• Ciaran O’Connell


Thanks to widely popular instagram videos, you may have seen gym users using various resistance bands and elastic bands in their training. Whether or not they are using them in the correct manner is a different subject…

This article focuses on the use of resistance bands for STRENGTH gains. Of course the resistance band has a multitude of uses, and this would be too long of a read to cover all of these. I’ll try do as many as possible in individual blogs.

Resistance bands are probably first seen by people in a rehabilitation setting, and quite simply this is because of their ability to strengthen muscles and joints. So why are people reluctant to use them in a different setting (when trying to improve maximal strength output)? They clearly help strengthen us… Partly it’s because people are unsure how to utilise them, but also why exactly they should (when it means losing the ego boost they get from stacking on more weight plates on the bar).

HOW and WHY to use resistance bands?

There are 3 simple ways:

Stand alone - This is probably the easiest way to start introducing resistance bands. Treat the

band like it is a weight. For instance, step on the middle of one and use the ends to bring the band towards you (like a bent over row with a barbell). It doesn’t have to be for a big

movement like a row. For example, you can use them effectively for smaller muscles around the rotator cuff or ankle. This is also a great way of warming up the muscles we are going to use in the ‘big’ lifts and for activation.

Added to weight - The addition of a resistance band to a weight means the force required to move the weight is much greater. Meaning you’ll have to push or pull faster. This ‘speed’ training increases our muscle fibre recruitment, and increase the ability to produce force. Adding a band to your workout a couple of times a week will result in a greater 1 rep max. A study found that adding elastic band training to regular free weight resistance training significantly increased lower and upper body strength. Adding bands can be tricky so it’s best to add them to the bar alone to ensure the movement is stable and secure (lol Theresa) before adding more weight.

For assistance - An exercise such as a pull up can be a tricky one to master. Yes we can start with a lat pull down to develop our muscle strength, but it doesn’t teach the body how to perform the movement. Looping a band over a pull up bar and placing a foot on the band gives us the assistance to bring our chin up to the bar, whilst engaging our core and utilises the back muscles to perform the movement. Just think of it as someone giving you a leg up. You’re pulling yourself up, but someone underneath is giving you that extra nudge. In time you’ll require less and less assistance to do the movement until you can do it alone.

Another way bands work as assistance is for speed and ballistic movements, such as a band assisted press up. This allows the muscles to push quicker than normal and develop elasticity as well as our ‘fast fibres’. Often sprinters will use this technique on their hamstrings to keep a fast movement flowing through the joints, but without the same strain as full weight.

So now you know some ways to incorporate resistance bands in to your training, why not give it a go and see for yourself. Don’t make the whole workout resistance band orientated, just add in a couple of exercises to your workout twice a week.



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