Resistance bands are an effective, low-cost and portable alternative to training with weights. Bands have been scientifically proven to be as effective as training with weight machines, according to a study published in the September 2008 issue of the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research." They come in several varieties, including long flat or tubed bands and so-called figure-8 bands.
Right off the bat, the figure-8 band looks different from a regular resistance band. A regular band is a long piece of either flat or tubed rubber, and it sometimes has handles on the ends. The figure-8 band is much smaller and is made out of rubber tubing. The band is linked together in the shape of a circle with a foam cover in the middle. This cover cinches the two sides to form the figure-8. The two ends also sometimes have foam covering so that the tubing doesn't dig into your palms as you hold the band.
The size and shape of figure-8 bands makes them easier to use in some instances. Exercises that involve looping a band under your foot are more straightforward to perform with figure-8 bands because you can simply and quickly place your foot inside one of the two loops. With regular bands, you either have to tie the band around your foot or fiddle to place your foot inside the often small handle. Hip extensions, band squats, deadlifts and seated back rows are only a few examples of exercises that can benefit from the looped shape of the figure-8 bands.
The smaller size of the figure-8 band makes it less suitable for full-body exercises. Standing upper-body exercises such as bicep curls, triceps extensions, shoulder presses and upright rows are much more difficult to perform while stepping on one end of a heavier figure-8 band because the band has to stretch a lot more during these exercises. You can, however, adapt some of these exercises for the figure-8 band. Instead of placing one end of the band under your foot, you can hold that end in one hand. When that arm is held straight, it will offer enough resistance so that you can perform the exercise with your other hand. You can also kneel, squat or sit while performing these exercises to make up for the band’s shorter size.
Although the figure-8 bands may look different from regular bands and can sometimes serve different functions, they also have similarities. Both figure-8 and regular bands come in different thicknesses or weight levels. You can use thinner or lighter bands if you are a beginner or are looking for less resistance and advance to thicker or heavier bands as you increase your strength. They’re also equally effective as strengthening tools because most exercises can be adapted to work with either type of band.
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Effects of a Short-Term Resistance Program Using Elastic Bands Versus Weight Machines …; J.C. Colado, et al.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using Rubber Band Resistance Exercise
- Tuscon Unified School District: Figure 8 Exercise Band
- Resistance Band Workout: A Simple Way to Tone and Strengthen your Muscles; James Milligan
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images