There is a lot of doubt around if training with resistance bands can build muscle. Resistance band training is by far one of the most underrated forms of training there is. I know you think that they are just for older people or for physical therapy exercises. Nope. Resistance bands build muscle and improve your mind-muscle connection. This blog will show you how this is done and how your body can change and build muscle when working with resistance bands.
Ok, so when we talk about resistance training it means some force is applied to muscles as they contract, which can be bodyweight, free weights, barbells, bands, etc. The force can be loaded and applied with progression in mind to slowly overload the muscle and create some damage to promote muscle growth. But let’s compare bands to free weights and see how to apply bands to gain muscle.
Similarities between bands and free weights
1) Progressive resistance: Both provide the option of adding more resistance as you get stronger by adding heavier bands or picking up heavier weights.
2) Variable speed/tempo: Both can control your rep speed (time under tension per rep) and rest time per set, which are key variables in building muscle.
3) Open chain movement: Both can be open-chain movements where your body is controlling the force with a free range of movement, not a machine that is fixed. Both bands and free weights can press and pull in multiple planes, depending on the exercise.
See, so far, so good when comparing the two! Let’s get deeper into how resistance bands build muscle.
Advantages of Bands
1) Variable resistance: Bands increase tension as you lengthen them. For example, as we do a bicep curl with a band, it becomes hardest at the top, we squeeze the bicep (concentric motion) and hold the tension. Dumbbells weigh the same at the top and bottom. With bands, as you lengthen the arm down from a bicep curl, you lower the resistance in a slow controlled manner (eccentric motion). This is demanding more control of your body and being kinder to your joints with variable resistance.
2) Resistance in multiple directions: Free weights work in a vertical plane resisting gravity, for example, a chest press, deadlift, bicep curl, etc. However, bands can be anchored in multiple directions to provide resistance. This gives you so much more flexibility with just one set of resistance bands with limitless set up of exercise options.
3) The squeeze: At the top range of motion in a bicep curl using free weight, there is not much resistance compared to the mid-range of the curl. But bands have tension even at the peak point at the top, which makes the squeeze of the bicep muscle so important. This specific moment where the bicep is shortest and under tension is difficult to hold with a band and loads the muscle to stimulate muscle growth. This is super important when applying resistance bands to build muscle.
4) Prevents using momentum: We have all seen people at the gym swinging weights quickly to pump out their bicep curls by using momentum. This is a way to cheat yourself out of the curl’s strongest midpoint, and people choose heavier weights to bypass it to lift heavier. They are called cheat curls and have their benefits but that’s a whole other topic unrelated to bands.
But with bands, momentum won’t work in your favor at all. Your form will go first if you are moving too fast, and there will be no control or squeeze which is so important. The key is first to choose a challenging brand but maintain your form through your range of motion in each exercise. Then you can add faster reps activating the fast-twitch muscle fibers at the end. By finishing a set with a lighter band and with more explosive reps, you can further overload in that manner as an example.
5) You can get results: Stop looking at bands in relation to pounds in relation to a fixed free weight. The mind-muscle connection is strong and getting a peak contraction through a range of motion promotes this mind-muscle connection even further. The better you get at connecting to each muscle, the better you are at building it. It’s that simple. Yes, resistance bands build muscle.
You now know the basics behind how resistance bands can be applied to build muscle and improve your mind-muscle connection. Focus on the squeeze, controlling the band in a full range of motion, and progressing your exercises with heavier bands, reps, or tempo.
So how do you program a resistance band workout? How do you know how to set up and use bands to grow muscle? What about the level of difficulty for each exercise? If you are looking for a complete program covering all of your questions, check out Foundations.
With Foundations, you can take this portable program anywhere, train anytime, and it’s efficient. All of the band exercises chosen have resistance in multiple planes. Many exercises require a strong core that demands stability, which will only help you get stronger no matter what other exercises you do. Foundations is all about promoting really good form over and over again, so you practice each exercise and get better at the mind-muscle connection.