One of the key benefits of resistance bands is that they are so versatile and portable, which makes them a crucial piece of fitness equipment to cart along during one’s travels. While they may not provide as much resistance as heavy dumbbells or weight machines, they still work the muscles effectively.
But durable resistance bands are hard to find. They either snap easily while under great tension, get sticky in humid weather or the rubbery material tugs at your body hair. Realising this, two varsity mates have come up with their own line of premium fabric resistance bands called Sweatband, which was launched in February 2019.
Janine Chacko and Lee Wen Li, both 27, wanted to create a community to share ideas and a platform where individuals of all fitness levels and lifestyles could come to for inspiration and guidance.
“We were already using resistant bands in our workouts although it wasn’t our intention to create a product.
“But when we returned from abroad, we couldn’t find bands locally that were suitable or lasting.
“We thought about buying them online, but they were too expensive and not accessible to the masses. And most of the ones sold were made of latex,” says Lee.
Adds Chacko: “Men think the latex ones are too easy, so we wanted to tackle this issue because we wanted to get men to work with bands. Resistance bands are not only for women.”
So the young entrepreneurs put their heads together and came up with Sweatband.
The response was overwhelming, and within two weeks, their first batch had sold out. The second collection of 400 bands – sold purely online – also sold out within two weeks, much to their delight.
What was even more surprising was that a large number of customers who bought the bands were Brazilian Jiu Jitsu male practitioners.
“That was an eye-opener for us. Now we know they use it to strengthen their leg muscles,” says Lee.
Take them everywhere
Made from thick, stretchable and elastic fabric, the bands are durable and come in different resistance levels, which are significantly higher than non-fabric bands.
Unlike most bands that need to be air-dried and powdered after use, Chacko and Lee’s version is extremely low maintenance.
The logo is also made of fabric so you can pop them into the washing machine or hand wash (which is highly recommend).
They also don’t run the risk of tearing easily or getting damaged under direct heat.
“Understanding what you want to achieve using the bands is the first step.
“It can be used to rehabilitate a bad joint, activate a particular muscle group pre-workout or increase the intensity of a squat or lunge – it’s extremely versatile and can be used for anything that is within your needs and wants.
“Anyone of any fitness background can use them in their workouts, whether at home, during their travels, outdoors or at the gym.
“We want to break the stereotype that fitness can only take place in a gym setting – fitness can take place anywhere.
“With the launch of our second line called Sweathook in June (2019), our community has grown exponentially.
“Through our platform and products, we hope to make health and fitness a priority for Malaysians,” says Chacko.
The duo met in college in 2011 and both ended up furthering their studies in Bristol, England.
Lee, who majored in international marketing, loved working out with weights at the gym, while Chacko was a cardio bunny, preferring outdoor runs.
Physically active, the girls had their respective fitness routines and it wasn’t until 2017 that they started trying out different fitness classes after returning home.
With demanding full-time jobs, it was tough to fit in workouts at the gym. To motivate each other, they decide to work out together.
Lee says: “We tried boxing by chance, just to get out of our comfort zone, and got hooked. Now, I do too much cardio!”
Chips in Chacko: “And I don’t run anymore!”
Bands in boxing
They fell in love with boxing classes and ended up becoming certified boxing and fitness instructors. These days, the girls get a lot of requests to incorporate their bands in boxing classes, which they co-teach.
“We do a combination of cardioresistance-cardio. Initially, a lot of girls showed up for the classes, then it was 50% men, now it’s mostly men!
“Because there are elements of high intensity interval training (HIIT), it appeals to the men,” says Lee, who gave up her job in the corporate world to become a full-time freelance trainer.
Their classes attract all age groups from 15 to 70, and students are advised to go at their own pace, selecting bands that are appropriate for their fitness level.
“We don’t have amazing fitness levels,” admits Lee, “but our bands provide a more intense workout. Some people can power through them, but we give modifications for others.”
The bands help one improve strength, mobility, agility and cardiovascular endurance. “We want to focus more on rehabilitation and explore using our bands for physiotherapy.
“Apart from that, we plan to offer workout programmes, online coaching, personal training, group training, and even fitness events further down the road,” says Chacko, who studied finance and worked in a start-up company in London before returning home to join the family business.
From time to time, Lee and Chacko also conduct free community classes to educate the public on incorporating resistance bands to strengthen their muscles.
The girls love what they do because “it doesn’t feel like work and keeps us sane”. Lee’s tip for newbies in strength training: “If you’re just starting out, the bands are less intimidating.
“Start with the basics; use the right form and technique. You don’t need to start with heavy weights and complicated movements.
“Start with bodyweight movements and progress with resistance bands, then light weights and increase them as your strength increases.”
Chacko’s tip: “Increase the intensity gradually. “Exercising doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us, so start out with an activity that you enjoy to get your blood pumping.
“If you enjoy doing something, chances are you’ll stick to it effortlessly! Fitness exists in all forms, find one you love and remain consistent.”