Resistance bands may look like a joke in search of a punchline, but they can get you seriously fit. Yes, the idea of contorting your body parts into an oversize elastic band might not sound like the most sophisticated way to a good workout, but resistance bands offer way more than meets the muscle.
Designed for strength training, the bands are made from durable, rubber-like materials (‘band substances’, you might say), with the strongest ones able to challenge even the henchest gym monkey. With resistance bands, the more force you exert, the more the band will stretch, so it’s a little like upping weights without the hassle of swapping sweaty dumbbells or kettlebells.
Perfect for on-the-fly workouts – for instance, if your hotel doesn’t have a fitness centre or you can’t be bothered to find a gym – resistance bands are anything but futile.
- USA: Shop for resistance bands at Amazon
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What is the best resistance band?
WODFitters could well be considered the leaders of the resistance (bands), with their wares made from a closely guarded mix of robust rubbery stuff, to ensure they don’t snap or lose their shape.
The bands are colour-coded for easy, scalable identification from light to extra heavy, and are sold individually or as a set. A pack of five bands containing generous 41-inch rubbers covers you for a huge range of exercises.
The American brand’s bands are equally at home strengthening muscles, aiding recovery after injury or helping to increase mobility. It also offers 10 to 12-inch sets for smaller, muscle-specific exercises (and they also double as fetching headbands).
If you’re up for getting extra creative with your workout, WODFitters are also built for yoga, pilates and a bunch of terrifyingly-titled workout DVDs, including Insanity, Brazilian Butt Lift and Turbo Jam.
- Resistance band exercises for a fast full body workout at home
How to buy the best resistance bands
The beauty of resistance bands is in their versatility. They can be used to work virtually every muscle in the body. Compare that to specialist gym machines that focus on specific muscle groups and suddenly rubbering up makes a great deal of sense.
If you like working out at home but don’t have the space or budget for fancy equipment, the bands make achieving ‘Stretch Armstrong’ status convenient and cost effective. They’re easy to store and can be used just about anywhere inside or outside.
Also, workout experts suggest that tying bands to existing big movement exercises (think bench press and squats) can fire up muscle groups that have previously remained dormant and take body sculpting to the next level.
Before we get into listing the best of the best and furnishing you with a buying guide, it’s worth noting the bands make fantastic travel companions that fit in your hand luggage too.
Resistance bands are generally made of heavy-duty latex rubber and vary in length depending on what exercises they are designed for. There are two main types, resistance tubes and flat bands.
Resistance tubes tend to have handles at either end for gripping with your hands or, if you’re feeling extra flexible, your feet. The tubes come in colour-coded resistance levels along with add-ons such as hooks for specific exercises or for hanging from doors. Tubes tend to last longer, but could be considered slightly more complicated.
Flat bands are more typical in design and do away with any additional grips or hooks. They look like giant rubber bands because they are giant rubber bands. Again, resistance levels are colour-coded and their simple design makes them versatile and portable.
Before purchasing a full set, try some at a gym first. You might not feel comfortable using them at first, plus PT’s are on hand to offer advice as well as a few starter exercises. You may find just one or two bands provide all the resistance you require.
Testing them in a controlled environment is preferable as there are some safety considerations too. The bands must be attached to something sturdy or you could find a missile hurtling towards you.
Similarly, if they’re not positioned correctly, you could find yourself whiplashed by an oversize rubber band. Leading to the rather ironic situation of having to reach for a resistance band to aid your rehabilitation from injury.
Best resistance bands, in order
Simple in design and excellent value for money, WODFitters flat bands are versatile enough for pull ups, chin ups, ring dips and muscle ups. They can also be used for power-lifting sessions.
Made from multiple layers of tough rubber, they’re designed to last without suffering deformation over time and offer easily the biggest resistance range of the bands listed here.
Each band is lightweight and easily foldable making them great for travelling and a accompanying e-guide helps users of all levels expand their exercise repertoire.
Master of Muscle’s Shred Bands set comprises of 11 pieces, including five resistance bands, two cushioned foams handles, two ankle attachments, a door anchor and a carry bag. You also get an ebook containing ‘20 Body Smash workouts’. My body has seldom been so smashed.
The resistance tubes are made from antibacterial material and are all the same size, but resistance increases with 5-pound increments as you move up the set. Muscle building, crossfit, yoga, pilates and a bunch of HIIT fat burning sessions are all fair game here and although the add-ons may be complicated for some, the door anchor is undeniably useful for home workouts.
Resistance loops are one of the most efficient tools to provide extra resistance to your lower body workout sessions. Take, for example, the Meglio Latex Free Resistance Loops. Just pick an elastic loop with the appropriate resistance level – it goes from ‘light’ to ‘extra-heavy’ – step into the loops with both legs and perform squats as usual (just in case: how to do squats).
Just like similar offerings, the Meglio Latex Free Resistance Loops work best for your legs and glutes; and although they can be used for training your upper body too, the bands are too short to be versatile enough for a full upper body training session.
But considering the price, you should definitely get a variety pack which contains four resistance loops with varying resistance levels as well as an exercise guide and a carry/storage bag. The cheapest way to get your butt toned and make your hamstrings stronger.
Mirafit resistance bands come in a variety of sizes and resistance levels. The lightest #1 band is great for toning and the strongest, #6 is strong enough to replace dumbbells with its 230 pounds resistance level.
Made out of non-snap 100% natural latex material, these bands were designed for heavy duty use and for a variety of exercises. Suitable for men and women, young and old, the Mirafit resistance bands are also ideal for physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
The clue is in the name with Protone, a resistance tube set for muscle boys and girls serious about strength training.
Included in the pack are five tubes that can be combined for extra resistance, a padded door anchor system, two handles, two Velcro ankle straps, a band guard, a manual and safety guide and a carry bag.
There’s a danger of having all the gear and no idea here, but if you’re confident with how resistance bands work and your goal is lean muscle growth, Protone could be a formidable tool.
Fit Nation have gone down the Danish Endurance route and decided three flat bands that can be combined is enough for most workouts.
Nice touches include the bands being made from eco-friendly natural latex, along with a packed ebook of exercises and online tutorial support aimed at beginners.
Billed as an alternative to free weights and great for injury rehabilitation, Fit Nation’s pack might prove insufficient for pro users, but for novices after some simple toning away from the gym, they fit the bill.
Physix sells its four-band set in normal and pastel, colour-coded options depending on your taste and as well as being made from recyclable thermoplastic latex, they are resistant to sweat, energy drinks and more.
The flat band design is pretty standard and along with a basic downloadable guide of video exercises, what we have here is a package to cover beginner basics, whilst probably leaving more adventurous users wanting.