You’re looking to buy a set of resistance bands to work out at home. But are resistance bands alone enough to build muscle? Here’s what you need to know.
Can resistance bands provide a muscle building workout? Yes, you can build muscle with resistance bands. The more muscle you have already, the less effective resistance bands are going to be in building muscle. You’ll get better results by doing isolation exercises instead of compound lifts.
There are some details about resistance bands and training with them you should know. Keep reading to find out.
Can resistance bands build muscle?
To answer that, we first have to quickly look at what you need to build muscle. There are four things you need to build muscle. Of course you can make this much more complicated but in my opinion these are the basics.
- Challenging resistance
- Rest periods
- Enough repetitions
Nutrition and recovery have nothing to do with resistance bands so let’s forget those.
Repetitions and rest periods are completely up to you.
That leaves the resistance. Of course the word resistance is already in the name ‘resistance band’. But how much resistance you need to build muscle is different for everyone.
Resistance bands come in different ‘weights’ and can be stacked for more resistance as well. Most sets top out around 100 lbs. if you combine the different bands together.
Is that enough to build muscle? That depends on two different things;
- Training level
Some exercises are easier than others. You don’t need as much weight for a bicep curl to be challenging as for a deadlift. So that 100 lbs. of resistance is going to be plenty for many isolation exercises. Most people won’t curl more than 100 lbs. For most isolation exercises, you’ll have to be very well trained to not have enough resistance with a band. Most people will be able to build muscle by doing isolation exercises.
However, for a compound lift, 100 lbs. isn’t much. A 100 lbs. squat isn’t anything many people would be impressed by. Absolute beginners will still see some muscle building effects because it’s new and still provides enough of a training impulse. However, pretty quickly it won’t be enough resistance to provide a muscle growth impulse anymore although you can still increase the repetitions.
Compound exercises are great for building muscle mass but require a lot of resistance to do so. With resistance bands you don’t have that much resistance to play with.
Can you build good muscle mass with just isolation exercises? Sure you can. You can build a great physique with isolation exercises although compound lifts help to ‘integrate’ all your muscles and make your whole body stronger.
If you’ve got a few attachments points, there are so many exercise options, you won’t run out of new things to try anytime soon.
Resistance bands are awesome but only go so far. Want to build a home gym that can do everything you need to build muscle while not taking up a lot of space? Check out my eBook!
What can resistance bands not do?
Resistance bands are great for high repetition low(ish) resistance workouts. If you think you’re going to get a huge bench press by training with resistance bands only, it’s not going to happen. Although there are heaver resistance bands there aren’t any 300lbs resistance bands.
Now if you combine resistance bands with barbell, kettlebell or dumbbell exercises, there is a whole new world of exercise options that opens up. This can be really effective to break through plateaus. However, just by themselves, resistance bands won’t give you huge muscles.
That said, many people aren’t looking to become a huge bodybuilder. So in that regard you will be fine. Especially if you play around with the number of repetitions and length of rest periods, you can still build a good physique.
Are resistance bands alone enough?
So, are resistance bands by themselves enough for a full workout?
It depends on your goals and current training level.
For a beginner, resistance bands are a great start and all you need for a while. You can build some muscle and strength which will improve your body composition and physique.
For intermediate lifters, resistance bands are a good way to stay in shape. You might not see many muscle gains if you’re only using resistance bands but you can use them to keep the muscle you’ve got. Especially if you combine them with bodyweight exercises. You will probably lose some strength.
For advanced lifters, resistance bands won’t be enough to even keep the muscle you’ve got. They can be a good addition to get to some smaller muscles that can be difficult to isolate with dumbbells or barbells. Also, combined with other weights, resistance bands can alter the strength curve for extra gains. But no, by themselves they’re not enough.
To summarize, for beginners and pre-intermediate lifters, resistance bands alone can provide muscle and strength gains. And since you can easily do a whole body workout with resistance bands, they are enough for those groups. Combined with bodyweight exercises you can build a decent physique.
For intermediate and advanced lifters there are benefits to using resistance bands but ALONE they won’t be enough to build muscle.
Looking for a set of resistance bands to get you started? Check out this set. (Amazon link). It has everything you need to start building muscle.
Difference between resistance bands and weights
Trying to decide between buying resistance bands and weights? What’s the difference?
Besides how it looks and feels, there is a huge difference between weights and resistance bands;
Resistance bands give more resistance the further you stretch them. Weights weight the same all the time.
There is something else that comes into play however. Something that’s related to the other point; strengths curves.
Think about a bodyweight squat for example. Where is the squat the most difficult? For most people that’s the deepest part. Getting up from the lowest position is the most difficult.
Now if you add a barbell to the equation, the deepest part gets even more difficult and the later part gets relatively easier.
If you ditch the barbell and use a resistance band, the deepest part is the same as with a bodyweight squat since there is little stretch on the band. But the further you get up, the more you stretch the band and the higher the resistance gets. However, the later part is just easier for your body because you’re in a position where you can use your muscles more effectively.
That means that the extra resistance is balanced by the easier position. In the end this means that the effort you need to expand to finish a squat is much flatter over the whole range of motion. Where with a barbell or bodyweight squat the effort is highest at the bottom and drop of steeply later, a resistance band make it more consistent.
What does this matter? For most beginners not too much. More advanced lifters can use this knowledge to strengthen different parts of their range of motion.
Can resistance bands break? Yes, resistance bands can break, especially when they get older and dry out. You’re very unlikely to break a resistance band that’s in good shape through normal use. Resistance bands with an eyelet attached can sometimes fail at the attachment point.
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