May 11, 2023 10 min read

Training with resistance bands is a suburb way to take any strength workout to the next level for beginners and fitness fanatics alike. Combine this with the natural resistance of water, and you’ve got yourself a challenging, effective, and safe aquatic workout. 

Considering that training with resistance bands has been proven to be  equally effective as weight training in building strength, why not turn to bands that have added benefits and are easy to take with you?

Training in water is already an excellent form of resistance exercise that is easier on the body’s joints compared to other training methods. This is mainly due to Archimedes’ principle, which is a law of buoyancy. It states that the weight of the fluid displaced by an object (or body) is equal to the upward force (or buoyancy).

Resistance bands are a great addition to any water-based workout routine and can also be easily used in combination with other aquatic fitness equipment. Water-based training, as well as resistance band workouts primarily focus on muscle toning, core control, and balance. These workouts can quite easily be adapted to be more cardio-intensive as well.

Bands can be used to train both the upper and lower body, while simultaneously training the core and recruiting stabilising muscles that improve balance. 


The general advantages of using resistance bands over using free weight or other forms of land-based resistance training are safety, portability, and unique benefits around rehabilitation. The safety factor after an injury is particularly helpful.

Using an elastic band as resistance improves flexibility, activates stabiliser muscles, effectively trains the core, and builds strength. Due to their more flexible nature, resistance bands can more closely mimic the movement compared to weights that just go up and down. 


Aquatic fitness involves performing exercises in the water.  The buoyancy of the water helps to support the body, reducing stress on the joints and muscles.

When resistance bands are used in an aquatic environment, they offer several distinct advantages over traditional resistance training and resistance bands in a land environment. Here's a closer look at these benefits.

The key benefit is that in the water, you can float while using a resistance band in a non-weight-bearing environment. This is particularly helpful post-surgery for lower limbs and rehabilitation for fractures.

A prime example of this is rehabilitation after a broken ankle. After an injury like this, you can start to recover much sooner than on land, since it doesn’t require standing, just floating!

Joint Protection

Water's buoyancy supports the body's weight, decreasing stress on joints. When combined with the gentle resistance offered by resistance bands, this creates a workout that is both challenging and kind to the joints. For individuals with arthritis or other joint issues, this approach can be especially beneficial.

Enhanced Flexibility

Water can help to improve flexibility and the range of motion in the joints by improving blood flow and naturally “loosening up” the body. When you add resistance bands to the equation, you can target specific muscles, enhancing the effects of stretching and strengthening.

A More Customizable Workout

Unlike fixed-weight dumbbells, resistance bands allow for adjustable tension, which allows for different muscle contractions. In an aquatic setting, this adaptability can be particularly useful, allowing for a wide range of exercises that can be tailored to individual needs.

Increased Core Engagement

Performing exercises in water requires stabilization, and the use of resistance bands amplifies this effect. This combination can lead to enhanced core strength and balance. This is why resistance band training in water is considered a cross-functional training method. These movements will help with activities of daily life. A strong and stable core is important for most bodily movements.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Aquatic exercises increase heart rate and provide an aerobic workout. When combined with the resistance of the bands, this can lead to a more cardio-intensive workout and ultimately, improved cardiovascular fitness.

Improved Rehabilitation and Recovery

For those recovering from injuries, the combination of water's supportive nature and the adaptable resistance of the bands can create a safe and effective rehabilitation environment. The resistance bands can be used to gradually increase strength without putting undue stress on the healing area.

Cost-effective and Portable

Resistance bands are relatively inexpensive and portable compared to traditional gym and weight lifting equipment. They can be easily incorporated into various aquatic exercises without the need for bulky or expensive equipment. 


Resistance bands are great for training functional strength - the type of strength we need to complete everyday activities. This is because exercising with resistance bands in water requires the body to recruit stabiliser muscles, or the smaller accessory ones, to the larger muscles like the biceps and quads.


An isotonic contraction is perhaps the most well-known type of muscle contraction since many exercises are isotonic contractions, where the muscle being trained is lengthened and shortened. Many common exercises involve isotonic contractions like pushups, squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.

For example, in a bicep curl, as you bend your elbow and curl the weight toward you, the bicep is shortened during a concentric isometric contraction. As the weight is lowered back down, the muscle lengthens in an eccentric isometric contraction.

Isometric movements are an important aspect of building strength, and resistance bands are a great way to employ isotonic contractions in the pool.


In isometric contractions, the muscle remains the same length but a constant force is still applied. You may have heard of an 'isometric hold' as a workout term. For instance, a wall sit is an example of an isometric hold. There is a force on the quadriceps but they are not contracting and lengthening.

Isometric exercises aren’t as effective at building muscle as isotonic, but they are still important to maintain strength and muscular endurance. Resistance bands are a great way to maintain tension on a muscle for isometric exercises in the pool.


An isokinetic contraction is when different levels of force are applied to a muscle. This usually requires a specialty machine, but elastic bands have an advantage in this respect because, by nature, they change the amount of force with each repetition.


Plyometric training involves faster versions of isotonic movements. Meaning that this type of contraction is a short eccentric contraction immediately followed by a concentric contraction where the muscle is rapidly contracted and lengthened.

A common example of a plyometric exercise is the squat jump. Water-based plyometric training is much easier on the joints and has been proven to be as effective as land-based plyometric training, however it has additional benefits.


Any elastic band may or may not work in the water. It’s better to get bands that are specifically designed to be used in the pool. Hydrorider’s RiderBands are designed to withstand the wear and tear of being used frequently wet and in chlorinated water. They are made to resist tearing and dry quickly to avoid smelly bands. The Hydrorider RiderBand offers ten combination options (5 on each side) so that the user can choose their desired difficulty or limb length and use the bands for a variety of moves. No longer do you need multiple resistance bands, a large variety of exercises can be done with just the one Riderband. The Riderband is quick to dry after thes session and easy to take with you, it rolls up to the size of your hand. 


While there are no trials that directly compare these two training methods, we’ll go over the benefits of using resistance bands for aquatic fitness and also compare resistance bands with other forms of resistance exercise for both physical performance and rehabilitation.

Aquatic resistance band workouts are a viable method for increasing muscular strength, and is an especially beneficial training method for those with musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, low back pain, and fibromyalgia and for elderly populations. This kind of training is also perfect for athletes and non-athletes rehabilitating from an injury.

Hydrotherapy is typically beneficial for certain populations anyhow. Heated water therapy is another popular and effective method for managing and preventing various conditions. Similarly, resistance bands just add an extra element to training or rehabilitation programs in these hydrotherapy and heated water environments.

Bone Density & Regeneration

Resistance exercise undoubtedly has an effect on bone density and is considered a viable treatment method for osteopenia

The has been a long-held argument that lifting heavy weights is required for bone density and regeneration. However, load to the limbs for bone regeneration can equally be added by using a resistance band. Studies have shown no difference in results.


Resistance band exercises are frequently used in the prevention and rehabilitation of sports-related injuries. A common one is rotator cuff injuries. Swimmers are prime candidates for rotator cuff injuries, so preventative strength training is important for any athlete that places pressure on this volatile joint repetitively. 

Recovery from a rotator cuff injury often includes training with resistance bands, as this method has been deemed successful in multiple studies. Impingement syndrome can occur when the rotator cuff muscle is compressed. As sports rehab professionals have developed a greater understanding of rotator cuff injuries, they have been able to implement viable recovery programs which include rehab with resistance bands.

These issues are not limited to the shoulder joint however, the muscles around the elbows, knees, and hips all need to be adequately trained to avoid injury.

Medical Uses

Resistance training with elastic bands is frequently used in the management of certain medical conditions to improve health outcomes. Of course, if you have a medical condition, speak with a professional before undertaking any new type of exercise routine.


The pool is a great place for people that suffer from arthritis to build strength and improve cardiovascular health without the demands of gravity on stiff joints. There are several different forms of arthritis, each with its own set of symptoms, but all kinds can benefit from less pressure on already achy joints.

A study with women that had osteoarthritis in the knee showed that an 8-week training program with resistance bands can significantly improve lower limb strength in patients with osteoarthritis in the knee.

Chronic Pain

Similarly to arthritis, chronic pain is a condition where exercising in water can provide immense benefits. It can be difficult for anyone with pain to feel the need to exercise, but oftentimes, these are the people that need it most.

This study compared the outcomes of a resistance band training program in adults with and without musculoskeletal pain and using special technology, researchers measured the activity of muscles during various lower body strengthening exercises. The study found that musculoskeletal pain in the hip and knee joints did not impact the efficacy of the exercise, however, in participants with low back pain less glute activation was achieved.

This goes to show that even individuals that experience chronic or acute musculoskeletal pain can benefit from resistance training using elastic bands. Managing and treating low back pain may require additional support though.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Some research as focused on the importance of resistance training for cardiac patients due to the circulatory and strength benefits that can help patients ease back into activities of daily life. A study looked into this further and concluded that different modalities of resistance training, including resistance bands, can provide considerable benefits and minimal risk in cardiac patients.


Aquatic fitness is nothing new to improving age-related decline in strength, balance, and coordination. It’s crucial that the ageing population continues to take part in forms of resistance exercise to reduce fall risk, help maintain or regain independence, and participate in activities of daily life.

Resistance bands offer a way to level up this form of training. Resistance bands can be an effective method for strength training in a wheelchair. It is also beneficial for home-based therapies in the elderly population. In this Strong-for-Life program, 215 elderly participants did a home-based training program with resistance bands. At the end of the study, participants in the program performed significantly better than the control group in lower limb strength assessments, a gait assessment, and overall disability measures. All in all, resistance bands are proven to be an excellent form of strength training in older populations.

Since bone mineral density is a common aspect of aging, it's important to take preventative and treatment training. This study in hemodialysis patients in which osteoporosis is common showed that a 24-week resistance training program using elastic tubing lowered the percentage of participants with osteopenia from 30% to 10%. Osteopenia is defined by a lower-than-normal bone mineral density. 


Though resistance training is very important for overall health, it isn’t accessible for everyone, especially those suffering from chronic pain, stiff joints, and other conditions that impact mobility.


Research has found that training with resistance bands produces similar results to conventional training. A 2019 meta-analysis looked at seven studies that compared the effects of elastic band training to primarily weight machines (one study used free weights) on strength gains. A program in middle-aged women had similar findings.

Just because you don’t see many gym bros bragging about leveling up with resistance bands doesn’t mean that you can’t get serious strength benefits from using bands in your workouts.


In addition to strength, incorporating resistance bands into your training can also provide immense benefits for power and explosiveness in movements. For this reason, training with resistance bands at least once per week can be beneficial for athletes, like in this 8-week elastic band training program with male handball players.

Research has focused on lower body squat power, as this is an important movement in nearly every sport or activity. When researchers measured muscle activation for these movements, they observed a greater force development from squats with resistance bands versus without. This is basically saying that the work with resistance bands trained the muscles to produce more force. 

The power gains are not limited to the lower body. In a study with American football players, a 7-week heavy elastic band training program produced a greater increase in strength and power compared to a traditional bench press regimen. 


In addition to the above benefits, using bands instead of weights is considered safer. This is especially important for those with medical conditions, elderly, or who have a sports-related injury.

Bands limit a joint’s range of motion, decreasing the likelihood of overdoing a movement. This isn’t ideal for everyone, because the greater range of motion allowed by free weights can have its advantages for strength training. It all depends on an individual’s fitness status and goals.

Furthermore, using elastic bands in moves focuses more on mobility, stability, and flexibility. These are all things that are key for reducing the chance of injury later. This is also why they are a great adjunct training method to use alongside any type of workout regimen. 


Resistance bands, when used in an aquatic setting, offer a versatile and efficient means of building strength and achieving fitness goals, and are an easy addition to your water fitness toolkit. Whether you are looking to increase strength, flexibility, or cardiovascular fitness, or even if you are recovering from an injury, resistance bands in water provide a safe and adaptable exercise option.

They are preferred to traditional resistance training, especially for those who require a lower-impact form of exercise. By considering individual needs and fitness levels, a combination of resistance bands and aquatic exercises can create a highly personalised and effective fitness regimen.

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