Home Equipment – 5: Resistance Bands

Assorted resistance bands

Continuing the series on home workout equipment, at #5 we have resistance bands. Of course, because nothing is easy, there are different kinds.

There are three general kinds of "resistance bands" out there (with plenty of variations). Not everybody agrees on the terminology, but here are the terms I use:

  • Resistance Band
  • Exercise Band
  • Sport Cord

A resistance band is like a giant rubber band; that is, a flat band in a continuous loop. They are typically 41 inches long (unstretched, of course). They come in a variety of "weights" that refer to the amount of resistance the band can offer. There's a problem with this--and with all three types of bands--that I'll discuss later.

Gary performs pallof press with resistance band

Different resistances correspond to different widths--thinner bands are "lighter", wider bands "heavier"--and usually different colours although there is no uniform standard. I have bands that are the same width but different colours because they come from different manufacturers.

Resistance bands can also be used for assistance which can make their name totally counter-intuitive. For example, you can use one to assist with doing pull-ups. To quote an older (2012) post on bands:

They can also be used to provide resistance for movements such as running, bear crawling, sidesteps, cat herding, etc. Another use for bands is to increase mobility, as a tool in passive stretching or for joint flossing or distraction. They can also be used in advanced training to add resistance to weights such as barbells.

An exercise band is sometimes called a "therapy band". As you might expect, they are commonly used in physical therapy. These are flat, continuous loop bands but not as long as resistance bands...usually more like twelve inches. They also typically offer less resistance than resistance bands, as you might expect for physical therapy.

Woman doing overhead squat with exercise bands around hands and knees

Just to confuse things, there are some bands that are wide, thin, and flat like an exercise band but long like a resistance band. These can be considered resistance bands. Or freak bands.

A sport cord is a round elastic band with handles on each end. So unlike the other two types, they are not continuous loops.

sport cord

Somewhere along the line (2009 perhaps?) a company started using SportCord as a brand name. They look like slightly more elaborate versions of a traditional sport cord. Don't let that toss you.

Sport cords generally offer less resistance than resistance bands and are often used by senior citizens. They are also less versatile than resistance bands.


The equipment referenced by this post's title is indeed the entry correctly labeled "resistance bands" rather than the exercise bands or sport cords. Resistance bands enjoy a high position in the Home Equipment list mostly because they're so convenient and versatile. But for real strength training, they're no substitute for weights which is why dumbbells and barbells are higher in the list.

A note about "weights" as mentioned earlier: the resistance of a band varies depending on how much it is stretched. So its resistance changes throughout the movement. This can be a useful feature, in some cases, but is generally problematic for strength training.

One caveat: bands can break causing severe injuries to the eyes. Inspect your bands regularly and wear eye protection (not just eyeglasses) when doing pulls toward your face.

There's lots more to be said about using resistance bands. Could be a topic for a future post. So much to write, so little time.

Be seeing you.

-gary

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2 Comments

  1. Sport bands can give a good pump but don’t have that metal weight “feel” to them.

    I am not sure it’s a better feel but I do know it’s different.

    Due to the pandemic “Sport bands” are my new best friend.

    • What are “sport bands”?

      Thanks for reminding me: I need to write a post on getting a “good pump.” (It’s not really a StrongFast thing.)

      From a StrongFast perspective, weights are definitely better (not just different) than bands for reasons too long for a comment. But yes, they’re extremely handy these days for people who no longer have access to their gym.

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