The latest trend sweeping the fitness industry isn’t some high-tech spin class or must-have app but something far more accessible and easy to use. Meet the resistance band – a small but extremely mighty piece of equipment that’s popping up in some of the coolest classes on offer today. You’ll find TRX looped bands over at Equinox in their newest Pilates-inspired class, Band Burn, while thick black iterations will leave muscles shaking over at Psycle’s latest barre offering. Louisa Drake, meanwhile, the trainer responsible for whipping London’s elite into peak condition, uses them to tone everything from arms to glutes and legs at her Fitzrovia-based LDM studio.
How exactly do they work?
A hugely underrated way to fire up muscles, resistance bands work in a similar way to a pair of dumbbells, forcing your muscles to contract to generate force in order to stabilise and control the desired movement. However, unlike weights, resistance bands don’t rely on gravity to provide the resistance, explains Louisa. “The tension on a band is always constant, meaning you'll fire up your muscle fibres, which is the key to building strength and muscular endurance in your entire body,” she says. Loi Jordan, group fitness manager at Equinox believes the power of the resistance band lies in its simplicity. “Less can sometimes be more. Stripping it back to a single piece of kit can allow you to achieve greater levels of intensity as you’re focused on just one thing. Bands may seem lightweight but start to use one and you’ll feel the burn instantly,” she explains.
The comeback of the resistance band is synonymous with the rise in popularity of strength training, proven to build lean muscle and burn fat quicker than other types of exercise. But if, like many, you feel intimidated by weights, resistance bands are the perfect go-between. “Studies show the muscles respond to strength training with resistance bands just as well as they do with dumbbells or other types of equipment,” says Louisa.
Got you. So, what’s the best way to use them?
The possibilities are endless. Mini-loop bands, which can sit around the ankles or thighs, are great to target the legs and glutes, while longer resistance bands can be tied around the legs or other equipment (think park benches, doors, etc) to perform chest and shoulder exercises. Don’t know where to start? “The glutes are one of the easiest muscle groups to fire up with a band so incorporate one into squats, leg lifts, donkey kicks and fire hydrants for an easy workout,” says Louisa Drake.
Who are they for?
Everyone and anyone. Whether you’re a gym newbie or total pro, the joy of bands is their ability to add bespoke resistance where and when you need it. It’s also worth noting that bands are low-impact and ideal for those recovering from injury, while they also take up little space in your suitcase, making them perfect for a quick holiday workout. These flexi friends give you the freedom to train practically anywhere.
Any top tips?
“Don’t be afraid to choose a slightly thicker resistance band,” advises Loi. “One of the most common mistakes I see women making is using a band that’s too light for them. If you can do three sets of 12-15 reps without fatigue then it’s time to add more resistance.
And just remember to stay in control, adds Louisa. “It’s very easy to let the band snap you back into the starting position when it’s pulled super tight. Instead, control the motions in both directions but never strain yourself. The goal is always to feel challenged by the exercise but be able to control the resistance band throughout the entire movement.”
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