Prices are accurate at the time of publication.
- Resistance bands are as effective as free weights at building muscle and strength.
- The best resistance bands won’t snap, roll, or irritate your skin, and come as a set for more choices.
- Our top pick, TheraBands, are latex-free, highly versatile, and won’t snap over time.
Resistance bands are an incredibly diverse and affordable addition to your home gym set-up. They can be used therapeutically for muscle rehab and stability training, or in lieu of dumbbells for serious strength building.
“There are literally thousands of exercises you can do with a resistance band, with the band placed in numerous patterns around the body,” Keaton Ray, PT, DPT, CSCS, physical therapist and co-founder of MovementX, Inc in Portland, OR tells Insider.
As a certified barre and mat pilates instructor myself, I’ve tested a lot of resistance bands to help challenge and build muscle. And studies show they really do work for building strength and mass (more in that in our FAQ section, below).
Different types play toward specific goals and movements — looped bands and fabric bands provide resistance for more restrictive movements (clam shells, glute bridges), while the more versatile resistance bands with handles rival the work dumbbells do for compound movements (bicep curls, rows, lunges). We also prefer a resistance band set for more versatility.
At the end of this guide, I lay out what types of resistance bands there are, how to use resistance bands, and everything you should consider when buying one. Until then, here are our top picks among the many resistance bands I’ve tested.
The best resistance bands:
- Best resistance bands overall: TheraBand
- Best resistance loop bands: Fluidity
- Best fabric resistance band: Sweat The Technique
- Best resistance bands with handles: SPRI Total Body Resistance Kit
TheraBand Non-Latex Resistance Bands are super versatile for both therapeutic use as well as strength training, and they’re thin and lightweight enough to take anywhere.
Pros: Latex-free, lightweight, extremely versatile in function, inexpensive, resistance band set
Cons: Not super heavy resistance
TheraBands were my first experience with resistance bands and I’ve never looked back. Incredibly thin and lightweight while somehow maintaining their strength and durability, this resistance band set does an excellent job helping you develop muscle strength.
I’ve used them around my thighs during squats and between my arms while working my triceps, but the possibilities (and potential muscle groups) are virtually endless.
Rather than being permanently looped, TheraBands are one straight piece of latex-free rubber, which makes them highly versatile. You can still tie the band together to make it a looped band, or grip it or wrap it around your hands to use it like a resistance band with handles.
There are also eight levels of resistance to choose from, and this set comes with the three mid-level weights, which offers you a range of lighter therapeutic work to strength building. Whether you’re making your barre workout just a bit harder or using them for some quick HIIT moves, TheraBands do the trick. That said, if you’re looking for serious resistance, you may need something a bit heftier.
They’re also highly durable — while they look as though they’ll snap at any moment, I’ve had mine for years and they’re only just starting to show small tears. My old gym also used these, and despite constant usage by hundreds of clients, the TheraBands withstood the test.
They’re also latex-free, which is great for folks with allergies or sensitivities. They’re highly portable and fit in a small, included carrying case, making them great for travel. –Lulu Chang
Fluidity bands are durably looped for building strength on small range-of-motion movements, and made with natural latex, which is gentle on the skin and eco-friendly.
Pros: Eco-friendly, non-toxic, durable
Cons: Individually sold, only three levels of resistance available, no travel bag
Resistance loop bands are ideal to provide strength-building or rehabilitation-level resistance on smaller ranges of motion, like looping them around your quads to build strength during clamshells or during squats to keep your knees tracking outward. They’re also a great addition to your warm-up routine as they help provide low-weight activation to your muscles during moves like with lat pulls and crab walks.
Fluidity resistance loop bands are one of the most durable resistance bands I’ve found. They’re made of 100% natural rubber latex, which is a non-toxic and eco-friendly material. As a certified Barre instructor, I have encountered several scenarios where students reacted to the synthetic latex in most bands, but natural latex is much more sensitive on the skin.
The bands are also 60 inches by 6 inches, which makes it a great option for any rehab or stretching exercises you may want to perform.
These resistance loop bands are sold individually and you have three resistance levels to choose from. This is nice if you have a separate pack you’re looking for a single addition to, but I do wish Fluidity sold a pack of all three for more versatile use. That being said, the resistance levels are well-balanced; when I tested this out on the lightest Fluidity flat band, I estimated the resistance to be anywhere between 8-10lbs.
The Sweat The Technique Ultimate Booty Band Set is made of fabric so they won’t stretch over time and fit a wide range of body sizes, and I loved the strength of these bands and the fun colors.
Pros: Washable, durable, fit a range of bodies, resistance band set
Cons: Limited range of motion making them not ideal for all workouts, contain latex, no washing/care instructions
Fabric resistance bands are great as they take much longer to stretch out over time compared to rubber bands, and they won’t snap in half. Fabric resistance bands are also washable so they’re easy to clean, they don’t curl up like rubber resistance bands, and they fit a wide range of body types comfortably.
Since fabric bands are stronger than latex bands, they also offer more resistance. That means they’re less ideal for warm-ups or therapeutic use, but they’re an excellent option for shorter ranges of movement like squats or hydrants.
I like Sweat The Technique’s fabric bands in particular because, for starters, they’re a female- and Black-owned company.
What’s more, when I tested these over bare legs and over workout pants, I was pleasantly surprised the bands didn’t move at all during the workout. Unlike with other bands, I didn’t have to fidget with or adjust them. But made from a spandex, polyester and latex blend, they still have enough give to make them easy to get on and off.
You can buy just a single band or a full resistance band set. I like the Ultimate Booty Band Set, which comes with a medium and heavy option in a sleek travel bag; however, I do wish this set came with a light and an extra heavy option to better accommodate progression over time.
The brand does offer the Long Power Band Set, which has more resistance options. However, these are longer and more ideal for stretching, powerlifting, or pull-ups, and less ideal for glute work, which is what most people want a highly-resistant fabric band for.
The SPRI Total Body Resistance Kit comes with five levels of resistance up to ultra heavy, and includes accessories like ankle straps and door attachments, making it an incredible value for about the price of a single dumbbell.
Pros: Super versatile, comes with multiple attachments, durable product
Cons: Handled resistance bands can be a bit confusing if you are a beginner
Working out with resistance bands can build similar strength gains to resistance training with free weights, reports a 2019 study in SAGE Open Medicine
The SPRI Total Resistance Band Kit includes five bands that range from very light to ultra heavy. I found this spectrum to be incredibly diverse and helpful when I used them to workout, and a great deal for the price. The set also comes with two handles, one ankle strap, and one door attachment, adding to the diversity of what moves you can do with this equipment.
Obviously, it can be a little annoying to stop the flow of your workout to swap the handles onto a new resistance band, so you do have to be a little more strategic about pairing exercises that require similar weights.
But considering all this kit comes with, it has great value. That’s especially true if you want to add some strength training to your current workout regime but don’t want to invest in a pricey set of dumbbells.
What else we recommend
- Pure Energy Fitness Kit ($68): Although I did like this kit, it was too expensive for me to recommend to the average reader. However, it does come with ankle weights (which probably contributes to the higher price), and it’s made with natural latex and free of other problematic materials like PVC, BPA, and lead phthalates.
What we don’t recommend
- Gymbandit ($14): I love the colors of these bands and the variety of resistance strengths, but they curled up during my workouts and the lighter resistance bands started to tear after a few sessions with clients.
As a certified barre and mat pilates instructor, I tested out several resistance bands during my weekly barre and workout sessions with clients. I also incorporated these bands into my own at home workouts. Specifically, I looked at:
- Durability of the band: The best resistance band won’t snap or tear with time and will offer the same amount of resistance, use after use.
- Scalability with your training: A resistance band set should progress with you and your workouts, so it’s smart to look for bands that offer a variety of resistance levels.
- Comfort during a workout: A lot of flimsy resistance bands will curl around your legs or ankles during a workout, which can be annoying. I prioritize bands that stayed flat and in place, and those that didn’t irritate my skin or rubbed against it too much with movement.
- Affordability: At the end of the day, we’re looking to make an investment and to avoid having to replace bands several times during the year.
When shopping for bands you are going to have a couple of options depending on the style of workout you are looking to perform.
You will first need to consider if you want a latex or fabric band, these options typically come as a loop band. Latex bands can be beneficial if you are looking to perform a variety of moves because they are less restrictive. You can get a wider range of motion with these bands. For example tricep extensions should be performed with a latex band instead of a fabric band. If you are looking to do shorter ranges of motion like squats or squat tap outs a loop band is more ideal.
Another thing to consider is if you prefer bands with interchangeable handles or fixed handles. Interchangeable handles allow you to change the resistance so you can tack on additional weight either by adding more resistance or switching your handles to a band that offers more resistance. Bands with interchangeable handles can become complicated especially when you are crunched for time and looking to squeeze a quick workout. If more time permits this is an excellent option for adding to your cardio routine or working out at home. Bands with handles also allow you to mimic some moves that are performed on weight machines at the gym like a lat pull down.
Take into consideration the level of resistance for either rehabilitation, muscle activation, or strength building.
Rehabilitation centers around stability training. For this, you want bands that are light enough, don’t cause any pain, and let you control your movement, Dr. Ray explains. If a band provides too much resistance, you won’t be able to achieve a full range of motion in the exercise you are performing, she adds.
If you’re looking to build mass or strength though, you’ll want heavier resistance and a few different options so you can progress resistance levels. While going too heavy too soon can cause injuries and muscle imbalances, not using enough resistance also won’t build muscle effectively.
For weightlifters, Dr. Ray suggests incorporating light-to-medium bands into your warm up and cool down. This will help to activate stabilizing muscles which in return will provide a safer and more productive weightlifting session.
The thickness of a band is also an important consideration especially if you are looking to build strength in your workout routine. I have noticed the thicker the band, the higher the resistance. I have also discovered that many bands that are marketed as heavy or extra heavy are actually not very thick, and that nearly always translates to poorer resistance.
Lastly, is the price point. If you are looking to stay within a specific price range, opting for a single durable band with more versatility (like a band with handles or a flat band) might be a better choice in comparison to one single loop band.
Do resistance bands really work?
Yes, resistance bands work to both build strength back slowly after an injury, and, for weight lifters, to build strength as effectively as dumbbells. Dr. Ray adds resistance bands help add load to movements (aka, weight beyond just body weight), which research shows helps build muscle. “For example, a squat with a theraband around your knees is much more effective at building muscle and stability than a side-lying clamshell or leg lift,” she explains.
Dr. Ray also points out that because resistance bands are so low impact, they’re a great way to start strength training for the first time. This is also what makes them ideal for rehabilitating from an injury or specifically targeting deep stabilizing muscles on a recovery day.
Of course, for the most well-rounded functional fitness, you want to challenge your muscles in different ways, so you should also use dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, to build strength in addition to band exercises.
What types of resistance bands are there?
There are several types of resistance bands that include:
- Figure 8 bands: Ideal for strengthening your arms, chest, shoulders, and back with either single arm and double arm workouts. It can also be used for a total body workout as well as focusing on your lower body with leg and glute exercises.
- Loop bands: These bands are great for activating muscle groups which help to improve muscle balance, control, and stability by simply waking up under-active muscles.
- Therapy bands: Therapy bands are good for rehabilitating muscles and offering a lighter resistance when dealing with an injury.
- Mini Resistance bands: These are smaller loop bands ideal for traveling, keeping in your gym or a set at the office. Also a great option for those that like to workout when far away from home.
- Ring bands: Can be used for stretching and/or intensifying a workout by utilizing the rings in the band.
- Lateral bands: Padded ankle cuffs connected to a resistance tube provides additional resistance when doing lateral conditioning exercises.
- Fabric bands: These bands are made from fabric and often include a strip of non-slip material which helps keep them in place. Excellent for short ranges of movement.
- Pull up bands: This type of band can help you achieve a pull-up.
How do beginners use resistance bands?
Resistance bands are ideal for building strength in beginners to resistance training since they tend to be much safer than free weights.
Start by using a lighter band and work your way up to heavier resistances over time. If the resistance starts to get too comfortable, it’s time to increase the resistance. Aim to switch your bands every month or sooner.
As your strength increases, opt for a heavier band or add more repetitions to an exercise. Dr. Ray suggests starting with 3 sets of 10 repetitions of any exercise. If these are too hard, you need a lighter resistance band. If they’re easy, grab a heavier one.
A few moves you can try to get you started include a high plank with leg lift (modification come down to your knees and perform the leg lift one side at a time), modified side plank with leg lifts and fire hydrants.
Where should resistance bands be placed?
This depends on what muscle groups you are working. If you want to target your glutes, for example, place the band around your legs just above your knees; then, perform squats or lateral tap outs. This helps provide control and resistance when you lower into the squat.
You can also loop the bands around your forearms or above your elbows to provide resistance to your upper body, or around your ankles for lower body exercises.
“You can get creative with where you place the band on your body, or you can anchor it to the wall,” Dr. Ray adds. Looping a band around an anchored bar or handle, like a door handle at home or a squat rig at the gym, is another way to provide resistance.
Are resistance bands good for therapy?
One of the most common use for resistance bands is for rehabilitation or muscle therapy. During rehab, you need to start contracting muscle tissue and moving your joints through gentle ranges of motion. This helps to lower inflammation, increase blood flow, and stimulate healing, Dr. Ray explains.
Light resistance bands are very helpful here, since they’re very gentle on your body but allow your muscle fubers to work against gentle force and begin the slow process of regrowing muscle fibers.
By the end stage of tissue recovery, you’ll start to progress away from resistance bands and begin loading tissues with heavier weights that more closely mimic activities such as carrying heavy groceries or lifting your children. This should always be done under the direction of a physical therapist so you don’t damage your tissue, muscles, and joints further.
How often should you use resistance bands?
Use resistance bands at the same frequency you would dumbbells or any other form of weight. Like with any workout, it’s a good idea to allow your body to rest in between each session if you are working the entire body.
Another option is alternating between the upper and lower body a few times a week. This allows the muscle fibers to rebuild and become stronger without causing harm.