Can You Build Strength With Resistance Bands?
The human body doesn’t understand the difference between a dumbbell, a resistance band, or any other object. The only language it speaks is resistance. In other words, as long as you apply sufficient force to it in the right way, you can influence that muscle to develop.
It is absolutely possible to build muscle with resistance bands alone. It’s also possible to use resistance bands to supplement other strength training styles.
If you’re new to strength training or haven’t ever heard about resistance bands, this is the place to get all the information you need to decide whether or not resistance bands are suitable for your personality and unique circumstances.
A resistance band is the cheapest most versatile piece of training equipment you can possibly buy.
Bands offer ranges of resistance as opposed to fixed resistance levels that you’d get with a dumbbell for example. There are several ways you can adjust the resistance levels of a band. You can simply place the band under a greater stretch or use multiple bands at the same time.
Note: A resistance band can be thought of as a cheaper, more portable version of an adjustable dumbbell.
A set of high-quality bands, a wall or door anchor, and a pair of gloves will cost about 80-200 USD collectively. This is nothing compared to the other strength training styles. Most athletes typically spend 2-10 times more money to set up their home gyms.
Resistance bands can be used to work any muscle in the human body regardless of the training environment. The only potential limitations are very rough surfaces like gravel or asphalt that can damage the bands.
Note: Without a resistance band anchor you will be unable to attach your bands to sharp anchor points or doors. If you choose to train with resistance bands I strongly recommend you invest in one of these anchors.
The Safest Way You can Possibly Train
It’s very difficult to injure yourself with a resistance band because the force it applies to your joints diminishes as you reach the bottom of your repetition.
Example: During a bicep curl, a dumbbell whose force increases as it accelerates towards the earth, can damage a joint at the bottom of a repetition if it isn’t lowered under control.
Remembering to control a weight during every single repetition isn’t an easy task – especially as a beginner. Training with resistance bands drastically reduces the risk of damaging a joint during a poor quality repetition.
Note: You’ll get more out of a repetition if you perform it under control. No matter how you train, you should be in control of any given movement at all times.
Simplified Strength Training
Without a large pulley system, a weight can only apply a downward force to a muscle. A resistance band is different since it can apply force from any angle.
In other words, weight training typically forces you to position the body at different angles but resistance band training doesn’t.
This additional versatility makes the process of selecting and practicing exercises much simpler. This is especially true if you use resistance bands to supplement another strength training style.
Simplified Mind-Muscle Connections
One of the hurdles you’ll face when you take up strength training is establishing a whole host of mind-muscle connections. This is basically the process of getting used to performing certain movements correctly such that they are more efficient, targetted, and controlled.
When a band is stretched to 2-3 times its length, it really wants to go back to its original shape. If you don’t control each repetition perfectly from start to finish, the band will usually knock you off balance. This would be a clear indication that you did not perform a repetition correctly.
In essence, this can make strength training more efficient by forcing you to create high-quality mind-muscle connections fast.
Simplified Core Activation
High-quality repetitions (with the exception of a few isolation exercises) are performed with a stabilized core. This is safer, and can result in being able to perform more repetitions per set.
Note: The best gains can be achieved by training the members of your body to work in unison – but not if you don’t actively contract the musculature in your core.
Resistance bands will knock you off balance if you don’t keep your core active. Therefore, core activation is yet another thing that you won’t need to concern yourself with as you’ll be forced to learn it without thinking about it.
There are certain muscles that are hard to hit without resistance bands. This is especially true while training the various muscles that cross the hip, knee, and elbow. All the best, healthiest athletes train with resistance bands (usually to supplement their other strength training styles) – especially as they push into the intermediate levels of strength and beyond.
It’s absolutely possible to use calisthenics, free weights, and other machines to train these hard to hit muscles. That said, it’s my opinion that resistance bands will save most athletes a great deal of time and money.
Portable & Storable
There’s no other strength training style that lets you carry your entire gym in a small, lightweight bag without compromising the efficiency of your training.
Resistance bands and their accessories are lightweight and malleable. This makes them highly portable and storable.
The Drawbacks Of Resistance Bands
Note: These drawbacks will only seriously affect your training if you choose to train with resistance bands only.
Grip Strength Killer
Resistance bands are very hard on the muscles in the hands during heavy lifts in particular. When I first bought a set of resistance bands, I assumed that they would be just as easy to grip as any other piece of equipment – this wasn’t always the case.
Because a band constantly moves around in your hand as it stretches and shrinks back to its original shape. It’s like a “hang for 100 seconds get 100 dollars” challenge. The bar that the participant has to grip rotates. Most fail these challenges because they require outstanding grip strength. Now imagine replacing a barbell with this rotating bar. This is basically the problem I encountered while training strictly with resistance bands.
Your muscular development may be limited by your grip strength if you train with resistance bands only. That said, there are very simple solutions to these problems.
Example: A strong log or metal bar can easily fix this problem for a heavy deadlift by acting as an immobile surface for you to grip.
Extreme Hand Exfoliator
Training with nothing but resistance bands will probably destroy your skin. If you’re going to try going all-in on your resistance band training, get a set of gloves.
Note: At the moment, I use bands without gloves to supplement my calisthenics training and I have had no issues with my hands deteriorating. It hurt at first but I got used to it pretty quickly.
Should You Train With Resistance Bands Exclusively?
This depends almost entirely on whether or not you enjoy training with resistance bands. If you don’t, you shouldn’t hope to achieve your strength goals with them. Speaking of strength goals, you should definitely think about whether or not bands will let you achieve your strength goals in the first place.
Example: If you want to achieve a 100-pound (45.36-kilogram) lateral raise, resistance bands will work just fine. However, if you want to achieve a 100-pound (45.36-kilogram) pull-up, it may be a better idea to supplement a weighted calisthenics training style with resistance bands instead.
If you’ve decided that resistance bands are something you’re interested in trying out, feel free to head over to my ultimate guide to resistance bands. I’ve broken down everything you need to know before you buy any number of bands.
If you’re looking for any other resistance band training guides, tips, and tricks you actually won’t find them here at Athletic Grit. But! If you’re interested in learning more about the resistance band lifestyle, I strongly recommend that you checkout Undersun Fitness here.
Undersun Fitness was founded by James Grage. He focuses entirely on helping resistance band athletes, and he’s very good at it.
I hope this helps! If you feel like something was missed or if there’s a topic you’d like to see covered in the near future, please let me know in the comments section below.