Resistance bands work the body differently than free-weights do, explains Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody’s senior manager of fitness and nutrition content. Unlike dumbbells and barbells, exercise bands create constant tension throughout a movement. “In so doing, they increase the time that the working muscles are under tension,” Thieme says, adding that “time under tension” is a powerful growth stimulus. “They also alter an exercise’s resistance curve.”
The point in each rep when the exercise feels hardest is the curve’s peak. In the biceps curl, that’s typically the mid-point of the movement (when the elbow is bent 90 degrees), for example. As you bring the weights closer to your shoulders, the exercise becomes easier. “But performing the exercise with a band changes that,” says Thieme. “Not only does the band keep your muscles under constant throughout each rep, but it also maximizes the resistance at the point in each rep when it’s typically the lowest — at the top,” says Thieme.
Another key difference between free weights and resistance bands is the direction of the resistance. With barbells or dumbbells, you’re essentially limited to fighting the downward pull of gravity. But with resistance bands, that resistance can come from almost any angle. As a result, bands can challenge your muscles in unaccustomed ways, hitting the refresh button on adaptation and growth.
Resistance band exercises are great because all you need is your body and the band! Check out these workouts that can be done at home or in the gym.
Squat and Kick (4 sets of 15 reps)
Make sure your stance is hip width apart with the band resting on your thighs. Start off in a squat position. Next, rise from the squat and kick your right leg out. Return to squat position. Then, rise from the squat and kick your left leg out. Repeat process, alternating legs.
Tricep Curls (4 sets of 12 reps)
Make sure your stance is hip width apart. Hold band in left hand and with the same hand grab right shoulder. Take the other side of the band in your right hand palm facing away from you. Push band down and up. Switch arms and repeat.
Side Step Plank (4 sets of 15 reps)
Put band a bit above your ankles. Go into plank position with palms on the floor. Move right leg out to the side and bring it back to center. Move left leg out to the side and bring it back to center. Repeat process, alternating legs.