You’ve seen then on Amazon or in fitness stores; you may even have a set yourself. But just what do resistance bands do?

When it comes to working out with gym equipment, even the very best resistance bands are generally overlooked in favour of everything else – particularly free weights and machines. If you’re left scratching your head and wondering: “what do resistance bands do?” – you’re certainly not alone, with many people seeing them as nothing more than a cheap and easy tool for beginners.

The reality, though, couldn’t be further from the truth. Adaptable, low-risk and great for building strength, warming up and finessing your form, they can be a valuable piece of equipment, whatever your fitness goals.

What do resistance bands do?

While bands come in different shapes, sizes, tensions and designs, at their core they all perform the same function. Unlike free weights, which vary in tension at different points of a lift, pull or push because of gravity, a resistance band provides a set, consistent amount of tension. That’s however hard or far you stretch them, and works the targeted muscles during ever stage of the movement.

When using light bands, they are great for activating muscles during a resistance band warm-up, while they can add some resistance to a bodyweight workout much more simply than using free weights.

At the other end of the scale, more heavy duty resistance bands can be used for everything from assisted pull-ups, to increasing tension in a bench press.

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How effective are resistance bands?

Resistance bands can be just as effective as traditional gym equipment, as long as you know how to use them correctly. A scientific review published in 2019 found that elastic resistance training was able to promote the same strength gains as conventional resistance training. While research from 2012 concluded that a progressive resistance training plan could boost skeletal muscle mass, muscle strength and reduce body fat.

Another reason bands are so effective is down to their relatively low price and transportability. A lot more affordable versus dumbbells, resistance bands are a cheap way of decking out a home gym – allowing you to work out to your own schedule. What’s more, they can be folded up and packed away when not in use, and even thrown in a suitcase if you want to keep your training routine on track when travelling.