Benefits Of Resistance Band Training For Seniors


People exercising with resistance bands in gym class

This article is evidence-based, verified by Blake Conner, Certified Strength, and Conditioning Specialist.

There are numerous ways in which you can train. There are also multiple ways in which a senior can exercise as well. Often you may see a depiction of an older age group not being able to do much. However, the reach is quite vast.

There is one form of training that deserves a particular highlight. That is resistance band training. Resistance bands have been around for some time now but have become very popular. They are just elastic bands of varying widths and resistances that when pulled on, create tension. This tension provides some resistance across different angles in your movements.

You may see these bands often in a physical therapy environment. They help with strengthening weaker muscles and provide some excellent feedback. However, you can also see some resistance bands applied in heavy powerlifting. So, they are quite versatile in their use.

As you age, there can be some issues that arise over time. There can be injuries that never properly healed, or some joints may not be as good as they used to be. It is what makes resistance bands so great for seniors. They are not only versatile but have a slight risk of injury.

Let’s dive in and see how you can benefit from using these bands.

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Are resistance bands as good as weights?

Many people think that you need to use weights to get stronger or even activate more muscle. This can be partially true, but bands work just as effectively. It all depends on how you use them!

First, we will cover how weights and bands are similar. They work similarly in the way that they provide resistance. Resistance is a stimulus that acts upon the muscles that make them grow. The strength and the act of moving it lead to tiny tears in the muscle tissue. The body then recovers these tears and adapts to be more durable.

This is how muscles grow. So, yes, bands and weights are very similar in this way. Some may argue that resistance bands cannot be substantial enough, not accurate. Some bands can have high levels of tension. It just depends on how you use them.

The bands and weights can also differ. One way is in the amount of stimulus they provide. At a certain point, loads can be more substantial than bands. These more cumbersome forms of bands become difficult to even use by themselves.

For example, the heavy bands that the powerlifters use to attach to the weights themselves. Thus, they are using another method of increasing the load. The difference comes down to how heavy you are looking to get with your training.

There is one more difference. It’s how the bands work upon the muscles. As you use weights, it comes down one amount of resistance and goes up the same. You are just moving something from point A to point B. Bands work a little differently. Bands get heavier as you go, but light as you loosen the tension.

For example, let’s say you were performing a band pull-a-part. You pull the bands apart, and they get more substantial. As you release, they get remarkably lighter due to the resistance leaving the band. They just work differently on the body, yet this is what can make bands a much safer method of training.

So, there are some similarities, and there are some differences. It depends on your goals and what you are trying to achieve. If you are looking to get very strong, you may have a tough time with bands because you can’t go as heavy.

If you are trying to strengthen the muscles and gain some muscle mass, you could use either one. Again, it all comes down to what you are trying to achieve (1).

RESOURCE  SquatBench PressDeadlift
BarbellsYes, great for getting stronger  Yes, great for getting stronger  Yes, great for getting stronger  
DumbbellsYes, convenient and can get somewhat heavy  Yes, can’t go as heavy. Safe for shoulders. Yes, not the best position.  
Resistance BandsYes, high volume and low weight. Less injury risks.  Yes, but better done as push-ups. Good for muscle growth. No, would have to do more of a good morning movement.

A lot of the same results are achievable. However, bands work best as a convenience and also as injury prevention. For a senior citizen, they beat out barbells and dumbbells.

Are resistance bands good for seniors?

As a senior, you may be looking for the best way to stay active or even maintain/grow some muscle mass. Resistance bands can do just that!

Resistance bands are fantastic because of their portability. They can be used anywhere and everywhere. This is great for someone who may not be able to get to a gym or someone who would instead do things from the comfort of the home.

The bands can be attached to stable areas of the house, which can then allow you to all sorts of different movements and exercises. They can be used free-standing while on your feet or even sitting down. As you can see, this makes them very convenient and opens up a world of possibilities.

With age comes the loss of muscle mass. There is one way in which you can fight this off. It’s by incorporating some form of resistance exercise. Resistance bands are great for this. They provide a low risk of injury, while also creating just the right amount of resistance to maintain or even grow muscle mass.

As you are using the bands, signals are going off in the body to repair and develop the muscles. When we age and stray away from this practice, we can lose some of what we have. The old saying of “Use it or lose it!” holds very accurate.

Along with the maintenance of the muscles, you can also fix any nagging problems that you may have. Resistance bands are great because they hit the small muscles well.

There’s a reason that they are used by physical therapists so much. You can work on areas that need strengthening for your joints, balance, and stability. By using resistance bands, you are working to improve in all of these areas.

Can you build muscle with resistance bands?

We don’t have to stop trying to build muscle as we age. The process still works and can be used, no matter how old you are. Will it is a little slower, it could be, but that’s not to say it can’t be done.

The entire mechanism behind muscle growth is called hypertrophy (2). It is merely the act of the muscles repairing in a way that adapts them more substantial and more robust. The “damage” comes about from lifting weights or putting force onto the muscles.

These exercises are doable with weights, body weight, and even resistance bands. So long as there is some sort of stimulus applied to the tissue, it will respond.

With that being said, yes, you can build muscle with resistance bands. It just depends on how you use them (3).

When looking to increase muscle growth or hypertrophy, the volume is your best friend. Volume is the number of reps that you are performing with the given exercise.

For example, if you are looking to grow your biceps, you would need to do a higher volume of an activity that hits the biceps. Otherwise, not much growth would happen. You will get more development from 10 curls versus doing one curl.

Keeping this in mind, bands are great for volume. When we start to increase the volume of specific movements, it is smart to keep things risk free. We can get tired and slack on the form a little, which can increase injury rates. This is hard to do with bands. They are one of the safest pieces of equipment.

So, using bands, we can drive that volume up, which would lead to more muscle growth as we work out. Therefore, bands help to grow muscle mass.

Sample resistance band workout for seniors

Bands are excellent for working out. They are even more perfect for some full bodywork. Provided will be a sample resistance training workout using only bands.

How can this help you? It can help to increase your muscle strength and even stability around the joints, as well as your muscle size in the areas that are being worked.

Resistance Band Full-Body Workout:  

  • Banded Pull-a-Parts  
  • 5 sets of 20 reps  
  • Banded Rows (anchor to something stable) 
  • 6 sets of 10 rows on each arm. To make heavier step farther back.  
  • Banded Push-Ups (place band in hands and place across back) 
  • 4 sets of 10 reps  
  • Banded Bicep Curls (just stand on the band at the middle) 
  • 4 sets of 20 reps  
  • Banded Tricep Kickbacks (anchor to something stable) 
  • 4 sets of 12 on each arm  
  • Banded Good Mornings 
  • 3 sets of 10 reps  
  • Banded Anti-Rotations  
  • 3 sets of 30 seconds on each side  
  • Banded Hip Marches  
  • 5 sets of 20 steps each way  

This sample workout will hit pretty much every part of the body. It is incredibly easy to set up and requires minimal space and time. Give it a try and see how you like it!

Are resistance bands good for toning and strengthening arms?

Bands are suitable for the full-body, but also great for the arms. Everyone looks to have toned and muscular arms. We use them every day, and we want them to look as good as they work. You can achieve this by using resistance bands. Below is a sample upper body workout.

Resistance Band Upper Body Workout

  • Banded Shoulder Front Raise
  • 3 sets of 10 on each arm
  • Banded 1-Arm Fly
  • 3 sets of 12 on each arm
  • Banded 1-Arm Shoulder Press
  • 4 sets of 8 reps each arm
  • Banded Pass Throughs
  • 5 sets of 10 total
  • Banded Pull-A-Parts
  • 5 sets of 20 reps

That is a high beginner level upper body workout. It hits plenty of the areas that you may miss when you usually hit your upper body. However, it does a great job of running those higher volumes of reps that will give you the hypertrophy effect.

How often should you do resistance band training?

Not every person should work out every day. How do you determine who can and who cannot? It comes down to recovery. Does that person recover well, are they sleeping enough, are they eating the right amount of food? These are the things that will dictate how often you can even train.

Now, we do know that as you age, you don’t recover as quickly. So, that has to be taken into account as well.

When referencing this to resistance bands, they don’t do as much damage as, let’s say, a deadlift does. They are great for volume but aren’t going to cause such a disruption in the body that you need multiple days off.

Again, depending on how well you are with the things mentioned above, you could work out fairly often with bands.

My suggestion is to start small. Pick 3 days to commit to resistance band training. Use this as a way to assess where you are with recovery. If you feel fine after a week or two, feel free to add in a fourth day to the mix. See how your body handles this and go from there.

I wouldn’t use resistance bands more than 5-6 times a week, however. There should be some rest days built into your schedule that will allow the body to “catch up” to the damage that you’ve done. Not only will this make you feel better, but it will also speed up your progress.

Resistance Band FAQs

How do I choose a resistance band?

Resistance bands come in various thicknesses; this is how they are measured often. When choosing a band, I recommend starting small. Start with the lightest band and work your way up to a heavier one. Never feel as if you HAVE to start with something substantial.

Do resistance bands help with pullups?

Resistance bands can do wonders for pullups. They have two uses. They can be used to get stronger at other back exercises such as rows. It will help build up the back in a way that will assist in pullups. They can also be used as assistance when doing pullups. They can hang from the bar, and by placing your foot in it, the band will help assist you up as you pull. From there, you can eventually remove the band and won’t need it.

How do you anchor resistance bands at home?

Make sure to find a stable item. It could be a door, a piece of heavy furniture, pole, or beam. Anything that will not be easy to pull over. Depending on the band, a ton of weight could pull something over. However, just make sure that it is something secure. You can take the band and loop it through itself to anchor it down for use.

Are resistance bands good for weight loss?

Resistance bands can help in a weight loss routine. It may be the primary form of physical activity that you choose. However, it will only be aided by following a caloric deficit in your total calorie consumption.

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Blake Conner is a nutritionist who graduated from Mississippi State University. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, as well as a certified nutrition coach through Precision Nutrition. Blake runs his own remote nutrition coaching business to help people become the best versions of themselves.

References  

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30815258 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30335577 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23669815 

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