Whether you're in the process of building up your home gym with the right equipment or don't have the space (or budget) for a set of free weights right now, here's some good news for your strength-training routine: resistance bands can be just as effective, if not more so. "To start, resistance bands are key to a no-excuse workout," Juliet Kaska, a celebrity health and fitness expert and member of the Vionic Innovation Lab, told POPSUGAR. "They are inexpensive, store away easily, and fit into a suitcase or even a purse, adding only an ounce or so of weight." But aside from being so portable and wallet-friendly, these little bands can have some big benefits for your muscles. Read on to find out why, plus how to make sure you're using them correctly.
Why Do Resistance Bands Work Better Than Free Weights?
"Resistance bands require you to work both the eccentric and concentric contraction," Kaska explained. "The concentric contraction is the shortening of the muscle (what most people think is the actual exercise). For example, if you're doing a bicep curl, this is the portion where you bring the weight up, shortening the space at the elbow. The eccentric contraction is when you bring the weight down." It's this eccentric movement that most often gets neglected when doing exercises with free weights, leading someone to drop the weight rather than slowly bring it down with resistance. By using a resistance band, you're less likely to cheat yourself out of half an exercise, keeping your muscles engaged throughout.
How Do I Know If I'm Using a Resistance Band Correctly?
It's one of the more confusing things about using resistance bands: making sure your form is right. If it's not, using one may not feel like much of a workout at all. "People can often get frustrated when using a resistance band because at the start of the move it seems like the resistance isn't heavy enough," Kaska said. "But it's the nature of elasticity that the further you pull it, the 'heavier' it gets, so by the time you get to the top of the exercise the band should be very heavy. This is when you want to engage a little further and pull or push out to that last inch to maximize the repetition."
How Should I Care For My Resistance Bands?
Resistance bands are great space savers — roll them up and stick them under your bed, in a closet, or any other nook you can find. Just be sure that wherever you keep them, it's not in direct sunlight, Kaska explained. Doing so can make your bands more brittle and less stretchy. Before using, check for any discoloration or tears. "Even a micro tear can expand quickly under pressure and snap a band," she said. Replace them regularly — at least every year, and possibly less than a year depending on how often you use them — to stay safe from wear and tear while you work out.