Stretchy resistance bands go anywhere and can be used by almost anyone. They’re also as effective as they are inexpensive.
But it’s important to use them properly to get all their strength training and coordination benefits.
As you stretch a resistance band, you’ll start to feel more and more tension — that’s what forces your muscles to work and develop. Buy a set of bands that is color-coded by level of resistance. It’s fine to start with simple lengths of stretchy material and progress to a tube style with handles if you want variety later on. As a general rule, 5-foot lengths are long enough for most exercises.
To get started, wrap one end of the elastic band firmly around each hand. You want just the right amount of tension for the range of motion of the exercise you’re doing. Maintaining the tension throughout each exercise gets more muscle groups working and helps you develop coordination and balance.
Increase resistance by decreasing the length of the band between your hands. As you get stronger and the exercises become easier to do, switch to a band with greater tension. To make the most of this type of workout, consider having a physical therapist or a certified strength and conditioning coach design a routine for you.
Be sure to regularly check your bands and replace them as soon as you see any tears. While you can toss resistance bands into your work tote or a suitcase, they aren’t invulnerable. Sun, water and other types of weather exposure can erode them, so try to keep them out of the elements when not in use.
The American College of Sports Medicine has tips on selecting and using resistance bands.