Health Library

Bands and Balls: When and Why to Use Them


What is the deal with resistance bands and medicine balls? What can they do for you? And should you buy them? Here is the lowdown on these simple training products.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands bring a simple and fun essence to your workout. The bands resemble large, open-ended rubber bands and come in various sizes. They can be used to exercise your upper and lower body through resistance.

The best use of resistance bands is to wrap them around stable objects, like a bedpost or door knob. You may also find a variety of exercises that allow you to hold the rubber band with your foot.

Exercises

You can mimic many standard exercises with the bands. Hook them over a high bar for lat pulldowns or chest press. Step on the rubber bands with your feet to give some resistance for bicep or tricep exercises. You can also do combination exercises. With the bands under your feet, try doing a squat into a shoulder press. Get creative! Bands let you work on your entire body.

Seek the advice of a trainer before beginning a resistance band program. They can show you proper technique, reduce the risk of injury, and recommend exercises appropriate to your fitness level.

Advantages

Resistance bands have many advantages. Some include:

  • Cost. Resistance bands are affordable for anyone.
  • Ease of travel. No matter where you go, the bands follow. If you travel a lot for work, bands are a great way to get in a quick workout in your hotel room.
  • Ease of use. If you are a beginner looking for some simple strength training, or a regular in the gym seeking a different routine, bands offer something for everyone.
  • Variety. Bands allow for movements weights do not. They will help you work different muscles in your workout routine.

Disadvantages

Keep in mind that resistance bands do not provide an aerobic workout, which is an important part of being fit. Another disadvantage is that there is a limit to how much strength you can gain with these bands. They should be used as a way to mix up your routine or as a good travel alternative not as your main routine.

Buying Advice

If you are purchasing resistance bands, try the various types before buying. Test out the handles. Those with a bigger grip may be more comfortable. Ideally, there should be options for a few different resistance levels. The different levels will help you progress your program. Resistance bands will let you stretch your exercise routine to new levels.

Medicine Balls

Medicine balls are rubber balls, ranging in size (softball to basketball size) and weight (from one pound to thirty pounds). They can add fun to a workout and improve the strength of your muscles.

Exercises

Medicine balls can be used alone or with a workout buddy. Many exercises involve throwing and catching the weighted balls, but some can be used to enhance standing exercises that help with arms and abdominals. If you train for a specific sport, you and your buddy can mimic the ball exercises to the movements made in the sport. Consult a trainer for a medley of exercises that can be done with medicine balls.

Caution

Proper use of medicine balls requires that you have a healthy back, relatively strong core muscles, and strong joints. The nature of medicine ball exercises depends on your ability to twist, bend, jump, and maintain good balance. Although use of medicine balls improves on all of those areas, you must begin with a good base. Otherwise, you risk injury.

Buying Advice

The prices of medicine balls vary depending on the size and weight of the ball. Different companies make medicine balls in various sizes, so shop before you buy. Some companies make a three-pound ball in softball size only and some offer it in volleyball or basketball size. Depending upon how you will use the equipment, you may want a specific size. Take time to study and test the different balls so you can buy the equipment best suited to your needs.

Also interested in stability balls? Check out the article Play Ball in the House .

RESOURCES:

International Association of Athletics Federations
http://www.iaaf.org/

The Presiden't Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
http://www.fitness.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Association of Family Physicians
http://www.cfpc.ca/

Public Health Agency of Canada
Health Unit
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/pau-uap/fitness/

References

Medicine Ball Exercises. Sports Fitness Advisor website. Available at: http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/medicine-ball-exercises.html. Accessed December 27, 2012.

Resistance Tubing Workout. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitfacts_display.aspx?itemid=2659. Accessed December 26, 2012.

Selecting and Effectively Using a Medicine Ball. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/selecting-and-effectively-using-a-medicine-ball.pdf. Accessed December 27, 2012.

Selecting and Effectively Using Rubber Band Resistance Exercise. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/selecting-and-effectively-using-rubber-band-resistance-exercise.pdf. Accessed December 27, 2012.



Last reviewed January 2013 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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