Originally a proven alternative to free weights and machines for the elderly and injured, elastic bands have been confirmed in a new review to boost muscle strength and functional performance in healthy folks too. But that’s not the only reason we love mini-bands. Let us count the ways…
1. They Increase Muscle Activation
Mini-bands are unique among resistance tools because they place constant tension on your muscles, keeping them equally engaged for both the contracting and lengthening phases of an exercise, says personal trainer Alexia Clark. In fact, one study in the European Journal of Sport Science found that using elastics can increase muscle activity up to 15 percent more than training with dumbbells.
The stretchiness of the band also allows you to tap smaller stabilising muscles that you can’t hit with dead weight because they pitch in to maintain control all along the range of motion (so the band doesn’t slip or snap). And bands do all this without putting weighted stress on your joints (mainly your hips and knees). So “while you might get sore, you literally can’t overdo it,” says personal trainer Ben Bruno.
2. They Fast-Track Fat Loss
Kilojoule burn goes hand in hand with muscle activation: the more muscle fibres you work – especially within your glutes – the more kilojoules you zap. And that’s just in the moment. Bands help build muscle size and strength over time and it takes more energy to maintain muscle, so you’ll spur your resting metabolism as well.
3. They Refine Your Form
Their best function is an inherent “autocorrect feature,” says BJ Gaddour, trainer and creator of workout-subscription site TheDailyBJ.com. An example: placing the band above or below your knees for squats and dead lifts pulls your knees together, which can cause “valgus” – a form flaw women are prone to because of their wider hips. “This forces you to reflexively push your knees apart, helping you burn out your glutes and hamstrings,” says Bruno. (It also reduces knee pain.) A band around your wrists can enhance push-ups too by encouraging optimal elbow angles.
4. They Strengthen Weak Spots
Your glutes and scapular muscles benefit most from bands as they don’t always engage properly with weights, says Gaddour. “You’ll better sculpt those areas and be more proficient at any exercise.” How we move those muscles also matters: we tend to lack lateral stability, since we mostly move forward and back or up and down. When used for moves like squat walks, the band amps mobility in that direction – crucial for dynamic activities like ice skating and dancing.
What The Colour Coding Means
Bands aren’t coloured just for looks – the shade reflects their level of resistance. (Each brand has its own spectrum and some sell a variety pack, so read the description before buying.) Get a Sportmate Exercise Band (Heavy) for R99.95 at Dis-Chem, or a Latex Aerobic Band (Light) for R79.99 at MrP Sport.