While we do use weights at various points in our strength programming, you'll see another piece of equipment even more frequently: resistance bands.
Bands deliver powerful and unique physiological benefits, especially in the context of endurance training. Let's take a closer look at why we incorporate these into our sessions so frequently:
1) Orientation to gravity
Most equipment (Kettlebells, Dumbbells, Barbells) uses gravity to create the load--that means you can generally only use them in a specific orientation to gravity (perpendicular). Bands can be anchored anywhere and allow for more versatility of vectors or motion. Changing vectors of motion is critical to increased neuromuscular strength and stability. Another example of this could be changing where you put your hands in a pushup; it creates a slightly different neural input to your brain’s map. This improved "neuromuscular versatility" can translate to improved balance and strength which improves your power output, while also giving the body more comprehensive tools to prevent injury or tackle uneven terrain.
2) Accommodating resistance
Most equipment maintains the same resistance all the way through a movement because it is a static load that is using gravity. However, your body becomes more mechanically efficient at certain points during a movement. Think of a bench press; you are weakest when the barbell is close to your chest and strongest when your arms are fully extended. Another example is when athletes put chains on the barbells. As they lift the barbell off the ground, it becomes more and more heavy because they chains are slowing being lifted off the ground. Bands increase in resistance WHILE you increase your ability to overcome resistance and reach the end of the motion. That means you are recruiting muscle fibers better at end-ranges of motion, which translates to you being able to deliver power from your muscles through an entire pedal stroke, freestyle stroke, or step of your run.
3) Eccentric loading
As stated before, most equipment provides the same load the whole duration of a lift. Bands, however, can provide assistance in a movement, allowing you to either be helped through a difficult movement or to train quick eccentric movements; a training style that aids in explosiveness. An example of assistance would be putting a band underneath your hips pulling you up during a pushup--the band is making you lighter and helping keep your hips in place. An example of quick eccentric would be having a band pulling the barbell upwards during a squat. You can safely go quickly to the bottom (where you have the least strength), but have the load increase as you come up concentrically.
Most equipment is difficult to set up or bring anywhere with you, especially if it is heavy. Bands, however, are easy to bring with you anywhere, and work just about everywhere you have a stable anchor point. Bands are also inexpensive and require minimal coaching for safe and effective use.
5) Variability and precision
Most equipment can only serve a few purposes, depending on the relative weight or how it is built. Bands can be doubled for more resistance, or tied around itself to create less resistance. You can shorten or lengthen them, which means you can use them for more exercises in a single set, almost regardless of of strong you are or aren't in each of them. And because it's more difficult to use momentum or compensatory muscles to "cheat" with a band than a weight, they allow you to get a precise, honest, and reliable training experience every time.
Our Favorite Resistance Bands:
Monster bands are great for creating heavy resistance for lower body strength and power, as well as assistance on exercises and mobility work. Exercises include:
Arm and Leg Distraction
Banded Broad Jumps
Handled bands are great for upper body strength and power. Exercises include:
2 Arm Rows
Mini bands are great for lower body strength and endurance, as well as performing reactive neuromuscular training. Exercises include:
Squats with Bands Around the Knees.