Physical therapists have used resistance bands for years to increase patients’ strength and flexibility. Now they’re becoming more popular in the general population as a versatile workout apparatus you can use at home or anywhere.

Unlike free weights that offer continuous resistance throughout the entire range of motion, resistance bands create a greater challenge the more they are stretched. And while gravity only pulls on free weights in the vertical plane, exercise bands “encourage motion in three hundred and sixty degrees, making them invaluable in rehabilitation, as well as sports that require strength and flexibility in multiple planes, such as golf or tennis,” says Dr. Mary Badon, an orthopedic surgeon and owner of SOMA Movement Studio in Unionville, Conn.

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