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Are Resistance Bands Good for Building Muscle?

When it comes to building muscle, traditional weightlifting with barbells and dumbbells often takes center stage. However, the fitness landscape has evolved, and resistance bands have emerged as a versatile and effective tool for muscle building. Fitness professionals and therapists have attributed resistance bands to muscle growth and development that is equivalent to free weight, although in slightly different ways.

Long story short, the answer to the question, "Are resistance bands good for building muscle?" is a big YES. However, it does somewhat depend on how you use them. Resistance bands are ultra-versatile and can accommodate for almost any workout method or goal, whether it's flexibility and mobility, agility, or strength. With strength training, it's important to understand how resistance bands will help you bulk up.

Does Variable Resistance Build Muscle Better?

One of the fundamental principles of muscle growth is variable resistance. This force can also be called "progressive resistance" in some settings. To read more in-depth about variable resistance, check out this article: What is Variable Resistance?

Variable resistance is a physics concept that describes the gradual increase of the load on your muscles over time. Resistance bands are exceptional for this purpose since the natural elasticity of the material makes it tougher the further you stretch it.

The type of resistance your muscles experience when using free weights is what's known as static resistance. Say you have a 25 lb. dumbbell. In any exercise you do with that dumbbell, the force exerted on your muscles is equal to 25 lb. This force will not change whether you're in a stronger point of your lift or at the sticking point.

As you stretch a resistance band, it creates gradually more tension as it extends, and the resistance gets stronger the more you stretch it. This allows you to start with a relatively light resistance and progressively increase it as your strength improves. The band will be lighter (but not weightless) at your sticking point and will challenge you more at your strongest point.

What Are Some Muscle-building Exercises With Resistance Bands?

Resistance bands offer a vast array of exercises that target different muscle groups from various angles. Whether you're aiming for chest, back, arms, legs, or shoulders, there's a resistance band exercise to match. Here are some basic exercises done with resistance bands that help build muscular strength:

1. Bicep Curls

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Resistance band bicep curls are extremely effective for targeting the entire bicep instead of just hyper-focusing on the short head. You'll get the most resistance at the top of the movement, targeting your muscle at a position where you're the strongest.

2. Chest Press

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Chest presses with resistance bands will enable you to practice better stability in your muscles and achieve better toning in your pectorals and shoulders.

3. Hamstring Curls

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Resistance band-based hamstring curls are a great way to gain better flexibility in your legs. This will reduce the risk of cramping, hypertension, and injury.

4. Squats

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When doing squats with resistance bands, particularly a loop band, you'll get a much fuller workout on your gluteal muscles as the band provides resistance to your tensor fasciae muscles, the muscles on the outer parts of your glutes and thighs.

5. Rows

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Rowing exercises with resistance bands are one of the best uses for bands in the gym or anywhere you train. There are many variations of rowing exercises that target various muscles. This variation is fairly basic and helps build muscles in your back, shoulders, and arms.

Are Resistance Bands Better On My Joints?

Resistance bands are joint-friendly, making them an ideal choice for individuals with joint concerns or those recovering from injuries.

Free weights are notoriously tough on joints, especially if you’re new to exercise or training. Because they offer the same, harsh resistance on your muscles at their weakest point, free weight training without proper guidance or preparation can lead to inflammation, bursitis, and swelling.

The accommodating resistance of bands means that the tension is lower at the start of the movement when joints are typically in a more vulnerable position and increases as the band is stretched. This helps minimize stress on the joints while still providing a challenging workout for the muscles.

How Resistance Bands Engage Stabilizer Muscles

Using resistance bands requires stability and control throughout the range of motion. If you’ve never used them before, you may be surprised by how much your muscles shake as you’re trying to go through your reps. This is because the band’s gradually increasing resistance means there’s really no rest point in your movement.

This engagement of stabilizer muscles is a significant advantage for overall muscle development. Although you may be tempted to quicken your pace to avoid the shaking, don’t do it. While traditional weightlifting exercises often focus on primary muscle groups, resistance bands activate stabilizers, promoting a more well-rounded and functional strength.

Over time, as your stabilizer muscles gain strength and better control, you’ll not only experience better results from your workouts, but you’ll also have an easier time going through the motions of your exercises.

Wrapping It Up

In the quest for muscle building, resistance bands have proven their effectiveness. Their ability to provide progressive resistance, versatility in exercises, constant tension, joint-friendly nature, engagement of stabilizer muscles, portability, and variability in resistance make them a valuable addition to any fitness regimen.

Whether used independently or in conjunction with traditional weights, resistance bands offer a dynamic and efficient way to achieve your muscle-building goals.

To get started using resistance bands on your fitness journey, check out our full line of products.

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