Elastic Bands – Cheap is not always better

I’ve been studying for the NSCA certification today.  While reading their textbook I stumbled upon statistics about a popular workout item that surprised me. Investigators found “that the resistance provided by tubing and bands decreased between 5% and 6% and 9% and 12%, respectively, … when deformed to 100% of their initial length for 501 cycles.”  At 200% deformation, the resistance decreased  10% to 15%.  Most of the decrease in resistance occurred after the first 50 repetitions!  While this may seem like common sense, I never figured that they would lose their resistance so quickly.

Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware!

This stood out for me because at my old gym we had to rely almost exclusively on resistance bands for our strength classes.  They were used all the time (especially the lighter ones), and to my knowledge they were never replaced.  This means that the workouts were becoming increasingly less and less effective during my time there -even less so for anyone who was consistently using the same colored bands and not going up in resistance.

The moral of the story is that resistance bands are not bad in of themselves but you need to know that they will need to be replaced pretty dang often if you want to get any consistency from them.  (This explains why so many of them broke in half during classes…)

Another factor that many may have overlooked is that they do not provide consistent resistance through the entire range of motion.  The initial movement provides very little resistance.  The more you move, the greater the resistance.  This can lessen further the effectiveness of the workout – especially if your goal is to build muscle.  Lifting at a consistent resistance is better for your joints and for building specific muscle groups.

Many people are attracted to the idea of the bands instead of free weights because they take up less space, they cost less, and seem advertised especially for home gyms.  If you consider that you’re going to need to replace them every month or so, I say go for a used pair of free weights if cost isn’t an issue.  You’ll use them a lot for a while and won’t need to replace them too soon.  Also 20 lbs is still going to be 20 lbs even after 50 reps.  And obviously, buying a used set of bands at any store or from any person is terrible idea (something I’m guilty of).

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