Resistance bands are an excellent way to get fit and stay in shape, but you can’t just pull them out of the box and go. Just like weights, you need to learn how to use them properly because it’s not always obvious.
Whether you switched to bands for your workouts or you’re just using them to supplement your overall plan, here’s how to get the most out of your band workouts.
- Use the right style of high-quality bands
Two things matter most with resistance bands: style and quality. The style of a band will determine how much resistance you can get and which exercises you can do. The quality of a band will determine how long it will last and whether it’s prone to snapping.
As for quality, it’s not hard to find quality bands, but don’t just buy the first set of bands you see – go for a top brand. For example, Bodylastics, Undersun, and Iron Infidel all make good resistance bands. Before buying any particular brand, however, it’s good to check their online reviews and social media. They’re going to be a bit more expensive, but quality is priceless.
When it comes to band style, there are two basic styles – flat loops and tubular bands with handles. Both types of bands offer big benefits, but they’re used differently and loop bands have an advantage over tubular bands with handles.
Tubular bands vs. looped flat bands
Tubular bands with handles are the most common type of resistance band because they’ve been around the longest. While good bands are made to last, it’s common for the tubes to snap after a while. Tubular bands usually snap because the point where the tube connects to the handle is weak. Thankfully, some brands – like Bodylastics – have found a way to build stronger tubular bands.
You can do just about any traditional exercise with tubular bands, but closed loop bands are more versatile.
Flat looped bands are structurally stronger than tubular bands because they’re layered in production. They’re also a closed loop so there aren’t any parts that can be pulled apart. The biggest benefit of using tubular bands is that with handles and a footplate, you can lift heavier/more resistance than you can with tubular bands. Handles and a footplate will also prevent injury to your hands and the sides of your feet.
Which type of bands should you get? Ideally, it’s nice to have a set of both types of bands so you can do all the exercises you’ll ever need to perform. If you stick with just flat looped bands, you’ll miss out on exercises that are easier to perform with tube bands, and vice versa.
- Utilize a foot plate and handles
Some people just stand on their flat looped bands to perform exercises. Don’t do this – use a foot plate. Foot plates are small boards with a wide channel underneath that you put your looped band under while you stand on the board. In other words, the plate holds the band instead of your feet. With your feet spread out shoulder width apart on the plate, the band is held in place perfectly.
If you just stand on your flat bands, you’ll notice the sides of your feet start to curl when you start to use the band. This can throw you off balance and might cause injury to the sides of your feet. It also limits the amount of resistance you can work with. In short, a footplate will give you more power.
Handles are just as important as a footplate. You’ve probably heard people say that you can strengthen your grip by using flat looped bands without handles, so don’t bother. That may be true, but there are better ways to strengthen your grip. If you don’t use handles, you’re not getting the benefits you could be getting from your workouts. You won’t be able to lift as heavy and your form can suffer.
For the best results with flat looped bands, use a footplate and handles or a bar. There are several systems on the market that utilize a bar and a footplate and no matter which bar you get, it’s truly one of the best workouts you could get.
- Track your progress
Just like you’d remember the amount of weight you need to use for each exercise using free weights or machines, you’ll want to make note of which bands you use for each exercise. You’ll also want to track your reps.
If you’ve never really tracked your progress before, now is a great time to start. Here’s what you’ll want to track:
- Resistance level used.
- Reps performed per set.
- Any alterations, i.e., if you shortened the band.
- The order of your workouts. The order of your exercises matters because each exercise can fatigue your muscles faster, making the next exercise a little harder. For instance, if you do biceps curls before bent rows, you may not be able to do as many rows. However, if you do shoulders before bicep curls, it probably won’t affect your ability to do bicep curls.
Tracking all of this information will help you know when to progress to bands with more resistance. For instance, if you’ve hit 20 reps on all your sets of bicep curls, it’s time to move up a band. You’ll notice that band workouts, especially time under tension (TUT), will rapidly increase your strength.
Start an online band training program with Demetz
Would you like a fully customized band workout program delivered entirely online? Would you like to work with a personal trainer who will set you up with the perfect band routine you can perform at home or the gym?
Our online strength training program can be adapted to free weights, bands, or a combination of both. Whatever equipment you have to work with, we’ll create a plan that’s right for you. If you want to get more results from your bands, sign up for one of our programs or contact us to learn more.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.
Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.
To work with Nathan directly on your personal training goals, contact him today!