For many newcomers, working out can be an intimidating activity. The weights can be heavy, there's a number of movements to know and if you misjudge how much weight you can move, you can easily deflate your interest entirely — or worse, injure yourself.
But what if there were an easier, more approachable way to get a solid workout without the intimidation factor? What if finding the right weight was simplified to a color scheme? Resistance bands could be just the answer you're looking for.
Lightweight and versatile, resistance bands can be great tools for any training endeavor. These cost-effective bands can be stored easily in a gym bag or closet, and can prove to be a positive addition to any stretching, strength training, mobility or recovery session. But not every band is going to snap you immediately into fitness success. To help you choose which band is right for you, here are our top picks for the best exercise bands on the market today.
The Benefits of Resistance Training
There are a number of benefits to adding resistance bands to your normal training routine. For one, exercise bands are easily storable and don't take up a ton of space like, say, a full weight set or rack of dumbbells at home or at the gym. This can be great for those living in tight spaces or individuals constantly on the go.
Additionally, resistance bands can be solid tools for improved mobility and flexibility. Because of the lightweight profile and variety of intensities, many athletes turn to resistance bands for stretching exercises. The tension provided can help activate muscles, making them great warmup tools, as well.
Due to the low-impact nature of resistance training, exercise bands can also be an easy way to get comfortable in fitness. No matter your skill level, you can begin to learn the common movements and exercises without the fear of overloading a barbell or machine. Low-impact resistance training can also be a good solution for older individuals who want to stay active but can’t exactly max out their bench or squat, anymore.
Lastly, resistance training can be a positive way to mix up workout routines. You can add resistance bands to a number of your favorite exercises for an extra sense of difficulty. Working on kettlebell exercises? Include a resistance band for a refreshed session. Need some assistance perfecting your pull-up? Resistance bands can help you raise the bar — or, your bodyweight for that matter.
Types of Resistance Bands
Before you get started on your resistance training journey, you should first understand the different types of exercise bands available to you. Essentially, there are three styles to choose from:
- Tube Bands
- Looped Bands
- Sheet Bands
Tube bands are rounded pieces of rubber or latex that act similarly to cable machines. Often paired with a handle or carabiner, these resistance bands can provide a number of modalities targeting multiple muscle groups, especially ones that offer other grip accessories like ankle cuffs or door anchors.
Looped bands are essentially giant rubber bands that vary in thickness depending on the resistance offered. Ideal for both upper and lower body training, looped bands can be versatile additions to any session. There are even mini looped bands that — as the name suggests — are smaller than traditional loop bands. These minis can fit conveniently around the lower body as excellent options for glute, hamstring or hip exercises.
Sheet bands resemble a rubber or latex ribbon and offer the least amount of resistance. These low-impact bands can be great for physical therapy and tie easily to a number of anchor points. We prefer sheet-style resistance bands for stretching and activating muscles prior to training, but would recommend tubed or looped options for more traditional workouts.
How We Tested
Over the course of a few weeks, we added the following resistance band kits to our regular fitness routines, even swapping some of our normal free weight exercises for resistance band alternatives. Features such as versatility and usefulness were considered, along with how the bands compared to our traditional workout regimen. Some were great for a wide variety of modalities, while others lent themselves to more specialized exercises. In the end, though, these were the top exercise bands that stretched our workouts to unparalleled heights.
Best Overall Resistance Bands
Taking aim at your fitness goals is a breeze with the Original Gorilla Bow. Resembling a traditional longbow, the resistance bands are strung across the aircraft-grade aluminum bow for up to 300 pounds of tension. The Original Gorilla Bow can hold up to four of the provided tube bands, making it easy to change up just how intense each exercise is.
We really enjoyed how similar every movement felt to traditional exercises with any type of barbell, making this resistance band kit a clear standout in testing. While the Original model does not break down for easier storage, Gorilla Bow does offer Travel versions for those wanting this convenience. The brand also offers a variety of band packages, unlocking even more resistance training opportunities for the dedicated enthusiast.
Best Upgrade Resistance Bands
If you’re looking for a traditional tubed resistance band set, we could not recommend Bodylastics more. Every kit comes with a number of accessories, but for the complete package, we recommend the six-band set that includes two heavy-duty handles, two heavy-duty ankle straps, one small anywhere anchor and one heavy-duty door anchor.
Each band includes a patented inner cord system for added safety — on the off chance one does snap — as well as a unique carabiner system that helps the connection stay unobstructed during training. Each band lists its true resistance level, so while there is a little more math involved, we enjoyed the precise measurements that offered a more accurate intensity depiction.
Best Budget Resistance Bands
Quality resistance bands are already a more cost-efficient alternative to normal fitness equipment, but for those being extra mindful of pricing, the TRX Bandit Kit provides plenty of training in a wallet-friendly profile. This kit includes four resistance bands — two 5–15 lb. strength bands and two 15–30 lb. strength bands — that slip easily into the two open-face handles.
While the plastic could benefit from a little more sturdiness, we found the handles to provide excellent grip thanks to the slip-free rubber. We also appreciated how the open design allowed for varying grip distances and modalities. If you have other loop bands, you can even use the Bandit handles with those — provided they fit in the open housing.
Best Resistance Bands for Pull-Ups
Want your resistance bands to provide some assistance with bodyweight exercises like chin-ups or pull-ups? You’ll want an exercise band that’s a little thicker and longer to accommodate these movements. The resistance bands offered up by Living.Fit do just that. Ranging in widths from 0.5–3.2 inches, these "power bands" can easily help you explode through these bodyweight workouts, along with a wide range of other modalities.
The looped bands closely resemble the traditional rubber band silhouette, and we really liked their effectiveness when warming up for heavier strength training. We tested the full six-band set, but if we’re being honest, the available four-band set can provide plenty of resistance for the typical gym-goer. Living.Fit also offers a lifetime warranty, but the durability is very present, so we’re unsure if you’ll ever need to use this convenient perk.
Best Mini Resistance Bands
With smaller mini bands, getting them into position can be somewhat of a pain. With Buckleband’s Starter Set, the action is as simple as clicking on your seatbelt. Showcasing a buckle that connects in front, the Buckleband Starter Set is great for flexible lower-body training. Clicking in for a routine was easy enough, and through countless side steps, monster walks and other movements, we didn’t feel the security was compromised.
The Starter Set includes four bands of varying intensity, allowing for a wide range of exertion levels. As you do step, the silicone band tenses where it meets the buckle, though, which could prove to be a weak point as the accessory ages.
Best Resistance Bands for Lightweight Training
Offering a number of intensities and colors in a comfortable, non-latex build, TheraBand Resistance Bands provide convenient versatility for those looking to improve their lightweight training. These thin, ribbon-like accessories are easy to grip or anchor to a structure and boast just enough resistance to help condition a good mix of muscle groups and sticking points.
TheraBand Resistance Bands can also be an effective recovery tool for those with nagging injuries or athletes easing back into training. The resistance is present, but not as intense as other band options or exercise routines. While there are other options we’d turn to when building a full-scale training session, the sheet bands offered by TheraBand are a convenient option to keep in a gym or sports bag for when traditional stretching just won’t cut it.
Put that snap back in your training and take on a new workout regimen with these top-rated resistance bands. From lightweight stretching assistance to full-fledged workouts, you can really stretch your training potential with any of the picks you see here.