Ten Amazing Benefits of Resistance Band Training (Cables Work, Too)

By on August 13, 2021

Resistance bands have a reputation for being lightweight, boring, and mainly suitable for beginners. This reputation is entirely un-earned. In fact, I believe that everyone should incorporate resistance band training into their workouts. Bands are not only equal to free weights in many regards but also superior in a number of key ways.

In this post, I’ll break down some of the top reasons to train with resistance bands. We’ll see how they are different from weights, and how these differences make them truly indispensable.

The Amazing Benefits of Resistance Bands

Here are just some of the amazing benefits that resistance bands have to offer, over and above other forms of training. But to be clear: I am suggesting that you combine resistance bands with other forms of training. Dumbbells, kettlebells, calisthenics, powerlifting, and all other forms of training have advantages all their own.

1 Variable Angle of Resistance

This is the big one. The truly great thing about resistance bands, is that you are able to alter the angle of resistance such that you can be pushing or pulling vertically, horizontally, or rotationally. This is something that cannot be achieved as easily with free weights. Why? Because whenever you train with a  weight, you will be fighting gravity. That means the angle of resistance will always be vertical.

Benefits of resistance band training

In short, training with weights means you practice picking things up off the ground. This is far from the only way in which we express strength: we also push objects, pull them, wrestle, and more. Life doesn’t happen in a single plane of motion, so why train that way?

This is another possible explanation for the legendary “farmer strength.” Farmers, physical laborers, and Dads are seemingly super-strong because they practice pushing, pulling, and twisting. They don’t only develop strength picking things up.

2 Specificity

This benefit of resistance band training follows directly from the last one. Seeing as you can change the angle of resistance when performing movements, resistance bands also allow you to more closely mimic a range of real movements. You can attach bands above you, below you, behind you, in front of you, or diagonally to one side.

See also: Specificity in Training – For Better Exercise Selection

For example: you can hold bands and practice band punch-outs to strengthen your punching power. This is far more effective than shadow boxing while holding weights, because the resistance is along the correct plane of motion. Likewise, a golfer can practice their golf swing, and a baseball player can mimic swinging a bat!

Resistance Band Training

You can even use different attachments in order to change what you’re gripping onto while training! Want to strengthen your grip? Then try holding onto a piece of rope during your curls. You could even 3D print the specific tool you’ll be using when you compete!

3 Standing Up Strength

Is this really so different from training with weights?

The short answer is absolutely.

That’s because a  movement like the standing cable press requires FAR more trunk activation as compared with the bench press. JC Santana shared a study he had been involved in with me (along with Stuart McGill!), titled: Trunk and shoulder response comparing one repetition maximum bench and standing cable press. This research clearly demonstrated the much lager role for the contralateral abdominal muscles and latissimus dorsi during the staggered-stance cable press.

Developing massive pecs without the requisite core strength is like trying to “fire a canon out of a canoe.”

JC has previously explained the folly of building a massive bench press but never testing your strength while standing. He says developing massive pecs without the requisite core strength is akin to trying to “fire a canon out of a canoe.” In other words: being able to bench press 150kg does not mean you can push 150kg of force while standing, as you will likely find your back extends or you go flying off your feet!

You need a stable foundation to develop power, and this comes from training standing up. If you want to be able to transfer as much power as possible, you need to incorporate bands or cables as well!

4 Multi-Joint, Multi-Planar

In short, standing movements that mimic the skills you want to train are highly multi-joint and often multi-planar as well. This is another aspect that makes resistance band training so highly functional.

Band training serape effect

Now, you might be wondering why you can’t just train these different aspects separately. Why not perform a bench press and then train some anti-rotation or anti-flexion using additional exercises like the one-armed push up, or some Dragon Flags.

Well, you could do, but this method is far more time-efficient. Moreover, training these different muscles together may yield additional benefits and unique advantages.

See also: Training the Serape Effect for Maximum Power Generation

Not only does this allow you to rehearse useful movement patterns under resistance (increasing your movement efficiency and motor-unity recruitment) but it may also benefit the fascia. The fascia is capable of force transfer across disparate muscle groups. In short: learning to push, stabilize, and twist all at once, may make you better at doing just that.

5 Variable Resistance and the Strength Curve

The other big advantage when it comes to the pure versatility of resistance bands, is that they provide variable linear resistance. This lets you manipulate the strength curve and thereby develop strength in weak parts of the ROM.

The strength curve describes the varying difficulty you experience through a range of motion. This is affected by many factors, ranging from the angle of resistance (and how that changes in relation to you), as well as the lever arm, antagonist interference, momentum, and more.

Resistance Bands Strength Curve

The middle of a squat tends to be easier because you still have some momentum from pushing yourself through the ground. The mid-way point of a bicep curl lengthens the lever arm (moving the weight further away from the elbow joint) but is also the point at which we are strongest (because the muscle is half-contracted).

Using bands, you can change the point at which the most resistance is applied. Attach a band in front of you at shoulder height, raise your elbow, and curl in towards your chin; this will put the maximum resistance at the point where the bicep is most contracted.

By training different portions of the ROM, you can avoid having any weak points. Not only that, but you can stimulate more growth and hypertrophy.

6 Perfect for Isolation and Accessory Work

That’s right! Bands are great for hypertrophy! Resistance bands are not only a useful tool for functional athletes and those going through rehab!

What’s more, is that resistance bands are ideal for isolation and accessory work – so, bodybuilders take note!

Dumbbells are useful for isolation work and this can help to bring up lagging muscle groups like the triceps and biceps. But by eliminating the role of gravity, resistance band training lets you get into all kinds of more awkward positions. This is also useful for accessory work, for dealing with problem areas, and for creating a balanced physique.

Band Pull With Rotation

Take the face-pull for example. While you can perform a bent-over version of this movement with dumbbells, this places pressure on the lower back, which can potentially be a limiting factor.

Bands are fantastic for strengthening the legs, too, as they can be easily looped over a foot to practice leg extensions, leg raises, lateral band walks, or a host of other movements.

And show me a better way to train the anterior tibialis (the muscle on the front of the shin that is responsible for dorsiflexion of the foot) that actually provides resistance?

7 Incidental Training

Regular readers will know that I’m a huge advocate for what I call “incidental training.” That means training throughout the day, whenever an appropriate opportunity presents itself.

I’ll do calf raises while I’m waiting at a bus stop, I’ll perform dips while my computer boots up, etc.

See also: Incidental Training: Everything Can Be Training

The problem, is that it’s very hard to train pulling movements without extra equipment (a pull up bar, at the very least).

A very easy solution is to put a resistance band in your pocket. This way, you can train with a wide variety of movements, wherever you are!

8 Mobility and Weighted Stretching

Bands are not just great for hypertrophy, but also mobility. You can use bands to get yourself into positions you otherwise could, or to exert strength at end-ranges of motion. You can also use bands to perform weighted stretches. These not only develop mobility, but may also improve hypertrophy.

For example, a band or cable fly is perfect for pulling the pecs into a stretched position. Training at this point may help to increase muscle growth and there are many anecdotal examples of this such as Arnold Schwarzenegger – whose large pecs may have come partly from dumbbell flyes.

Cable Flyes

9 Accommodating Resistance and Assistance

Bands can also be used to make a movement harder or easier when combined with other modalities. Accommodating resistance, for example, involves placing bands over a barbell such that the strength curve is changed (increasing the resistance at the points where you are strongest).

See also: Training Weak Points and End Range Strength

Alternatively, you can use bands to assist you through a pull-up or front lever. Or even to make a push up more difficult!

10 Variable Speeds

Finally, another benefit of resistance band training is that it is well suited to a range of tempos. You can use bands with isometric holds in order to safely flood an area with blood and train strength endurance. In the video, I demonstrate how this might be used when mimicking a strangle-hold.

You can also use bands to safely train through slow eccentrics, maximizing muscle damage and encouraging more growth.

Strength endurance resistance bands

OR you can go the other way and train explosively with bands. This involves zero risk of launching a dumbbell through your window, putting your back out, or dropping anything on your foot!

And one bonus benefit of resistance band training is that it’s extremely easy to switch between tempos and weights. Simply shift your hand position, or step forward or back, and you have instantly altered the amount of resistance on the fly. This makes resistance bands PERFECT for mechanical drop sets.

Hopefully, I have convinced you of the many benefits of resistance band training. If you aren’t already using them, why not pick up a set? They’re super-cheap, too!

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

5 Comments

  1. Srinidhi says:

    Hey! A big fan of your work. Commenting for the first time on the blog becuase I feel like I may have something to contribute. I don’t know if you had talked about this before but for me it felt like I came up with it myself. I like to call it the NFS method (After the Need for speed franchise which I grew up playing) Its like splitting the reps into 3 parts, for example in a 12 rep set, 4 reps of fast eccentric and slow concentric, 4 reps of very fast but controlled eccentric and concentric and finally slow and controlled concentric. I like shift it up for the other sets like NFS,SNF,FSN (N-normal tempo, F- Fast tempo, S- Slow tempo) I’m doing this style since like a month and I came up with this while watching your video :). THANK YOU FOR ALL THE AMAZING CONTENT. Hope I’ll meet you when I’m in the UK in the future. Lots of love from India

    • Srinidhi says:

      Hey the same guy who commented the NFS method, just wanted to say if you think if what i said is somewhat original and worth mentioning, then when you do write a blog where you mention that can you please acknowledge me, like as a fan not directly me. That would really mean a lot. yes I’m 17 so you’d understand the feeling of getting acknowledge by your idol😂❤️. Thank you🙇

  2. Mike M says:

    Hi,
    Excellent video/article.

    I recently started using bands.
    I’m 64 and bands are more forgiving than weights.

    You should have an affiliate link for the bands you use.
    Yours look better than the ones I have.

    Mike

  3. Paul says:

    Hi what bands are you using? I have one made by ripcord need a few more now. Thanks for excellent video
    🙂

  4. Bob C says:

    Like some of the others I’m interested in bands. Can you recommend any?

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