5 reasons why you should use an exercise band at home

Image shows a senior lady working out with an exercise band in a fitness class

Dumbbells, kettlebells, TRX, sandbags, rebounders, swiss balls, foam rollers, pilates rings… There’s so much exercise equipment available these days.

And that’s without even going to a gym, with all the treadmills, spin bikes and weight machines.

You could buy a new piece of equipment every week (especially if you get drawn into the shopping channels), but will you ever use them?

We firmly believe that one piece of equipment which you use regularly is better than tens of hundreds which sit gathering dust (and making you feel guilty).

For us, that piece of equipment is the exercise band…

In this article, I will share the 5 reasons why we think exercise bands are a great choice for home exercise.

I will answer all your questions about exercise bands, including:

  • What kinds of exercises you can do with bands
  • Whether one band is enough
  • How to hold the bands to protect your wrists
  • How to look after your bands (so they last longer)
  • How to use your bands safely

Keep reading to learn all about the benefits of exercise bands. If you still have any questions at the end, just let me know!

What are exercise bands?

Exercise bands are long, rubber bands which are used to provide resistance and build strength. They are often called resistance or therapy bands.

The 5 reasons why you should have an exercise band at home

  • They are light, portable and can be easily stored
  • They are inexpensive
  • You can strengthen all your major muscle groups (and build bone density) using them
  • They are safe and easy to use
  • We use them in our videos ?

Is there just one type of exercise band?

I am afraid not! There are many different types of bands available.

Some are tubular, some are flat. Some have handles, others have different attachments. Some are in the shape of a loop or circle. The loop bands can be small (eg. to go round your ankles – we use these in our classes) or much larger (used for full body exercises, like squats). You can also get bands covered in a soft fabric or with other special features.

As with many things now, there is infinite choice, which can make shopping (and life in general) quite complicated.

We don’t want to make things more complicated than they need to be. So, for now, we are just using the long, flat bands without handles in our videos. 

Of course, there are some great things you can do with the other types of bands, but it doesn’t help you if we use different equipment in our videos each week. You won’t be able to keep up with us and will end up frustrated that you never have the right equipment.

Exercises you can and will do are always more beneficial than ones you just watch!

What are exercise bands good for?

Exercise bands are great for building strength and muscle mass. Anything that works your muscles also loads your bones, which increases bone density. Stronger bones mean you are less likely to suffer a fracture.

We use exercise bands for strengthening and bone health exercises in our group classes, one to one sessions and in our online videos.

This band exercise will strengthen your hip muscles (and bones)

Which band should you get?

There are different strengths of bands, ranging from very light (used for rehabilitation exercises) to super strong.  

The bands are usually colour-coded based on their tension. However, it can be confusing, as different manufacturers use different colours. So, for one make of band, yellow could be light (easy), and for another, it could be strong (super hard!). As long as you buy all your bands from one manufacturer, this won’t be an issue, but it is good to know if you end up mixing and matching different types of bands.

We recommend buying a pack with 3 or 4 strengths of bands. You may wish to use different strength bands for some of the exercises. You will progress through the bands as you get stronger.

You can buy bands online, as well as at fitness equipment stores, sports clothing and equipment stores and even some larger supermarkets.

What if you already have a band? Will that do?

If you already have a band, that’s great. There are just a couple of things to check.

Firstly, if you have had it a while, stretch it out to see if it is in good condition. If you see any tears or small holes, you will need to replace it.

Secondly, see how strong it is. Bands provided by physiotherapists are often for rehabilitation or recovery purposes. These might not be strong enough for general exercise use.

Remember also, that you will probably need more than one band. Having 2 or 3 different strengths will mean you can make the most of different exercises, and will allow for progression.

Pay attention if you have a latex allergy

Some bands are made with latex. If you have a latex allergy, make sure to buy a latex-free band.

What should it feel like when you are doing exercises with the bands?

When using a band, you should feel ‘worked’ and somewhat fatigued by the end of the exercise.

If you don’t feel much, you can try:

  • Holding the band closer together (so reducing the space between your hands on the band, so there is less band for you to pull).
  • Using a stronger band

It shouldn’t hurt when you do band exercises (we don’t advocate the ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy). You should feel your muscles working but if you feel acute pain (especially in your joints) we suggest stopping. You can check your technique (this is usually the key), try a lighter band or perform a smaller movement.

To make this exercise more challenging, I would put my hands closer together on the band (but pull it just as far apart).

What exercises should you do with the bands? Do you need to follow a programme?

We always recommend taking advice from an experienced, qualified instructor. You can do exercises you have learnt in a class, follow a book or written programme or an online video. This will ensure that you have good technique and are performing the exercise correctly.

Strong Foundations Studio member Michelle enjoys doing the band exercises in our online videos. She feels confident using the videos because:  “You are right there explaining to me PRECISELY how to use the bands, so I feel safe. Also, I really do feel that using the bands is fun!”

How can I look after my bands?

Store your bands at room temperature (away from sources of heat)

Keep your band in a small bag or pouch, protected from sharp items, to ensure it stays in good condition for longer.

If your band starts sticking together, you can dust it with talcum powder. You can also roll or fold it around a piece of fabric to keep it from sticking together.

Can I get fitter and stronger without exercise bands?

Of course you can. For building strength, you have many options including barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, gym equipment and bodyweight exercises.

There’s something for everyone. The key with exercise is to find what works for you, so that you will keep doing it.

It depends where you are and what your goals are. Bands are very easy to keep at home or to take away with you when you travel. If you are at the gym, there will be much more equipment to work with.

Some people like the feel of dumbbells, others prefer the bands. One member tells me she ‘ likes the feel of them in her hands’, much more so than a metal weight.

What’s the best way to hold the bands? 

It’s important to hold your wrists correctly when using the bands. It’s very easy to extend your wrists, but this puts a lot of strain through them, which we don’t want.

Try to keep your wrists firm and straight, so that the back of your hand is in line with your forearm.

These images show bent wrists (on the left) and straight wrists (on the right). Straight wrists will help you to avoid injury and make the most of the exercises. 

What else should you think about when using exercise bands?

Make sure not to wrap them around your hands, just hold them firmly in your fist. You may see people wrapping bands tightly around their hands, but we don’t recommend this as it can damage fragile skin and affect your circulation.

If you need to wrap the band around your legs or use a loop band around your ankles, you should do this over trousers/ leggings or socks, not bare skin. The band can pull and feel uncomfortable on bare skin.

Also keep the band flat whenever it is wrapped around your legs. If it rolls up this can put more pressure on one area of skin, as well as affect your circulation.

Safety tips

Check your band each time you use it. If it has any tears or holes, you shouldn’t use it. A tiny tear can very quickly lead to a full rip in the band. If this happens while you are exercising, the band can snap back and cause injury.

If you ever hear a twanging or snapping noise when you are using your band, close your eyes immediately (in case it snaps up towards your face). This is unlikely to happen if you have looked after your band and checked it before use, but it’s good to know.

Some band exercises involve looping the band around something (so you can pull on both ends), eg for a pulling (rowing-type) movement. You should only loop the band around something which is fixed to the wall/ ground and able to take substantial weight. Please don't loop it around furniture that could move (you are stronger than you think!). Also don't loop it around something where it could slip off during the exercise – if the band comes off and shoots back towards you, this can be very painful.

Some bands are sold with accessories to anchor them in doors etc. If you are using these, follow all the instructions very clearly and check the equipment regularly for damage.

Exercise bands are a great piece of home exercise equipment

So, I hope that has answered all your questions about exercise bands. Here again are the five reasons why we think you should have an exercise band at home:

  • They are light, portable and can be easily stored
  • They are inexpensive
  • You can strengthen all your major muscle groups (and build bone density) using them
  • They are safe and easy to use
  • We use them in our videos ?

We also use exercise bands in our Strong Foundations classes (which have been featured on BBC Radio 4). A number of routines based on our Strong Foundations classes are available to members of the Vida Wellness Studio

I would love to know about your experience with exercise bands.

If you haven’t used them before, do you have any concerns or reservations?

If you have used them before, how did you find the exercises, and would you like more?

Let me know in the comments below or send me a message through our contact page. 

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All material in this article and video is provided for information and educational purposes only. It is not advice and should not be relied on as such. Always consult an exercise or health professional if you have any health issues and need personalised advice. With this in mind, we hope you enjoy reading our articles and watching our videos.

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