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- Dumbbells are one of the first pieces of workout equipment people think of when outfitting their home gym but you don’t actually need them to meet your fitness goals.
- Instead, opt for the portability and versatility of resistance bands which can help you build and tone muscle as well, if not better, than dumbbells.
- Resistance bands are also great for rehabilitation exercises and are often used during physical therapy sessions.
- For insight, we asked three personal trainers about why resistance bands are a great substitute for dumbbells and how they can replace your need for free weights.
When local gyms and fitness studios closed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, exercise equipment began selling out almost as quickly as toilet paper. The general consensus among fitness enthusiasts was, “No gym? No problem,” as long as the right gear was available to allow you to break a sweat at home.
That sentiment is mostly true, too; there are countless at-home workout programs and apps that deliver gym-level results. However, not everyone has the means (i.e. funds) to finance a deluxe home gym — and this is before we even talk about the amount of space that’s required.
The happy medium is to invest in affordable, versatile gym equipment capable of standing in for the standard modern machinery or weight racks you’d find at your local 24-Hour Fitness. Though dumbbells naturally were where people looked first, there’s always been a more effective, cost-efficient alternative hiding in plain sight: resistance bands.
Resistance bands are a highly underrated piece of workout equipment, and something everyone should consider — even when dumbbells inevitably restock. The reasons why are many, too. First, resistance bands are a more versatile piece of workout gear capable of providing tension throughout the entirety of whatever routine or lift you’re doing (something a set of dumbbells can’t do). They’re also excellent at working your core.
To find out just how multifaceted these elastic bands can be, and why you should add a set or two to your at-home collection, we reached out to a few personal trainers who swear by resistance bands both in and out of the gym.
Resistance bands 101
In case you’re new to the fitness space, resistance bands are exactly what they sound like: Elastic bands that add resistance to your workouts and lifts. They come in a variety of sizes and differ in weight based on their thickness and length, explained Brianna Bernard, a personal trainer, nutrition coach, and Isopure ambassador.
When used correctly, resistance bands help improve muscle strength and balance, promote flexibility, and help you achieve better posture and tone your muscles. They’re also incredibly convenient, able to be stored just about anywhere while also taking up a small footprint.
Exercises can you do with resistance bands
According to Centr trainer, Luke Zocchi, resistance bands are one of, if not the most versatile piece of exercise equipment.
“[Resistance bands] can be used to add resistance to any bodyweight exercises, especially upper body workouts like bicep curls or lateral raises, and lower body/glute moves like squats, glute bridges, etc.,” Zocchi told Insider. “They’re also a great rehab tool for people coming back from an injury that need to focus on rebuilding strength.”
Resistance bands can be used to enhance your cardio training, as well. Brianna Bernard recommends adding them to squat jumps, rear-delt jacks, or for boxing moves like jabs and crosses as a way to add weight to those already-dynamic movements.
How resistance bands can replace your need for dumbbells
While resistance bands can be used to warm up your muscles prior to weightlifting, they can also replace your need for dumbbells entirely. Not only are dumbbells bulky and difficult to transport, but they take up a decent chunk of space in your home.
Resistance bands are the polar opposite: They’re lightweight, travel-friendly, and barely require much storage space in your home or gym bag. And when it comes time to work out, resistance bands can do everything dumbbells can, while also offering their own unique variety and benefit.
For example, like dumbbells, resistance bands provide a level of resistance to help your muscles tear and become stronger. However, unlike dumbbells, resistance bands maintain constant tension on the muscles throughout the entire movement of an exercise, and therefore create greater muscle growth, Zocchi told us. And because resistance bands naturally limit your range of motion, overextension of the joints is also less likely.
Money-wise, resistance bands are far more affordable than a set of dumbbells and have proven to be more widely available, too.
Here are some of the best resistance bands that can substitute for dumbbells
TheraBand caters to all fitness levels, so whether you’re a beginner or a fitness fanatic, these bands can be beneficial to your goals. Available in latex and non-latex materials, each three-pack features bands measuring 5 feet long and 4 inches wide. The bands are color-coded by resistance level, in which blue bands are 5.8 – 8.5lbs., black bands are-7.3-10.2lbs., and silver is 10.2-15.3lbs.
If you’re looking to do intense strength training, you may opt for a set that provides more resistance than what TheraBand offers but these bands are also great to have on hand for times when rehabilitation is necessary.
If you’re constantly on the go but don’t want your travel plans interfering with your fitness routine, toss this set of resistance bands in your carry-on. Perform Better’s miniature bands measure 9 inches by 2 inches, meaning they’ll take up minimal space in your suitcase, gym bag, or home gym. You could even stash an extra set in the glove compartment of your car, just in case. Packs include sets of either four or 10 bands and they’re great for both rehabilitation purposes or workouts.
Dynapro is a major player in the resistance band market, and for good reason. Not only are these resistance bands high-quality and highly functional, but they also make for an aesthetically pleasing addition to your stockpile. The brand’s patent-pending design includes an adjustable connection for consistent tension, meaning you can adjust the length of your bands to meet your individual needs. They also come in a range of colors that are coded by resistance level: Yellow bands are 5-10lbs, green are 15-20lbs, red are 20-25lbs, blue are 25-30lbs, and black are 35-50lbs.
Kit purchases even come with a workout guide that gets emailed to you once your order ships. So, not only are you getting a reliable and effective set of resistance bands, but you’re also getting an exercise program to get the most out of your new equipment.
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