In this article, I will be answering the question, “what are resistance bands used for”. However, it will be a strength edition!
When it comes to strength training, we lay the foundation with heavyweights with compound exercises and apply progressive overload. Check out my Instagram post @fullaffectfitness from April 28th to see why we use heavyweights! However, assistance exercises can also be a useful tool to develop one’s overall strength and to develop primary compound movements like the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Resistance bands are super helpful for primary exercise variations or assistance exercises. Applying resistance bands to a lift is also known as dynamic variable resistance. This is because the specific resistance is dependant upon how stretched the band is which depends on what section of the lift we are in.
Throughout different portions of a lift, there are specific areas of mechanical difficulty. For example, the top portion of a bench press is the easiest to perform mechanically. The mechanical difficulty is primarily determined by how well gravity is working for you and how well/efficiently your muscles and joints are working, which depends on the position they are in.
Resistance bands help make the exercise similarily challenging throughout the lift by increasing resistance as an exercise becomes easier mechanically.
Another useful application of bands for strength training is speed work. When we want to get stronger, it means we want to increase the force production capability of our muscles. Since force = mass x acceleration, we know that the speed at which we move the resistance matters.
Our body only recruits the muscle fibres it NEEDS to move a specific resistance. So as an exercise becomes easier mechanically throughout the range of motion, our body isn’t recruiting or using muscle fibres as maximally as it was in a more mechanically difficult portion of the lift.
For example, when we add bands to a bench press, we are causing an increase in resistance while the lift becomes easier mechanically. This forces our body to continue maximally recruiting muscle fibres (assuming we are moving with maximal speed, while keeping technique proper of course).
The reason muscle fibre recruitment maintains comes from a similar demand on your muscles throughout the range of motion, despite the exercise becoming mechanically easier. Another factor that plays in is the added downward resistance that is slowly increasing. Your body must explode through the range of motion in order to overcome it since the band’s resistance is continually increasing.
The need to explode through the range of motion is extremely beneficial for developing speed/power.
Another aspect to consider is reverse resistance bands. This would be when you attach them in a way that pulls up on the resistance (if you have the means of attaching them this way). This allows you to move very quickly because the load is being helped on the way up by the bands.
Let’s take the squat for example. When you reach the bottom position, the bands will be maximally stretched and applying the most help. The bottom position and or parallel position is the most mechanically challenging position in the lift. Having the most help in this position aids in maximal acceleration out of this position.
As the exercise gets easier mechanically, the bands are helping less and less since they are becoming less and less stretched. This works the same way as the standard application of bands in the sense of your muscles accelerating through a continually increasing resistance. Only this time, the continually increasing resistance is coming from less help from the bands, compared to the bands gradually applying more and more resistance.
That’s what I have to say about resistance bands and strength training! Do these concepts make sense to you? If so, let me know how/if you plan on implementing them! As always, if you have ANY questions, please leave them below and I will be sure to respond!
Here are some other articles that may be beneficial for your knowledge!
Until Next Time,
Please refer to my liability disclaimer to ensure you know who is responsible for the use of this information after reading.