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Life Lessons

I Fucking Hate Resistance Bands And I Am Not Wrong

during a Western Bulldogs AFL training session at Whitten Oval on May 17, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.
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I knew this day would arrive. I knew there would come a time when the resistance bands would live up to the promise of their name and rise up against mankind. That time is nigh.

There are any number of “only in baseball!” injuries that occur on an annual basis. A relief pitcher breaks his hand punching a milk carton. A catcher suffers a massive thigh wound after accidentally walking into a forklift. The Phillie Phanatic breaks his leg while playfully dry-humping Dinger. Most of these injuries occur in spring training, and most of them are poorly disguised cover stories for players who hurt themselves while shitfaced.

But in the case of Cubs second baseman Jonathan Villar, I truly do believe that a resistance band attacked him. I can picture the assault now. I can visualize Villar, on the orders of his personal trainer, doing some awful, to-failure workout when the band slips from his grasp and OH SNAP! The band lashes him in the mouth, forcing him to undergo “significant dental work”; the particulars of which, as of right now, are left to my cruel imagination. Maybe the band knocked out some of his teeth. Maybe it broke his jaw. Maybe it became sentient, wrapped around the uvula at the back of his throat, and tore it out at the root. All of those things are possible, and do you know why? Because resistance bands are the fucking WORST, that’s why.

If you have no history with resistance bands, consider yourself lucky. Because the majority of us have been forced to reckon with them in a trainer’s room, or in a workout class, or during a physical therapy session. A resistance band is a simple, awful thing: a fat ribbon of latex that looks like something you’d buy at a fabric store to make your own balloons. Physical therapists have often given me resistance bands for free, perhaps because, as with a copy of Helter Skelter, they wish to distance themselves from the hexing power that lies within. I have been ordered to stretch these bands across my chest; to tie them around both my legs like a failed tourniquet, and to wrap them around each of my arms, like a blood pressure test taken way too far. I’ve had to sit on a yoga ball—yet another simple machine that resides firmly in the “sex toys for the unadventurous” genre—and do tedious exercise after tedious exercise as the resistance band tore my arm hair out at the root. I felt no joy after doing these exercises. I didn’t feel stronger, or fresher. I felt abused. Abused by this … this banal Judas Cradle. This unfinished prophylactic. This monochrome embodiment of Tom Brady’s entire personality.

I know that resistance bands can be effective. I know that they are the culmination of a personal-training revolution that long ago eschewed the bench press—which is still super cool and make everyone who watches you do it want to have sex with you—in favor of endlessly working the negative with lighter weights, and often with no weights at all. That’s how you end up with professional athletes and other grown adults tying these hell scarves to nearby pull up bars and twisting and yanking their way to calisthenic excellence.

But it’s embarrassing, childish bullshit, and I hate it. At least give me something substantial to work out with. Make me drag an anchor across an active freeway. Give me a polished barbell with extra knurling in the grip that’ll rip my palms clean off. Give me a stack of Nautilus machine weights that I can move up and down, like I’m a one-man steel mill. KETTLE BELLS! Yes, give me all the kettle bells. Make me look like I’m working out in a prison yard. Give me something that feels good in my hands. Do NOT give me a fucking swatch of packing material dusted in corn starch and expect me to be happy about it. There’s no tactile ecstasy in these bands. There is only pain, and not the fun macho kind. No one is happy working out with resistance bands, and anyone who does like them is sick of mind and should be exiled posthaste.

And yet, the bands proliferate, as do their hideous sibling, the resistance cord. You will never enter a gym—even a hotel gym!—without spotting these glorified rubber bands lingering in the corner, waiting for the chance to whip off your tongue. Just as a shoebox can be any number of things to a playful child, a resistance band can be any number of things to a fitness guru who hates the idea of people looking cool while toning their lats and glutes. Jonathan Villar and his ailing piehole just learned, firsthand, what these things are capable of. We must heed this sign. We must destroy the resistance bands before they destroy us, and all that we cherish.