The Scoop on Resistance Bands: Staying Fit on the Road

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By J. E. Hinners, MD MPH

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When I first registered for my barre fitness teacher certification, I decided to try out using resistance bands in place of the free weights I had been using for certain portions of my strength training.

The reasoning was that my fitness training could be more portable for teaching classes (no more carrying around extra pounds of weight in my workout bag). I also figured it would be more practical to be able to offer resistance bands for large groups rather than having to stock up and store a bunch of free weights.

So I adapted all my free weight training to work with the resistance bands instead.

Resistance band workout

Now I’m never going back!

Ever since that time, I got addicted to using resistance bands in place of my free weights–not just for teaching purposes, but also for my personal workouts. I have not used my free weights once since making this transition.

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Why?

  • Portability. Since they are so lightweight, I can easily bring them anywhere with me–even on a plane!
  • Safety. They won’t mangle my feet in the event of dropping them (what, you don’t have this problem?).
  • Easy Storage. Resistance bands take up a very minimal amount of space.
  • Fun. They make my workouts feel more fun, for some odd reason. Maybe it’s the stretchiness?

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What are resistance bands?

Resistance bands are elastic bands or tubes usually made of rubber. Essentially, they are like large rubber bands (only stronger). They come in varying lengths, sizes, and strengths of resistance. Some are simply flat bands, some are tubes, some come with handles, some don’t.

Resistance tubing with handles.
Tubular resistance band with handles.
Resistance band without handles.
Flat resistance band without handles.

Manufacturers usually provide a chart that corresponds a particular band’s strength of resistance to free weights of a certain weight range. So, for example, if I am used to used to using 3-5 pound free weights, I can usually look up this range on the manufacturer’s product chart and find which particular resistance band is the right strength for me.

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Example of one manufacturer’s resistance band/weight charts.

These bands allow you to do the same exercises you do with your free weights.

And, in fact–thanks to their flexibility which allows for body repositioning–they also let you do additional exercises that can’t be done with free weights. Certain manufacturers also offer ankle straps and door anchors for a greater scope of resistance band exercises.

Which kind of band do I get?

Well, like any product out there, there are many manufacturers and band styles to choose from, based on your particular needs and tastes.

Some people seem to love handles, for example, and some seem to hate them.

I personally prefer handles not only because the grip feels a little more like the free weight grip I am used to, but also because I find I’m not straining my hand as much just to keep hold of the band while working out.

I read a lot of reviews before choosing mine, and I have actually tried both band types shown above in my photo (the tubular band with handles and also the flat band without handles).

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The resistance band I use.

I have been very happy with the resistance band that I use (by Black Mountain Products)–I have no complaints.

Customer service was excellent, too. When I first ordered mine, they actually sent me the wrong band (the single black tubular band shown in an earlier photo in this post–it has a much higher resistance than what I was seeking for my purposes). I called them, and they immediately apologized and shipped out to me the right band at no extra cost. They actually said I could just keep the “wrong” black band, too (yes!!! Free Father’s Day gift).

If you’re one of those who prefer heavier weightlifting options, other products offer the ability to increase or decrease the amount of resistance as you go.

For those more inclined towards flat resistance bands without handles, I will say that these obviously pack AMAZINGLY since they’re absolutely flat. I also have a flat band, and it tends to be my band of choice when I’m traveling somewhere because it packs so well.

Looped resistance bands can be especially helpful when it comes to certain leg exercises.

How do I use my resistance band?

There are many great resources that provide resistance band exercises — this website walks through exercises for various muscle groups, with accompanying links to video demonstrations, for example.

Some resistance band manufacturers also include exercise instruction booklets with some of their bands.

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Have  you used both resistance bands and free weights? What are your reasons for your preferences?

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