Working out at home may sound good in theory, but many would-be exercisers haven’t got room for cumbersome, unattractive fitness equipment. Fortunately, with resistance bands, you can build strength, flexibility, and stability just about anywhere, then toss the gear into a bag, closet, or drawer and out of sight.
Resistance training is a technique that causes muscles to contract against a weight or force. Resistance bands offer continuous resistance throughout an exercise, with resistance increasing as you reach the apex of the motion and decreasing as you return to the starting position. Most exercises performed with free weights or weight machines can be done with resistance bands. Take a basic bicep curl, for example: To do one, you would step on the center of a tube-style resistance band and while holding the tube in your hand, tuck your elbows close to the body and raise the hand to the shoulder. To adjust resistance, you simply move your foot to release or take in slack.
A resistance band workout offers continuous, as well as increasing, resistance throughout the exercises. As you reach the apex of an exercise (e.g., the point in a bicep curl when the hand reaches the shoulder), the resistance is at its greatest. On the way back to the starting position, you “fight” the resistance to maintain control. This is not the case with free weights or weight machines, which provide continuous but not increasing resistance, and no “fight” upon returning to start. Consequently, a resistance band workout rivals other weight resistance exercises while challenging the muscles in both directions.
Resistance bands are also an excellent option for multidimensional exercises that activate main muscle groups and the surrounding support muscle groups at the same time. The bands provide a fluidity of movement that mimics real-life movements, wherein you don’t stay on one plane. For example, reaching for a can on a pantry shelf requires the shoulders to reach, the lower back and core to stabilize, and the shoulders to resist weight as you bring the can down. Resistance bands activate the body in a similar way, activating multiple muscle groups to stabilize the body.
Available in varying resistance/weight levels, resistance bands suit beginners as well as experienced athletes. This versatility allows the members of your household with different fitness levels to use the same set of resistance bands.
While resistance bands offer a simple, sensible approach to functional fitness, they vary in type, quality, and included accessories. Read on to learn how to choose them—and why the following are considered among the best available—so you can find the best fit for your fitness goals.
- BEST OVERALL: TRIBE PREMIUM Resistance Bands Set for Exercise
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: LetsFit Resistance Loop Bands
- BEST FOR PULL-UPS: INTEY Pull up Assist Band Exercise Resistance Bands
- BEST FOR LEGS AND GLUTES: Walito Resistance Bands for Legs and Butt
- BEST FOR FULL BODY: Fitness Insanity Resistance Bands Set
- BEST HIP CIRCLE: Te-Rich Resistance Bands for Legs and Butt
- BEST FOR TRAVEL: Black Mountain Products Resistance Band Set
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Resistance Bands
Your personal fitness goals will determine what type of resistance bands are best for you. For example, if you want a full-body workout, a set of resistance bands that includes handles, ankle and wrist straps, and door anchors are necessary. However, if you only want assistance with pull-ups or to target the legs and glutes, you can use resistance bands designed for those specific exercises and areas. Keep the following features in mind when shopping for resistance bands.
Resistance bands are made in three different materials, each with pros and cons, and some are better suited to certain kinds of workouts.
- Latex. Latex resistance bands may be made of either natural or synthetic latex. Natural latex offers the best elasticity and strength, but it can lose elasticity, dry out, or get brittle under high temperatures and/or excessive humidity. It’s also more expensive than synthetic latex or non-latex rubber. Some manufacturers balance quality and price by using a blend of natural and synthetic latex, offering the strength and elasticity of natural latex with the heat and moisture resistance of synthetic latex. Of course, if you have a latex allergy, opt for a different material.
- TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and Non-Latex Rubber. These two materials have better heat resistance and moisture tolerance than natural latex, but tend to lose their elasticity faster than natural latex.
- Fabric. Fabric resistance bands are a blend of latex or TPU and stretchable fabrics like cotton/poly spandex blends. They offer stiffer resistance and less elasticity than either a latex or non-latex rubber resistance bands. This taut quality is desirable in loop resistance bands that target the thighs, glutes, and hips, because you need greater resistance to challenge these large muscle groups. The fabric also helps keep the bands in place so they don’t roll or pinch on bare skin.
- Sheet. Sheet resistance bands are long and flat, with no handle, carabiner, or hook at either end. The band can be wrapped around the hands, tied to the ankle, secured to a door handle, or used to create a loop by tying the ends together. Physical therapists often employ sheet resistance bands because they’re so versatile. While they come in different resistance levels, you can add or reduce resistance by taking in or letting out slack. Sheet resistance bands are sold as a single band or in sets.
- Loop. Loop resistance bands are a continuous circle, and the thickness and length of the loop determines its function. Long, thick loop resistance bands are commonly used to assist during pull-ups, while short loop resistance bands are good for lower body workouts. Loops can also target most muscle groups, if used creatively. Loop resistance bands come as single bands or as a set.
- Tube. Rather than a flat piece of latex, tube resistance bands consist of a tube of flexible latex or rubber like material—the thicker the tube, the more resistance the band offers. Tube bands typically come with handles, ankle straps, and anchors to offer a full-body workout. Some designs allow you to increase or decrease the resistance by adjusting the placement of the handles. You can also adjust the resistance by adjusting your stance on the band. Tube resistance bands are easy to manipulate, making them a favorite for beginners.
What do you hope to achieve with the resistance bands? If you want to add multi-dimensional resistance to a full-body workout, a set of tube resistance bands with anchors and handles offers versatile options in an easy-to-use setup. For a more challenging lower body workout, choose loop resistance bands to increase resistance during squats, clamshells, hip thrusts, and other below-the-belt moves. While sheet resistance bands can be tricky to use at first, they offer flexibility in length, design, and grip, so you can target almost any muscle group.
Resistance level refers to the amount of resistance the band offers. Thick bands typically offer greater resistance. Manufacturers indicate the band’s resistance level by color (e.g., green equals light, yellow equals medium, and black equals heavy). On the band’s packaging or in the instruction manual, you can usually find the equivalent weight range for each color. A green band labeled “light” may offer 5 to 10 pounds of resistance, depending on how far you stretch it, while a black “heavy” band may offer 25 to 30 pounds of resistance. This gives you an idea of the free weight or the machine equivalent to the resistance you’re using.
While you can buy a single resistance band, it might make sense to purchase a set with several resistance levels because some muscle groups, such as quadriceps, are stronger than others like the triceps. Plus, with regular use, you can get stronger. That means you may need greater resistance to continue to challenge your muscles. You may want to have a set with multiple resistance levels so you can use them long term.
Some resistance band designs allow multiple bands to be used at once or “stacked” to increase resistance. This lets you progressively increase resistance and use the same set to target the smaller (and sometimes weaker) muscles in the upper body and the larger (and sometimes stronger) muscle groups in the lower body. Once you’ve got your starter set, you can buy additional bands in resistance levels as your needs and goals change.
Although resistance bands are a smart option for the home, they’re also highly portable and ideal for exercising while away from home. Even sets with 25 to 30 pieces usually include a carrying bag that’s small enough to fit in a suitcase. If you’re tight on luggage space and need to keep weight down while traveling, loop or sheet bands are a wise choice because they don’t require anchors or handles.
Comfort and Ease of Use
Several factors influence comfort and ease of use when it comes to resistance bands. Handle design and length adjustability play a role, but so does your body size, strength, and unique body mechanics.
Resistance bands with adjustable handles and ergonomic grips are typically the most comfortable and easy to grip for better control through a full range of motions. Adjustable handles enable you to change the resistance by moving the handle; without adjustable handles, you can change your body position, taking in or releasing slack until you find the right resistance level.
Technically, sheet resistance bands are the easiest and fastest to adjust because you need only alter your grip or stance to change the resistance. However, it may take some time to learn how to grip and manipulate them effectively and comfortably. It’s up to the individual to decide which is more important: quick resistance adjustments or a comfortable grip.
Resistance bands may come with various extras to improve functionality, comfort, and convenience.
- Anchors. Attach anchors to a door, a door handle, or the floor, and loop a resistance band through, to extend the variety of exercises you can do while lending greater stability.
- Handles for upper body exercises give bands a feel similar to that of weight machines or free weights and won’t won’t chafe the skin of the palm.
- Ankle and wrist straps facilitate various exercises. Rather than tie or grip a resistance band, you attach the strap to the ankle or the wrist, and use an anchor for stability. Straps can provide free range of motion, allow the activation of muscle groups, and isolate muscle groups depending on the individual exercise.
- Core sliders are round pads used to challenge stability and balance. Sold as a pair, they’re designed to be used with either both feet or both hands at the same time. They cause the hands or feet to slide, adding an extra layer of difficulty to push-ups, mountain climbers, lunges, and planks by activating the core and demanding extra balance and stability to maintain proper form and keep the sliders in place.
- Push-up handles. Push-up handles rest securely on the floor to lessen pressure on wrists and elbows and distribute weight more evenly during push-ups. However, because they keep your hands off of the floor, they can add an extra challenge by raising the body a few inches, allowing you to dip lower than the level of your hands.
- Carrying bags. Typically made of polyester, nylon, or mesh, carrying bags let you keep your resistance band set together for storage and travel.
Our Top Picks
Now that you have a sense of how these workout wonders work, consider the following options. Some offer a full-body workout, while others aid or challenge specific types of exercises or muscle groups. Durability, portability, and price were also considered in this resistance bands roundup.
TRIBE PREMIUM brings together top quality materials in a resistance band set designed to challenge the full body. There are three sets available—45-pound, 105-pound, and 150-pound— to offer resistance based on your fitness level and goals. Each band is made of natural latex in a double-walled design that increases the strength, elasticity, and durability of the bands.
Strong yet plush handles provide a good grip, while D-rings on each handle let you stack the bands to increase resistance. This set also includes an extra-large door anchor and two ankle straps. When not in use, everything fits neatly in a carrying bag. And for those new to resistance bands, there’s a helpful manual explaining the many exercise possibilities
This set of five loop bands offers five resistance levels, ranging from light to extra heavy, so you can work the hamstrings, glutes, quads, back, shoulders, and arms. As you grow stronger, you can use multiple bands to increase resistance. Fans of such fitness techniques as yoga and Pilates can incorporate these bands into their exercise routine for more challenging workouts.
Made of 100 percent natural latex, these bands offer excellent elasticity and durability, as long as they’re kept out of extreme temperatures and humidity. The set includes an instruction manual to get you started and a carrying bag to keep the bands contained and organized.
If you’re ready to take your upper body workout to the next level, these pull-up assist bands are designed to help you reach your goal. They’re made of 100 percent natural rubber latex for superior elasticity and durability. The set includes four bands, each one with a weight-range limit (15 to 35 pounds, 25 to 65 pounds, 35 to 85 pounds, and 50 to 125-pounds). Specifically made to assist pull-ups, they’re categorized by weight range rather than resistance: The higher the weight range, the greater the resistance. To use, loop a band to a pull-up bar, kneel or stand in it, and gradually work your way from an assisted pull-up to an independent pull-up.
These bands can be used for a lot more than pull-ups, however. You can anchor them using a door anchor (not included) or a power cage to work arms, back, core, and lower body. The lightweight bands come with a storage/carrying bag.
These stiff resistance bands can help you upgrade your lower-body workout comfortably. They have a wide design that prevents rolling or digging into the skin, and the interior of each band features a non-slip surface to keep them in place during active exercise.
Designed specifically for the lower body, the fabric/rubber blend provides stiffer resistance for these large muscle groups. The set includes three resistance levels, varying from 14 to 50 pounds of resistance. The easy-to-store bands can be hung on a hook or rolled up for storage in the included carrying bag.
The five bands in this set range in resistance levels from 10 to 50 pounds to offer a serious workout challenge, especially when stacked for added resistance. Handles and ankle straps let you target specific muscle groups and vary your exercises. This set also includes a portable door anchor that you can place high to work the upper body and core, and low to work the legs.
A workout guide and poster provide illustrations and instructions for targeting muscles, providing ideas for experienced athletes as well as a great starting point for beginners. The carrying bag keeps the set neat for storage and travel.
A hip circle (also known as a mini loop) is a small circle of flat latex or fabric/latex blend. They’re usually placed above the knee to add resistance during standard squats and clamshells or around the ankles for controlled lateral movements or leg raises. These Te-Rich bands have a wideband design coupled with a fabric/rubber blend material that creates stiff resistance for squats, donkey kicks, clamshells, and other lower body exercises. The interior of each band features a non-slip surface that keeps the bands flat during dynamic moves.
The set includes three resistance levels, from light to heavy. As you build strength or target weaker muscle groups, you can move to the next band in the set. You can also double the bands to add extra resistance. A carrying bag is included if you wish to take the bands to an exercise class or for general travel and storage.
There’s plenty of fitness gear in this set, and it all fits neatly in a durable nylon bag with a zippered closure and a thick carrying strap ideal for travel. The bands are made with a blend of natural and synthetic latex that offers excellent elasticity and added heat resistance. The set includes a 2- to 4-pound band, a 4- to 6-pound band, a 10- to 12-pound band, a 15- to 20-pound band, and a 25- to 30- pound band, providing a wide range of resistance levels in a single set.
Seatbelt-grade grommets at the end of each band connect to carabiners that then attach to handles. You can stack bands for added resistance or keep it simple with a single band. This set includes an ankle strap and a door anchor, diversifying the exercise options. This is a well-built, versatile system that offers multiple uses, holds up to daily use, and is compact enough to fit in a suitcase or store in a drawer.
FAQs About Your New Resistance Bands
Keep reading for some answers to common questions about working out with resistance bands.
Q. How do resistance bands work?
Resistance bands are stretchy sheets, loops, and tubes that challenge muscles by offering continuous and increasing resistance from the start to the end of an exercise. Resistance peaks at the midpoint of an exercise, and on the way back to the starting position, the muscle must resist the band’s force to maintain control. These bands also allow you to do multidimensional exercises that activate main muscle groups and the surrounding support muscle groups at the same time. Users can increase or reduce resistance by changing the length of the resistance band, and also stack bands to increase resistance.
Q. How do you use resistance bands?
Pick a muscle group to target like the quads, biceps, or triceps (this instructive example will focus on a bicep curl). Using a tube resistance band with handles, find the centerline of the tube and stand on it with both feet. Grip a handle in each hand, palms forward, and, keeping elbows tight to the body, pull the handles up to the shoulders. In a slow, controlled manner, bring the hands back to the starting position.
Your goal is to experience muscle fatigue, the point at which muscles become too tired to hold correct form. Find a weight that allows you to do 8 to 12 reps. Check your form in a mirror or window reflection to ensure that you’re doing each move correctly to reap the most benefit and prevent injury.
It’s a good idea not to put resistance bands around bare feet; always wear shoes to avoid chafing. Avoid anchoring the bands around abrasive surfaces, such as metal, brick, or concrete, which can create micro-tears in the bands. Though resistance bands are durable, check yours regularly for tears or abrasions—such defects can cause the band to snap mid-use. Resistance bands can leave welts or cause eye or face injury if they break.
Q. What are the benefits of resistance bands?
Resistance bands provide a compact, portable, and inexpensive way to target the main muscle and support muscle groups with adjustable resistance.