explosiveness, and maintaining muscle health.
Check out our six favourite banded stretches.
Check out The WOD Life’s selection of resistance bands.