How Do Resistance Bands Create Muscle?

Good Alternative to Weights

Resistance bands are a good alternative to lifting weights. The bands build muscles the same way that weight training does, says David K. Spierer, assistant professor of sports sciences for Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus.

“You can use a 2-liter bottle of water, a dumbbell or a resistance band,” he says. “If you exceed the muscle’s ability, it will respond by getting stronger. It doesn’t matter if the weight resistance is in the form of a book, a weight, a band or a dumbbell.”

What Your Muscle Does

When a muscle encounters resistance, the nervous system reacts by sending more information to the muscle, allowing that muscle to fire more quickly. This leads to an improvement in strength.

“The bottom line is the way you create muscle with resist bands is by introducing a ‘weight,’ or an effort, that is more than what the muscle is used to. The muscle will adapt,” he says.


The nice thing about resistance bands, he says, is they travel easy, are inexpensive and come in progressive resistance levels so you can keep challenging your muscles.

“You can take them anywhere,” Spierer says.

Bands are also effective for the elderly or people with balance problems or other physical challenges, as well as for people who are not comfortable with dumbbells.

“They’re not intimidating,” he says,"and the safety factor is huge. They’re very, very safe to use.”


There are different kinds of bands. Some are just the band that needs to be cut into a usable length.

“Usually 6 feet is appropriate. You can use that for overhead presses and triceps extensions,” Spierer says. You can also double these up to get more resistance. These bands usually are used for lower body work.

Another type comes with handle on it.

“That gives you the feeling of using some kind of weight apparatus because now you have a handle,” he says. This can be more comfortable for doing moves like bicep curls. Bands with handles typically are used for upper-body work.

Keep the Momentum Going

People need to keep using bands with more and more resistance if they want to continue to build strength, or muscle. In contrast, people can add repetitions of a movement, like a bicep curl, to build endurance.

About the Author

Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with more than 20 years experience at Gannett Company Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She is a Bosu fitness and stand-up paddle surfing instructor. Kent holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Washington State University.