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Bands and Balls: When and Why to Use Them

The elastic bands and balls at the gym may look intimidating, but you can learn how to use them to enhance your workout. Here is the lowdown on these simple training products.

Resistance Bands

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

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

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.


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 going from a squat into a shoulder press. Get creative! Bands let you work on your entire body.


Resistance bands have many advantages. Some include:


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 alternative when traveling.

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 1 pound to 30 pounds). They can add fun to a workout and improve the strength of your muscles.


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.


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 3-pound ball in softball size only and some offer it in volleyball or basketball size. Depending on 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.

If you are interested in stability balls, then check out the article Play Ball in the House.


International Association of Athletics Federations

The President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition


The College of Family Physicians of Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada


Resistance tubing workout. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: Accessed January 18, 2017.

Selecting and effectively using a medicine ball. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: Published 2011. Accessed January 18, 2017.

Selecting and effectively using rubber band resistance exercise. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: Published 2011. Accessed January 18, 2017.

Last reviewed January 2017 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 2/3/2015