Exercise bands provide an easy and portable way to get your resistance training. Unlike weights, you can tuck them in your luggage when traveling on business or vacation and use them in the privacy of your room. And since they're cheaper than weights, you can afford to buy different resistances suited to the exercise you'll be doing. Some bands are inexpensive strips of latex or they can resemble large rubber bands. Exercise tubes -- also called bands -- are more expensive but have handles and can often be purchased with other accessories such as cuffs, making them easier to use than bands for a leg workout.
Choose the proper resistance for your exercise. Similar to choosing weights, this should be a band that is strong enough for you to do at least eight repetitions with 12 repetitions being difficult. Unlike weights, bands and tubes don't come with a number on them. They are color coded and normally darker colors will be stronger. For example, yellow or green often signifies lighter resistance while blue or red is stronger. If you're unsure, try out different colors.
Increase resistance through positioning. In addition to using bands of different strength, you can also increase or decrease the resistance by shortening or lengthening the band. For example, for a biceps curl, you might place one foot on the band or tube so both sides were equal length. By standing in the middle of the band and spreading your feet slightly apart, you can shorten the band on both sides, increasing the resistance. For hip abduction, where one end is secured or the band loops both ankles, starting with your legs farther apart or standing farther from the anchoring object would increase the resistance.
Perform the exercise through the full range of motion. As the American College of Sports Medicine points out, unlike weights, band resistance won't kick in until the joint has moved between 10 to 30 degrees. The resistance gets harder as the angle increases. Full range is important with any exercise but especially with bands as partial range may provide little or no resistance.
Maintain slow and controlled movements. Bands will provide resistance on both the eccentric -- muscle shortening -- and concentric phase, if done properly. In fact, they will provide more resistance than weights when the concentric move is with gravity, that is, moving toward the floor. However, to get that effect, you need to control the shortening of the band. Never let it snap back.
Watch your form. Especially when you first start using them, you might find the positions awkward, or you may feel like you are being pulled out of position. If you don't already have strong abdominal and back muscles, sit with your back supported and the band looped above your knees for exercises such as hip abduction and adduction. Never allow your back to arch.
- Bands will lose their resistance over time. If 12 repetitions becomes too easy, it may be time to replace the band or move up to a higher resistance.
- Follow safety measures. Make sure bands are secure when the exercise requires looping over a door handle or bedpost or securing it under furniture. If you are using a chair for support, make sure it won't move or tip.
- Always check bands and tubes for signs or wear, such as pinholes, that could cause them to snap and break during use.
Nancy Cross is a certified paralegal who has worked as an employee benefits specialist and counseled employees on retirement preparation, including financial and estate planning. In addition to writing and editing, she runs a small business with her husband and is a certified personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).