When you can’t get to the gym, but you have a few extra minutes around the house to squeeze in a handful of exercises, it’s hard to beat the convenience and ease of using resistance bands. But before you jump right in to using them, it’s good to get some basics out of the way.
Are resistance bands and tubing the same thing?
They’re similar. The common feature is that both of these items use an elastic material to create resistance. Resistance bands are generally less expensive, though versatile and they can be easily adapted to a loop in a pinch. Resistance tubing, while a bit more expensive, usually has some form of loop or strap associated with it to enable a better grip, or even Velcro attachments for the limbs.
Translating the color code
There are several different brands of resistance bands that each have their own proprietary color coding to correspond to the amount of thickness or resistance that the band will have. However, because there isn’t a single standard, you may find yourself struggling with a blue band of one brand while being able to easily work with a blue band of another. It’s more important to pay attention to the description of the bands (extra light, light, medium, heavy, extra heavy) which have a bit more consistency. That being said, purchasing a whole set of bands is the best way to ensure you have the right resistance for the exercise you plan on doing.
Latex vs. non-latex
If you’re a person who has latex sensitivity, you won’t be left out of the workout party. There are several companies that manufacture both latex and latex-free versions of their bands so you won’t end up with irritated skin. In my experience, the non-latex bands have a touch more stiffness to them, so even if a band is listed as “medium,” it may behave more like a “heavy” band, even from the same manufacturer. Once again, purchasing a set of bands with varying resistances will ensure that you can find the right resistance for the intended exercise.
Don’t stretch your resistance bands’ shelf life
Before you get too aggressive using those bands you got from your physical therapist several years ago, take the time to give your bands a good inspection. They can become “bunchy,” brittle, and develop holes or tears if not cared for and stored properly. In addition, there are some exercises or uses that may increase the wear and tear factor simply because the band may be susceptible to more stretch or contact with surfaces that may have a sharp edge. There is nothing more terrifying than a band suddenly snapping in half in the middle of an exercise, especially if your face is anywhere in its path. The key is to store your bands in a cool, dry place and keep them clean. Wiping them down with some soapy water and hanging them to dry is fine, but be cautious when it comes to using chemicals or wipes that may dry out and change the properties of the band.
So what can I do with my band?
In short, a lot. Bands can help provide resistance, feedback, and/or support. Knowing your intent will help you in your decisions of which bands to use and how to use them.
Watch the video above to give you some ideas on easy exercises you can do at home with your resistance bands and let us know if you have any favorites.
Dr. Ada Wells, DPT is a physical therapist and owns ProBalance, Inc. in the San Francisco Bay Area. She specializes in the use of Pilates based exercise for rehabilitation and wellness. Her online movement programs can be found at http://www.probalance.tv.