Are Resistance Bands Good for Building Muscle? Science And Facts

Are Resistance Bands Good for Building Muscle

Are resistance bands good for building muscle? If I had earned a dollar every time I had to answer that question, I’d be a millionaire!

So:

For all of you seeking an answer to this question – I have dedicated a blog post just for you!

Read on and find out EVERYTHING there is to know about resistance bands and their effectiveness. I’m pretty sure some of the science will surprise you…

Are Resistance Bands Good for Building Muscle?

In short, yes.

The body understands the tension more than anything else. How we provide that tension is of lesser importance. So long as we stimulate the muscles well enough and with enough volume, we can make them grow.

For example, one recent systematic review and meta-analysis compared the effects of elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength (1). Researchers found that elastic resistance can lead to similar upper and lower body improvements as conventional types of training. 

In their words, “Elastic resistance training is able to promote similar strength gains to conventional resistance training, in different population profiles and using diverse protocols.”

What’s even more interesting is that resistance bands might be better at stimulating muscle growth when used to their full capacity.

Let’s see what that means.

What Makes Resistance Bands Effective?

Many people see resistance bands as mostly ineffective. One common argument is that resistance bands don’t offer as much versatility as free weights do. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are six reasons why:

1. You Can do Many Exercises With Bands

The most notable benefit of resistance bands is that you can use them for many exercises, even those you would do in a typical gym setting. For example, instead of doing cable chest flyes, do them with a band. Instead of doing dumbbell bicep curls, do them with a band. Instead of doing machine lat pulldowns, do them with a band.

With a bit of creativity, you can come up with dozens of creative ways to add resistance bands and enrich your training.

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2. You Have Linear Variable Resistance (LVR)

Linear variable resistance refers to resistance bands’ unique ability to offer progressively more resistance as you lengthen them.

The most obvious benefit here is that you can use a level of resistance that fits your current ability. Instead of taking a free weight and forcing yourself to adapt to it, the resistance band adapts to your ability.

For instance, you can attach a resistance band to something sturdy and perform rows. At first, you might only step back one or two feet and use the band’s resistance level to train. But, as you get stronger, that level of resistance won’t be challenging enough. Then, you can step another foot or two back to increase the band’s resistance.

This allows you to keep overloading your muscles as you get stronger. Research also finds this to be beneficial for combining barbell training with resistance bands (2).

3. You Get a Free Range of Movement

A significant benefit of resistance bands over most gym machines is the free range of movement. In other words, instead of trying to adjust your body to a specific machine’s movement pattern, you adjust the exercise equipment to your body.

This is amazing because it allows you to perform natural movement patterns and remain safe.

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4. There is Resistance in Multiple Planes

Consider a free weight for a moment:

The only plane of resistance is down. Gravity pulls on the weight, and you overcome that force by contracting your muscles. For example, to lift a barbell off the floor, you need to produce more force than gravity.

Now, consider a resistance band:

With a bit of creativity, you can use it in multiple planes with great success. Interested in doing chest flyes? Attach the band to something near your chest level, take a step back, turn away, and do the movement. Want to do some bicep curls? Step over the band, grab it and curl. Interested in pulldowns or rows? Again, attach the band somewhere sturdy, take a step back, and row.

Instead of relying on gravity, resistance bands rely on the elastic energy they store, which gives us a lot of training versatility.

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5. You Get Constant Tension Throughout Each Repetition

A considerable benefit of resistance band training is that you get constant tension throughout each repetition. Consider a dumbbell curl for a moment:

The only real tension occurs once you initiate the curl and are past the midway point. Tension peaks at the top and slowly goes away as you lower the dumbbell to the starting position.

Thanks to their linear variable resistance and lack of gravitational dependence, bands are much different. The more you lengthen them, the greater the tension. You also don’t have to worry about gravity. Instead, you need to have solid attachment points.

6. You Can’t Use Momentum

As discussed above, resistance bands provide more tension as we lengthen them. Meaning, each repetition tends to start off more easily and get progressively more difficult as we near the end. This means that we can’t use momentum because even if we produce more force initially, it typically won’t be enough to overcome the resistance that follows.

Free weights are different because it’s much easier to apply more force initially and allow that to carry out the remainder of the repetition and take away tension from our muscles.

Final Words

Resistance bands offer a practical, versatile, and affordable way to train and take our fitness on the go (3). Instead of relying on a gym, we can get ourselves several resistance bands and do various proven exercises for muscle gain.

Plus, resistance bands work great with other types of equipment (such as dumbbells), which makes them a must-have in any budget home gym.

For TONS of actionable tips on how to build strength at home, visit and bookmark my at-home strength-building archive. The only resource you’ll ever need if you are serious about growing muscle!

See you there!

Other Helpful Resources

References

  1. Lopes, Jaqueline Santos Silva et al. “Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” SAGE open medicine vol. 7 2050312119831116. 19 Feb. 2019, doi:10.1177/2050312119831116
  2. MA, Soria-Gila & Chirosa, Ignacio & Bautista, Iker & Chirosa Ríos, Luis & Baena Morales, Salvador. (2015). “Effects Of Variable Resistance Training On Maximal Strength: A Meta-Analysis.” The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Publish Ahead of Print. 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000971.
  3. Shoepe TC, Ramirez DA, Rovetti RJ, Kohler DR, Almstedt HC. “The Effects of 24 weeks of Resistance Training with Simultaneous Elastic and Free Weight Loading on Muscular Performance of Novice Lifters.” J Hum Kinet. 2011;29:93-106. doi:10.2478/v10078-011-0043-8