I have long been advocating the use of resistance bands based on several benefits these flexible and soft plastic bands provide. This doesn’t mean that the resistance bands are a perfect example of a fitness accessory.
Here, I am going to provide all the challenges/ disadvantages associated with resistance bands without getting biased based on the practical experience I have to date with these bands. Also, read exclusive tips and related stuff to overcome their limitations.
I will categorize the disadvantages into two sections named
- Technical ( where I will discuss the technical limitations of exercising with resistance bands).
- Non-Technical ( where I will discuss the practical challenges while working out with resistance bands in actual scenarios).
- My Final Opinion in the end
So what are the disadvantages of using resistance bands? The major drawback of resistance bands is the inability to track the progress by looking at the resistance value mentioned over the resistance bands. Further, the linear variable resistance of exercise bands poses issues while doing certain types of exercises. The risk of snapping and their lower shelf life is also worth mentioning here.
Many questions must be striking in your mind after reading the above answer. The linear variable resistance provided by the bands also proves to be beneficial in a specific type of exercise. So, you must also understand the implications of the variable resistance of exercise bands before you make your final opinion.
Further, the risk of sudden breaking of bands and lower shelf life may not be the deciding factor to say ‘NO’ to resistance bands.
I will provide an explanation for the justifications I have given in the above two paragraphs. At the end of this discussion, I will provide my opinion on which drawbacks of resistance bands need to be taken seriously while making decisions about the use of resistance bands.
❝ Hi, I am Ravi, your companion and a passionate fitness athlete, cyclist, runner, gym enthusiast who just loves the concept of resistance bands for their extreme flexibility. I have been using resistance bands as one of my primary fitness equipment for the last many years ❞
Let us jump straight to the topic –
Non-technical disadvantages of resistance bands –
I will first introduce you to the non-technical drawbacks of resistance bands so that you don’t get overwhelmed by the technical aspects at the beginning itself. You may already be familiar with some of them.
Risk of injury due to the snapping of resistance bands –
Whether it is your official life or your fitness routine, safety always comes first. I will not hesitate in admitting that resistance bands are fairly dangerous if you don’t know how to handle them. Several incidents of severe eye injuries including dental have been reported regularly due to abrupt snapping of exercise bands under full tension.
The most common reason behind this snapping of the resistance band is the overstretching of bands beyond the prescribed limits.
We always ask our buyers to refrain from stretching the resistance bands beyond two and half times the resting length even though the manufacturer has allowed you to stretch them even four times the resting length, to be on the safe side.
➥ More detailed tips about prevention of snapping of resistance bands and protective gear available in the market to prevent injuries are covered in this useful article- Tips to prevent snapping of resistance bands
Further, there are some of the exclusive resistance bands available which come with anti-snap technology worth trying.
➥ Do check the details of such resistance bands in this article – Best resistance bands that won’t snap.
Prone to damage due to the extremely soft material of resistance bands –
The resistance bands are versatile and flexible only due to the use of highly elastic natural rubber known as latex rubber.
The latex rubber is susceptible to damage from even slight rubbing over the rough surfaces, corners of the door, walls, your nails & the cosmetic accessories that you may be wearing in hands and ears while doing exercises with resistance bands.
While doing resistance band training, due precautions need to be taken to avoid any damage to the bands.
➥ Do check this article which provides the complete details about the safety of resistance bands and the tips that may prevent damage to the resistance bands – Are resistance bands safe – best practical tips to avoid injury
Lower shelf life of resistance bands-
Often, the shelf life of resistance bands is the main concern for the people who are on the verge of purchasing the new bands after their existing bands have given way earlier than they expected.
Let me clear that the resistance bands are not made out of hard plastic but a soft and flexible natural rubber which is bound to decay with time whether you use it or not. As such, it is wrong to expect resistance bands to last for decades like fixed weights such as dumbbells and barbells.
Typically resistance bands only last from 6 months up to 3 years depending upon the usage and maintenance of exercise bands.
➥ To learn more about the ways to ensure that the resistance bands last longer, do check this article – How long do resistance bands last – tips for their longevity
Difficult to master resistance bands exercises –
Every new buyer after buying a pair of resistance bands is seen spending hours browsing the internet for resistance bands exercises.
Resistance bands are very similar to free weights such as barbells and dumbbells in this aspect. Where bulky gym machines have a guided mechanism in place which restricts the movement of body parts in a fixed range of motion.
The resistance bands are just a piece of rubber and you have to create or invent your own exercises. Such freedom of doing exercises may sometimes frustrate you when you keep doing the exercises in the wrong way for years before somebody else notices and pokes fun at you.
Do not expect professional bodybuilding results with resistance bands –
Researches have established the effectiveness of resistance bands to be equivalent to free weights such as dumbbells. However, resistance bands are not capable of providing the kind of resistance that professional bodybuilders need for professional training.
The power loop bands can provide resistance up to 250 pounds which may still not meet the requirement of a gym hulk.
However, the resistance bands are being used in combination with free weights for decades by the coaches for their athletes to improve agility and maximum power.
In short, the resistance bands are ideal for beginners and intermediate athletes.
You may develop latex allergy with resistance bands–
Some people, after using resistance bands on their skin for a long time, may develop skin rashes which can turn into a life-threatening skin infection if ignored. That doesn’t mean, you should not be using resistance bands. There are other alternatives to latex rubber resistance bands.
The fabric and non-latex resistance bands are the options available to the people who are allergic to latex.
➥ To know more about the pro and cons of these materials, you can bookmark these two important articles worth reading-
- Latex versus non-latex resistance bands which resistance band material to choose
- Latex versus fabric resistance bands which one to choose
Difficult to track the progress of fitness with resistance bands-
The resistance bands don’t have a fixed resistance but a range of resistance which keeps varying depending upon the stretching of bands. The resistance mentioned over the bands is always the maximum resistance that they can provide when stretched up to a defined limit.
So, we do not know the exact resistance during any resistance band exercise which may reduce the motivation that we get by seeing a visible gain.
The only alternative to taking count of the fitness progress with resistance bands is to keep a record of the resistance band color you are training at present and monitor the progress through up-gradation to darker colors of resistance bands with time.
If you want to be more accurate with tracking fitness, you can use the weighing scale used for luggage to check the resistance of bands at different stretching points during the workouts.
It is time-consuming to set up resistance bands for each workout –
Though resistance bands are quite similar to the dumbbells, they are not as practical as cable machines.
In the case of cable machines, it is super easy and fast to increase or decrease the weight for increasing the intensity of the workout. Further, changing the direction of pull is also quite easier by sliding the slider around the pole.
However, in the case of resistance bands, you may need to replace existing bands with darker color bands to increase the intensity of the workout.
Further, you will also need anchoring points around the door/poles to tie resistance bands for changing the direction of pull.
The resistance bands do not work as a stand-alone system in most of the exercises.
➥ A more detailed comparison between the cable machines and the resistance bands can be found in this article – Resistance bands vs cable machine – head-on comparison
Technical disadvantages of resistance bands –
Now, let us discuss the technical limitations associated with elastic workout bands. I will go a little deeper while explaining some fitness jargons in the way that you may find difficult to understand.
Provides lower resistance during the initial phase of the range of motion –
The range of motion consists of the concentric phase where the target muscle contracts and an eccentric phase where the target muscle lengthens and comes back to the original length.
As the resistance bands provide the linear variable resistance, the resistance provided at the initial stage of the range of motion of an exercise is lowest due to the least stretching of the resistance band.
That means the muscles are not adequately loaded with tension than required at the initial stage of the range of motion.
You can resolve this issue with a slight adjustment so that the resistance band does not get loose when you are at the bottom-most position of biceps curl exercise as an example. The tightness of the resistance band should be maintained during the complete range of motion.
Further, using resistance bands in combination with free weights is another wonderful way to overcome this limitation of resistance bands as also shown in this picture.
➥ Do read this amazing article which briefs all the technical aspects of using a resistance band with fixed weights and exercises where such combination works the best – Benefits of using resistance bands in combination with fixed weights.
Resistance bands may over trains the muscles –
As you already know that resistance bands provide the variable resistance. The resistance provided during the later stages of the range of motion is much higher as compared to the initial stage as also shown in the picture below –
Due to the above fact, muscles get overstressed during the later stages of the range of motion and get underutilized during the initial stages of the range of motion.
The main issue arises when we switch to be resistance bands exercises alternatively between the fixed weight exercises inside the gym. Checking the progress of fitness is pretty straightforward in the case of dumbbells and barbells.
However, when we switch to resistance bands exercises, it is really hard to find equivalent resistance bands to the weight of dumbbells and barbells, you had been practicing inside the gym.
Personally, I injured myself on multiple occasions when I assumed the resistance band to be equivalent to the dumbbell weight I had been using in the gym, based on the initial resistance provided by the band.
In once such case, I kept putting extra burden on back muscles during the final stages of the range of motion repetitively during back exercises, resulting in cramps which took several weeks to recover.
If you don’t have enough experience with resistance bands, do go for one step lower resistance band to get the feel of their dynamics.
Give yourself sufficient time to experiment with resistance training before using bands wholeheartedly.
Resistance bands are not good for exercises with descending strength curve –
Before explaining this drawback of resistance bands, you must be knowing the basics of the strength curve.
The strength curve refers to the variation of torque produced by muscles at different joint angles.
Let me explain to you the above definition with an example of chest press exercise with resistance bands.
Whenever you’re doing any exercise, you must have felt that it is way easier to perform some portion of the range of motion as compared to the other. This happens because the torque (which is the result of force and angle) produced by the muscles is the function of the joint angle involved in the exercise.
Now, during chest press exercise, the torque developed by pectoral muscles is maximum when the arms are fully extended in front of the chest and it is minimum when your hands are in line with the chest.
That means, during chest press exercise, the pectoral muscles of the chest follow the ascending strength curve from the start of the exercise to the finish.
In a similar fashion, the resistance provided by the resistance bands also follows an ascending path from the point where you start stretching them along the range of motion as also depicted in this picture –
However, in the case of exercises such as rowing for back muscles, muscles are not able to produce enough torque during the final phase of contraction when your hands are near the waist as compared to the initial stage of contraction when the arms are fully extended in front of the body.
As such, rowing exercise is an example of a descending strength curve as depicted in the picture –
It is opposite to the case of chest press exercise discussed earlier.
Now, if you perform the rowing exercise with resistance bands as shown in the picture below, the resistance produced by the resistance bands from the point when you start pulling the bands towards the back follows an ascending path.
However, the torque produced by the back muscles is following a descending path.
So as above, the resistance bands are putting extreme pressure on focus muscles when they are naturally weak due to their awkward position during the range of motion.
In short, resistance bands work best with exercises that involve ascending strength curves such as leg press, squat, chest press, shoulder press, etc. Other exercises should be performed with due care and safety margins while using resistance bands
My Final Opinion –
The resistance bands, as stated above, have several disadvantages to their credit. However, they are still a viable, cheap and extremely versatile piece of fitness equipment that can be afforded by everyone.
Several studies around the variable resistance of the exercise bands have also proven the several other benefits for professional athletes in terms of the ability of bands to simulate real-life sports movements, exercising in infinite planes of motion besides the conventional vertical planes of movements as occurs in the case of weights.
➥ If you are interested in reading the detailed differences between the variable resistance provided by the resistance bands and the fixed weights like dumbbells and barbells, do check this in-depth article – Resistance bands versus free weights – unique insights.
Soft rubber material which provides several unique benefits to the resistance band is also responsible for the limitations associated with the bands as stated here.
Though you may need to replace resistance bands frequently every one and half years on average, they are still way cheaper than the gym’s monthly membership fees including other miscellaneous expenditures like travel expenses and clothing to suit the gym environment.
I have been using resistance bands for several years. I spice up my monotonous gym routine with resistance bands and also perform resistance training at home when I don’t have enough time to go to the gym during a busy schedule.
I had my thumb ruptured once with resistance bands during exercising with a partner. However, after taking due precautions and safety measures, it has been all good to date.
I never lost my fitness by even an inch when I have been doing resistance training for months together instead of weight training.
There are resistance bands available for every kind of fitness requirement in both online and offline markets. You just need to have the right kind of resistance bands for the right kind of exercise.
➥Do check the wide variety of resistance bands exclusively made for certain exercises here by the Unique Addict Store.
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