When it comes to incorporating a program of resistance training into your fitness routine, lots of people believe that means lifting weights, using heavy dumbbells and barbells to build muscle in the gym. However, even if you're keen to start resistance training, you might not be interested in heading back to the gym right now due to the continued severity of the global health crisis.
If you live in a third-floor flat, your neighbors don't want dumbbells clattering on the floor, or if you don't have a garage, you might not have the space for a weights bench. However, there is a cheap, easily accessible and easily stored alternative to begin a resistance training program, allowing you to hit every major muscle group: resistance bands.
Even the best resistance bands can usually be bought online for a steal. They are extremely versatile, limited only by your creativity. Want a back workout? Sit on the floor with your leg extended, loop the band over your feet, and pull them backwards like a rowing machine. Want a bicep workout? Stand on the bands and "curl" them like dumbbells.
Shoulders? Stand or kneel on the bands to anchor them and "press" the bands upwards. Legs? Loop a resistance band around your thighs for added resistance on your squats. If you need more resistance after "outgrowing" your current set, you can use multiple resistance bands at once to double-up their effectiveness.
Resistance bands create tension traditional free weights can't replicate. As the bands are always pulling in one direction, you can apply pressure in both the "up" and "down" phases of a lift by performing the move slowly. The band will be fighting you every step of the way, so it will help your muscles grow and get stronger by working them even harder.
One study, published in the scientific journal SAGE Open Medicine, studied the effects of traditional free weight training versus elastic resistance bands. The study found "resistance training with elastic devices provides similar strength gains when compared to resistance training performed from conventional devices.
"These findings allow coaches, physiotherapists, and even patients to opt to use devices with low costs, ease of handling, and which can be used in different places for maintenance and gain in muscular strength."
Resistance bands are as effective at building muscle as traditional free weights, according to the verdict of the study above. In addition to their other benefits of price, portability and versatility, a complete set is like having a home gym you can roll up and shove in a bag.
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Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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