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Water Cooler: Beginner’s guide to resistance bands

UPDATED: Sun., Sept. 12, 2021

Resistance bands are a fantastic option for people of all fitness levels, but especially for beginners looking to start a new exercise routine. They are gentle and easy to adjust for increased or decreased intensity, and they require very little space or financial investment to get started. Here are the basics of resistance bands if you’re curious about adding them to your fitness regimen.

Resistance bands provide resistance through their elastic stretch, whereas weights and body exercises provide resistance via gravity. Because resistance bands come in different thicknesses and varied levels of elasticity, they make it very easy to start out slow with minimal resistance which can help beginners prevent overuse injuries from jumping in too quickly.

Their ability to ease you into a new workout also promotes developing good form before moving on to a higher resistance.

Exercising with resistance bands instead of weight machines at the gym allows you to work with constant tension through the movement, which helps engage and incorporate stabilizer muscles such as those in the core. That means even if you’re doing an arm or leg exercise with a resistance band, you’re also working your core and other small muscles that keep you balanced as you work against the band’s tension.

Bands come in a large variety. Therapy bands are for rehabilitative exercises after an injury. They are gentler than other resistance bands and tend to come in flat latex loops, rather than the tubular shape of most other bands. These are best used under the supervision of a physical therapist or other health care provider.

Figure eight resistance bands come with handles on each end and are typically used for training the upper body. Ring resistance bands are made from a single ring with two handles and are generally used for lower body exercises. Lateral resistance bands come with velcro cuffs on each end for extra security during leg workouts.

These bands are all great if you want something designed for specific workouts, but if you want a few bands that can do it all, then compact and loop bands are your go-to.

You’re probably already familiar with compact bands. They are long, tubular and come with handles on each end. Some compact band sets come with a velcro ankle cuff as well. These are especially great if you’re interested in using door hooks for pulling and pushing upper body exercises.

Loop bands have increased in popularity over the past few years, especially for lower body exercises that focus on abductor and adductor muscles. They come in long loops or short loops.

The long loops, sometimes called power bands, are great for full body exercises, and while they might lack a bit of the comfort that compact band handles offer, they are just as versatile. They can also be used to assist body weight exercises like pull-ups, or to add extra resistance to push-ups or squats.

The small loops, often called mini-bands, are great for adding intensity and increasing muscle engagement for exercises like glute bridges, leg raises, kick backs and plank jacks.

If you’re interested in trying resistance bands, purchase a few with different strengths if you can.

This allows you to switch them out when working parts of your body that might be stronger or weaker than other areas, and gives you room for increasing the difficulty as you build strength.

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