Resistance bands have benefits dumbbells don’t, beyond the fact that they’re a portable, easy-to-use workout option. The type of resistance they create builds more muscle, helping you get more benefit in the same amount of time. Vary the resistance on your bands to emphasize a two-part workout for toning and shaping your body.
Resistance bands come in a variety of forms, with the main feature being how many pounds of resistance they offer. A common set of bands provides enough resistance to equal 50 pounds of lifting weights, with some bands going up to 100 pounds or more of tension. Purchasing bands attached to a bar allows you to create exercises similar to a barbell workout. Unlike free weights, resistance bands create variable resistance, changing the tension in the exercise as you move your muscles. This creates more tension in your muscles, or keeps more resistance against them, as you perform an exercise, providing more benefit. With a dumbbell, for example, the weight, or resistance, is the same the entire repetition, putting less resistance against your muscles at different points during the raising and lowering of the weight.
If your goal is muscle building rather than calorie burning, use as much tension as you can to perform exercises slowly, using muscular effort as you raise and lower the bands. Use enough resistance so that your muscles are sore by the end of eight to 12 repetitions. If you can't perform reps for more than 90 seconds at this tension, you’re not using enough. Perform three sets of each exercise during your workouts.
If your goal is primarily to burn calories with a workout that also provides some resistance, wrap the bands less tightly and create a circuit-training workout. This allows you to work out at a high heart rate with resistance, but gives you frequent breaks so your muscles don’t cramp and eventually hurt so badly you have to stop. Perform an exercise for 30 seconds using a tension in the bands that causes you to breathe heavily and begin to sweat. Take a 15- or 30-second rest after the exercise, and then start a different exercise. Move from your upper body to your core to your lower body to give your muscles an even longer recovery time between exercises. If you need to decrease the tension in your bands during the latter half of your workout to prevent muscle fatigue, feel free -- you’ll still be getting some resistance as you stay in your target heart rate range.
You can’t spot burn fat, so it’s important to burn calories with cardio while you target specific muscles. You can’t tone so-called flabby muscles -- that’s fat you see under your arms, around your tummy and on your thighs. When people refer to toning, they mean a decrease in fat in that area and an increase in muscle size. To get the lean, athletic shape you want, combine cardio and muscle building during your workouts with a full body workout. Spend several minutes warming up without the bands, jogging in place, doing some arm circles and performing jumping jacks. Perform a muscle-building workout for 15 minutes using more resistance and slow reps, then finish with 30 minutes or more of cardio with less resistance and faster reps. Doing strength exercises before cardio will help you burn more glycogen at the beginning of your workout and more fat during aerobic exercise.
Target your arms with biceps curls and rows, your triceps with extensions and kickbacks and your shoulders with lateral arm raises and flyes. Work your calves with heel raises, your thighs with adduction and abduction exercises, your quads with squat and lunges and your core with floor exercises such as resisted crunches, V-ups and leg raises.
- PubMed.gov: Variable Resistance Versus Constant Resistance Strength Training in Adult Males
- American Council on Exercise: High Reps and Light Weights vs. Low Reps and Heavy Weights?
- Police Link: Cardio Exercise and Resistance Exercise: Which to do First?
- Sports Fitness Advisor: Resistance Band Exercises
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images