A lot of fitness products come and go (Shake Weight, we hardly knew ye) but some, because of overwhelming engineering genius or remarkable effectiveness and simplicity, manage to outlast fad status. Power racks. Smith machines. Cable apparatuses. These are some of the most efficacious pieces of equipment currently taking up residence on your gym floor. Now, with increasing frequency, multicolored strength bands — gimmicky though they may seem — are starting to become standard industry gear, and for good reason. Because they provide resistance in any direction (unlike weights, which rely on gravity to provide resistance in one plane), bands are proving themselves to be a versatile ally in the quest for a stronger, leaner physique.
1 IN CONJUNCTION WITH WEIGHTS
Linear variable resistance training, or LVRT, refers to the type of resistance offered by strength bands. Simply put, as the range of motion increases on a band-modified exercise, the resistance increases. Serious strength trainers get more out of linear movements such as squats or bench presses by wrapping bands around the ends of the barbells. Overcoming the additional resistance provided by the bands on the positive portion of the rep helps to eradicate sticking points, and of course, greater fiber recruitment is required on the negative to keep bands and gravity from conspiring to crush the user.
You don’t have to go all strongman with bands wrapped around heavily loaded barbells. By securing bands to fixed objects, you can perform traditional movements that take advantage of LVRT. For example, by looping bands over a pull-up bar, you can execute a variety of exercises, including pressdowns, overhead band extensions, seated band pulldowns and straight-arm band pulldowns. Nearly every exercise you can think of will have a band counterpart you can implement. This provides variety to stale workouts and forces your muscles to adapt to a different type of resistance.
3 ON THE ROAD
Heading out for the weekend? Planning to take your dumbbell set with you so you don’t miss a workout? No, of course you’re not. But you could take a set of bands and get the same muscle-busting workout. “Bands are convenient because you can take them anywhere,” says Pedro Menjivar, MPT, a rehabilitative physical therapist at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Tustin, Calif. And in addition to getting a totally different type of workout in your hotel room, you’ll be actively protecting your body. “Bands offer a smooth form of resistance that you can do without placing a load on the spine,” Menjivar says. “They’re a great way to fortify yourself against injury.”
4 FOR SELF-SPOTTING
Can’t get through a set of dips or pull-ups on your own? Rather than abandoning these staple mass builders altogether, why not use bands to give yourself a spot? CrossFitters, for example, will hang bands from the pull-up bar and slip one foot into the loop. This effectively reduces the amount of bodyweight you are pulling through each rep.
5 FOR WARMING UP
Hopefully, by now, we’ve been able to sell you on the idea of performing a dynamic warm-up before workouts. Dynamic warm-ups, which call for progressive, active movement, raise core body temperature and prepare muscles and joints for more intense training, can be performed using strength bands. Before bench-pressing, for example, you could loop a band around a power rack (or other fixed object), grab the handles and turn away for a series of “punches” against resistance. Or, on leg day, looping bands around a heavy object, bench or platform, you could grasp the handles and jump for reps. These preworkout rituals, which warm up muscles and joints, also can help you recruit more muscle fibers once you get to your standard lifts.
There are plenty of reliable bands on the market, so grab a set that suits your needs. But with several resistance options, comfortable handles, anchoring straps and more, Bodylastics offer one of the best. Pick up your own set at bodylastics.com.