Resistance bands are often used for low-intensity exercises, but these versatile training tools are not limited to that type of use. You can also employ bands to build serious strength and power, adding a variation to your standard barbell exercises.
There are two common types of resistance bands: one that forms a complete loop, sometimes called a super band (the thicker the band, the greater the resistance); and the other a thin tube with handles on both ends. This article focuses on the first type.
When you lift a barbell or dumbbell, the resistance stays the same over the course of the lift, yet your muscles are less capable as you lower the weight. The Bench Press, for example, is more challenging at the bottom, when the bar is close to your chest, than at the top. It's simple biomechanics. The levers are longer, forcing your muscles to work harder.
Resistance bands, in contrast, provide variable resistance. At the bottom of a lift, when the band is at its shortest, it provides the least amount of resistance. As you drive up and out of the Bench Press, the resistance increases as the band lengthens. Bands allow you to use a weight or resistance that challenges your muscles throughout the entire range of motion and are not limited by the weight you can lift during the bottom half of a rep.
You can apply bands to many other barbell strength exercises, such as the Squat, Deadlift and even Olympic lifts. Wrap a band on each side of the bar and attach it to a stationary object, such as a squat rack. Dumbbell exercises aren't quite as easy to do with bands, but you can hold the band and dumbbell with each hand for the same effect.
Avoid exercises where the resistance band is at its longest halfway through the rep. For example, on a Bent-Over Row the band lengthens as you row the bar to your chest. This has the opposite effect, increasing the difficulty when you're at your weakest point.
Like any piece of equipment, resistance bands are just a tool in your toolbox. Add them to your lifts once every other week to vary your workouts and make strength gains. Or incorporate resistance bands into a phase of your training program.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock