#1 Why Does Training With Bands Work?
Well the reason is quite simple. The muscles in our body have basically one purpose, and it is to enable us to interact with the world around us. Walking, jumping, opening doors, lifting a bottle to drink – all these things are only possible because our muscles can produce force. Usually we have to overcome gravity to be able to move ourselves or an object through space. So the force we can produce with our muscles has to be larger than the force created by gravity for us to be able to move us or an object. Lifting a car for example would be probably too heavy.
But the maximum force output of our muscles is not fixed. We can actually increase that. This is thanks to our ability to adapt to the external condition. Our body does that basically completely automatically. If we have to lift a heavy object on a regular basis our muscles would adapt to it, and it will become easier over time. This means if there is resistance we have to overcome regularly our body will increase the muscle size to get a larger force output and therefore become more efficient.
So what did we actually learn? The gist is: If we have to work against a resistance which is large enough – our body will adopt by building muscles and strength. The great thing is that this resistance can be generated by anything. It can be a heavy rock, our own body weight, a dumbbell in the gym or the tension in a resistance band. Our muscles simply don’t know the difference. But is resistance band training totally the same as working out with weights? – Not quite there are some differences. In the next section we will have a look how the resistance is actually created.
#2 How Is Resistance Created With Bands?
When it comes to weight training everyone has a basic understanding what resistance is in this case. The combination of the weight of an object with gravity. This makes up the resulting resistance our muscles have to work against. Alright that was easy… but what about resistance bands? Is it the same principle? The weight of the band and gravity result in resistance? No – resistance bands don’t need gravity to work!
In bands the resistance is generated through elastic deformation. This basically means that a band doesn’t like to be stretched – if you do it anyway it wants to return to its original form at any cost. This “wants to return to its original form” is the elastic force generated by resistance bands. And like we already covered in the first section your muscles don’t care how the resistance was created which they have to work against.
#3 How Do We Become Stronger And Fitter?
The key here is “Mechanical Tension”. Contrary to the past assumption that there are 3 key factors to becoming stronger and build muscles – today research shows that mechanical tension has the biggest impact. The other two factors are metabolic stress and muscle damage. Resent research shows that these 2 factors play only a minor role in resistance training.
But what is mechanical tension exactly? Well we actually already covered it. Mechanical tension is the force we apply to our body and use our muscles to work against that force. Is the mechanical tension used in a workout session high enough – our body gets a signal to create more muscles to be able to handle this stress better.
But mechanical tension has to be applied over an extended time frame to have an effect and create a stimulus. A simple 1 repetition won’t do much, and you won’t see any results. You need to do several repetitions, and perform several sets to get progress. A great baseline to keep in mind is the total time under tension to aim for in a given set. This should be at least 30 seconds and can be as high as 70 seconds. This means that if you’re aiming for 10 reps, each rep should be at leas 3 seconds long.