Can you build muscle using resistance bands
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Most people are still training at home and a lot of people are realizing that they want an economical way to train at home without having to convert a room or their garage into a home gym. Bands are lightweight portable and easy to store, but are they an effective way to build muscle?
The short answer is they can be. Now there are some problems with bands and we will go over them along with how you can overcome these problems but first let’s look at the advantages of bands.
I’ve already mentioned lightweight and portable and you can virtually do any exercise with them.
Bands tend to be easier on the joints and you’re less apt to cheat your reps by using momentum or bad form which reduces the odds of injury.
Bands aren’t limited by gravity which allows us to set up some exercises in a way that can protect us from injury. For example, If you have trouble keeping your back in a neutral position when doing bent-over rows you can end up rounding your spine putting yourself at risk of injury. With bands, we can set it up so that we can pull in a standing position eliminating this risk.
Next, I want to talk about the strength curve. With bands the tension is constant but varied, as the band becomes more stretched the resistance becomes more intense, the 2 ways we can use this to our advantage is first, we create a little more time under tension with each rep. An example of this would be a bicep curl with traditional weights they get easier at top of the movement as they lose the resistance of gravity. With bands, this is where the tension is the highest. This top position is also where the bicep is the strongest. Which is the second way we can use this varied tension to our advantage.
Another example would be squats where we are weaker in the lower part of the movement and stronger in the upper part. Bands even out this strength curve providing less resistance at the bottom of the movement and more at the top.
That all sounds good for bands and it’s ability to build muscle. I’ll even leave a link at the bottom of the description to a meta-analysis that found whether you were a beginner or an experienced athlete there was no difference in your ability to build muscle between bands or conventional resistance training methods. This analysis looked at both the flat continuous bands and the tubing type that are typically bought with handles.
But there are problems with bands.
In order to build muscle we must make our workouts progressive at first this might seem easy enough. We advance from the red band to the black band to the grey band. Or some bands come with lb ratings. But there are times when the resistance, is adjusted by the distance our body is away from the anchor point. And it is important to be consistent with this distance from one workout to the next in order to track progress. If we are in a different spot each time we might have more or less reps than our last workout with no idea if we have progressed or not.
I do my banded leg curls on a bench and to keep each workout consistent I step out the distance from the anchor point to the back of the bench. Then track it as 3 sets, 10 reps, black bands, 4 steps from the post. Once I’ve hit my targeted amount of reps I don’t necessarily have to go to a heavier band I can just move the bench one more step away from the anchor to increase the resistance.
While we mentioned the variable resistance of bands as an advantage it can also be a disadvantage, because we might not fully exhaust the muscle through its full range of motion. The best way to overcome this is through part reps. I do this with my tricep pushdowns. Doing full range of motion repetitions until I can no longer complete a full rep then without stopping I do as many part reps as possible until I can’t move the band anymore. Logging how many full reps I did along with how many part reps it took to completely fatigue the muscle. Then in the next workout the goal will be to do one more full rep then the last workout. Watch this video next to find out how to build muscle injury-free. So we can keep working out while having fun.
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