Resistance bands are an incredible piece of fitness equipment. They come in many different shapes and sizes, from long thin or thick loops, to smaller loops, to straight bands not tied or made into a loop, to straight bands with handles on the end, and even figure-eight shaped bands. Depending on what size and shape, they can be used to work just about every single muscle group in your body. Plus, they’re the perfect way to warm up your legs, glutes, quads, and hamstrings before heading out for a run, too.
How Resistance Bands Work
Bands provide progressive resistance: the farther apart you pull the band, the more resistance you’ll experience. The thickness of the band can also determine the amount of initial resistance, and different size bands or different configurations are better for working different areas—for example, the smaller loops are great for glute work, where the larger loops can be perfect for full body moves like squats, or good mornings and lunges.
Don’t think of these as only light-duty workout tools; some bands can offer up to 200 pounds of resistance. But know that there’s no standard rating system: Bands can be listed by a static level of resistance, a dynamic range, or just relative levels, such as “light” or “medium.” Bands are often coded by color according to how much resistance they provide, but each brand uses a different color scheme, so compare resistance by weight or difficulty level, not color, when selecting a set.
Benefits of Resistance Bands
Perform Multiple Exercises
Resistance bands can be used to replicate many exercises you’d perform with free weights or even certain machines in the gym. You can wrap a band around an anchor point to perform resistance rows or flys versus cable variations; stand on the middle and grab the handles or ends to perform bicep curls or tricep kickbacks versus dumbbell variations; or stand on the band and wrap it around your neck and shoulders to do a squat versus a barbell variation.
Provide Constant Tension
Because resistance bands provide resistance throughout the exercise, you’re forcing your body to work even at the starting point of exercises, so the bands help challenge your body in a different way. It’s a nice change from a free-weight routine, and they can even feel a bit safer for some exercises—you don’t have to worry about dropping them on yourself if you can’t complete a rep.
Compact by Design
Resistance bands take up little to no space, making them the perfect piece of equipment to add to your home gym. They’re also a great travel companion, as they can easily be stuffed into your luggage for work travel or vacation, or thrown into your gym bag.
Great Tool for Stretching, Mobility, and Rehab
While they can be used for full workouts and strength moves, resistance bands are also a great tool for stretching, rehabbing injuries, and mobility work. They’re gentle on joints and can help provide a little or a lot of resistance when you’re working to strengthen an injury, or use them as a tool to increase your range of motion and depth in a stretch.
How We Chose
As a fitness and health editor and runner, I’ve had the opportunity to use many of these different brands in group fitness settings and home workouts. I’ve used resistance bands extensively in basic bodyweight exercises, strength training, and rehabbing injuries. As a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, I’ve also used a variety of resistance bands with clients, to help them rehab specific injuries, or to warm up the lower body and posterior chain before a cardio workout. The bands below offer various size, configuration, and tension options, and multiple price points, but all have also been used by many and reviewed positively. Based on our testing, research, and reviews, here are the best resistance bands that you can buy.
With seven different bands offering seven different resistance levels from 10 to 35 pounds all the way up to 85 to 200, these bands have enough variety for you to find one (or more) that work for your training regimen. Use them in your apartment, stand on them, wrap them around furniture, door handles, or even trees to enable you to perform the exercises in your workout. We used them when traveling and even wrapped them around fences for presses, and car roof racks for pull downs, and had no issues with the bands tearing. They’re great to assist with stretching as well. Prices run from $10 to $70, depending on resistance level.
Featuring two easy-to-grip foam handles, and a built-in snap-proof system, these are a great option for exercises where you prefer gripping handles versus a band itself. Stand on the middle and grip the handles to perform bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, overhead press, and more, or wrap the band around an anchor and grip the handles to perform a chest press, flys, or rows. This band gives a good amount of resistance, and we like that it doesn’t stretch out over time. It is somewhat limited in range; there are only two options, at 30 or 50 pounds of resistance. Prices run from $19 to $25, depending on resistance.
Throw one of these mini bands around your thighs and perform some side steps, glute bridges, and clam shells to warm up the lower body before getting into your workout. There are four resistance levels, so you can change them based on the move you’re performing, and you can increase resistance as you become stronger and moves get easier. They’re perfect for traveling, too, as they take up no space, so you can bring them with you to the gym or on work travel or even vacation. These are listed as relative levels of resistance (“light,” “medium,” etc.) rather than a numerical weight equivalent. You get four bands for $18.
Choose between the light, medium, or heavy resistance bands, depending on the workout you’re doing. The thick fabric construction of this set ensures they are extremely durable and can withstand frequent use without any wear and tear issues. Instead of a single long piece of material, these are a closed loop, which makes them ideal for stabilizing your lower body for exercises like squats, especially while rehabbing injuries. Each wide band features a grippy material on the inside, so you don’t have to worry about the bands slipping or moving around on your ankles or thighs. They come with a mesh carrying case, too, for easy transport.
For just $30, you’ll get 10-, 20-, 30-, 40-, and 50-pound resistance bands, two handles, two ankle straps, a door anchor, and a storage bag. Easily clip the band of your choice to a handle or ankle strap, or slip it through the door anchor, depending on the exercise you’re looking to perform. If you’re working out from home a lot and can’t decide what size resistance band you need, this kit is a good choice for its multiple options. You can even attach more than one band at the same time to increase the resistance level to over 50 pounds.
You’ll get three different five-foot-long resistance bands in this set, ranging from three to six-and-a-half pounds of resistance. The bands are single, long pieces of latex-free elastic resistance, so you can loop them around anchors; tie them to anchors, fences, furniture, or handles; or tie the band to itself, depending on what you’re trying to do with it. The low resistance and wide, supportive cut makes them a perfect tool for rehabbing injuries, as well as stretching and mobility exercises.
If you’ve taken a Barry’s class, you’ve probably used this type of resistance band before. Made from rubber tubing with handles at each end, this resistance band is tough and durable. With five resistance levels from very light to very heavy, they can be used for exercises like side raises, tricep extensions, lunges, squat to press, front raises, chest flys, and more, all by holding onto the handles and standing on different parts of the band, using your body as an anchor. You can download PDFs from the SPRI website that show proper form, and to explore different moves.
Calling all yogis and Pilates people! These figure-8-shaped bands can easily be integrated into your practice to add a little extra tension and resistance to up your burn. You’ll get three bands with 30, 40, and 50 pounds of resistance, so you can choose based on your level (from beginner to more advanced). They’re perfect for toning the lower body, too, with exercises like lunges, fire hydrants, kickbacks, and more. The loops are easy to insert your foot or hand into, and each side has a grip to prevent slippage.