Finding the Right Resistance Band
Resistance bands are often one of the most forgotten pieces of equipment at the gym (until last year, of course!). However, bands of all shapes, sizes, and purposes can take your prehab and strength exercises to the next level. For those that do not have access to heavier equipment, they add some external resistance without taking up too much space in your workout area/home gym.
What exactly are resistance bands? Resistance bands are pliable, flexible loops or straps made of synthetic materials that create tension when they are stretched. The further a band is pulled, the more tension and resistance is generated. The act of pulling or pushing against the pull of the band places stress on your muscles and joints (the good kind of stress! Don’t worry, your joints aren’t worried about paying the bills). Different styles, lengths, and thicknesses are suited for different exercises and strength levels. As a general rule, thicker bands will give you the most resistance So where to begin? Use the list below to help you decide which band (or bands) work best for you, your goals, and your program!
Fun fact: Although different brands use different colors to code for thickness level (which can make purchasing online frustrating) in general, the darker the band color is, the thicker it is. That’s why reds and blacks normally mean “heavy” while yellows and greens mean “light.” If you are purchasing bands and are unable to find a description of the different intensities, use this trick! Happy resistance banding!
Mini bands have the shortest circumference of all the different types. They come in a wide variety of thicknesses and are used around your arms and your legs for the most part. Mini bands are used for exercises such as side steps, wall slides, standing abductions, and anything else that creates tension by forcing you to push your limbs away from each other (i.e not letting the band pull your knees together as you squat). Mini bands tend to be on the more affordable side, and are small enough to work with whatever type of workout space you have.
Long bands are long, closed loops. Much like min bands, they come in a wide variety of tension levels. These bands are one of the most common types, and are incredibly versatile for a huge array of exercises, from assisted pullups to woodchops to good mornings. Although they can function in a similar manner to mini bands, the major difference between the two is that long bands can be tied from a fixed point such as a rack, much like a cable machine. The further you pull the band away from the fixed point, the more resistance you have!
If you’ve ever gone to physical therapy, chances are very good you have at least seen these types of bands. Straight bands, also known as therabands, are thin wide bands that are open at each end without a handle. They can be tied to form loops or shorten the length of the band without ruining it. Straight bands (in general) tend to be very flexible, making them ideal for corrective work, prehab/rehab work, assisted stretching, and exercises that isolate one joint or muscle group. Example exercises for straight bands include pullaparts, resisted plantar flexion/dorsiflexion (pointing your toes away from you/towards you), archer stretches, assisted calf stretches, etc. Bonus: if you tie them in a small loop they double as mini bands!
Amazon.com: TheraBand Resistance Bands Set, Professional Non-Latex Elastic Band For Upper & Lower Body Exercise, Strength Training without Weights, Physical Therapy, Pilates, Rehab, Yellow & Red & Green, Beginner
Handle bands are straight, non-connected bands with handles at each end. They can be used as a substitution for any cable exercise just like long bands, as well as banded bent over rows, banded front squats, and other exercises where it may be awkward with a closed loop band. While all of this plus more can be done without the handles, if you prefer the feel and comfort handles bring then these are for you.
I hope you all get a chance to try out your newfound knowledge of all things resistance bands within your workouts!