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How do I select the right level of resistance with bands?

When selecting a resistance level for bands it’s natural to want to compare the process to free weights. In other words, how “heavy” is one band versus another. The process is actually very different between the two. Let’s compare:

Free Weights - The resistance level with free-weights is a constant, meaning that a 30-pound dumbbell always weighs 30 pounds, no matter how you press it or pull it. It’s also constant throughout the range of movement, meaning that same dumbbell weighs 30-pounds at the beginning of a biceps curl, and still weighs 30-pounds at the end.  This is why you need a full rack of dumbbells to create all the different resistance levels that you need.

Resistance Bands - Bands have what is called Linear Variable Resistance, meaning that the resistance can vary, depending on the starting tension, or how much the band is stretched at the beginning of the movement, and how much it’s stretched at the end of the movement. The more you stretch a band, the more resistance they create. The slacker the band is, the less resistance it creates. This means that with 5 different bands you have much more than just 5 different levels of resistance. In fact, you can create countless different resistance levels.

Here’s a few examples of how you can create more or less resistance, by shortening or lengthening the band:

  1. DISTANCE FROM ANCHOR POINT: If you anchor the band (to a pole, doorway, etc) and stand close to the anchor point you will have less resistance. If you step back away from the anchor point you will have more resistance. If you are anchoring the band under your feet and pressing over your head, the height of your body will vary the level of resistance.
  2. RANGE OF MOTION: In any exercise, as you start the exercise, the band will be more relaxed at the start of the movement and as you go through the full range of motion, the band stretches, creating more resistance at the end. The Linear Variable Resistance more closely matches the natural strength curve of your muscles. Think about a biceps curl - you’re weakest at the bottom and strongest at the top.
  3. HAND POSITION: Depending on where you grab the band, you can create more or less resistance. If you grab the band in the middle and shorten it’s length, that means that you will stretch the band more, therefore creating more resistance. If you hold the band at the very end, in that same exercise, you will stretch it less, and create less resistance.
  4. STACKING BANDS: If you still need more resistance, after going up to the next size band, and you’ve already adjusted both your distance and hand position, then you can create more resistance by adding in another band. Start by using your existing resistance level and then add in in the smallest band and checking your tension. If you need to go up more you can then move to the next highest. By stacking various combinations of the 5 bands, you can create countless different resistance levels.

 

SPECIAL TIP: When training with bands, worry less about the weight itself and focus more on how the resistance feels. You want to make sure that you go heavy enough where it’s difficult at the beginning of a movement and then very hard at the end of the movement, yet still allows you to complete the full range of motion and all of the repetitions in the given set.

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