How Effective Are Resistance Bands?

Woman working out with resistance bands

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Resistance bands are versatile fitness tools that are highly effective for building strength, mobility, and stability. They are portable, affordable, and come in a wide range of resistances to keep you challenged and progressing toward your fitness goals. 

Working out with resistance bands can be just as effective as using free weights as long as you intentionally challenge yourself. For those with grip or movement limitations, bands can provide a lightweight alternative for resistance training. 

There are several ranges of resistance you can use. It is a good idea to have a collection of bands for different exercises that will require more or less resistance, plus the ability to increase resistance as you get stronger. Bands are unique from dumbbells when it comes to resistance, so keep in mind that you will likely have to test a few resistance levels before you find the best fit.

Choose a band that provides tension throughout the entire exercise, especially as you contract your muscles. It should be challenging enough that you have difficulty completing the last two to three repetitions of a given set, but you do not go to the point where your form breaks down.

Are Resistance Bands Effective For Strength Training?

Research shows that resistance bands can be just as effective for strength training as conventional resistance training using free weights. In fact, researchers have found that strength gains are similar to other resistance training modalities in sedentary adolescents, sedentary healthy adults, and high-performance athletes.

A 2017 study published in the European Journal of Sports Science looked at the effectiveness of resistance bands compared to conventional equipment for various exercises, including squats, stiff-legged deadlifts, unilateral rows, and lateral pulldowns.

The results showed that resistance bands could be just as effective for all but the squat with one caveat: be sure to pull the slack tight so that you feel resistance through the entire movement.

Resistance Bands for Therapeutic Use

Resistance bands are widely used for therapeutic use, including building flexibility and mobility and functional strength for injury prevention or rehabilitation. 

Some physical therapists may assign specific resistance band exercises for various injuries or complaints, but you can also use resistance bands for injury prevention, exercise warm-ups, and increasing joint mobility, stability, and flexibility. Further research shows that using a resistance band is just as effective as other methods, such as the Swiss ball for core strengthening, balance, and stability. 

For the elderly, resistance bands can help reduce injuries and falls. Since bands can provide load from every direction, and the load is easily adjusted for intensity, elderly exercises can use them effectively without needing to lift heavy weights.

Takeaway

Physical therapists may prescribe exercises as part of a home rehabilitation program. Resistance bands are often used to perform these exercises, particularly Therabands.

Resistance Band Training Tips

To make the most of your resistance bands, there are some tips, tricks, and safety precautions to be aware of.

  • Check for cracks and tears: Injuries can occur if your resistance band breaks and snaps while working out. To avoid this, check for cracks and tears before use.
  • Remove the slack: For the best results, stand far enough back or pull the bands tight enough in your hands to remove the slack.
  • Double up: If you find you aren’t challenged while using your resistance bands, consider doubling up with a second band.
  • Choose the correct resistance: Choose a resistance level that challenges you if you are working on building strength. You should feel close to the point that you cannot perform any more repetitions in the final few repetitions of your exercise. Increase the resistance when you get stronger by choosing a more challenging band. If you do not have a higher resistance level band, consider adding more repetitions to your sets. These tactics will help you to keep progressing.
  • Go slowly: Do not let the bands pull you back sharply after pulling against the resistance. Be sure to control the band as you return to the starting position to avoid poor form and injuries.
  • Use a solid anchor point: If you are anchoring your bands to a fixed point for your workout, make sure it is solid and stable. If you are using a door, make sure it opens away from you, so you don’t accidentally pull it open.

You can make your own handle for a resistance band that doesn't have one by tying a small loop at the ends of the band, rolling up two hand towels, and inserting them into the loops. Pull the knot tight and you're ready to go.

Full-Body Resistance Band Strength Routine

For this full-body resistance band strength routine, make sure to choose a resistance level for each exercise that challenges you. You may need to add more bands or increase your repetitions, so you feel the burn near the final counts. 

Try performing all sets in a row, or complete one set of each exercise before beginning again for a circuit-style workout. Try three sets of eight to 10 repetitions for each exercise. Go slowly and focus on form. Don’t forget to warm up beforehand with some mobility work, or choose some of the exercises in the therapeutic recovery workout.

Back row

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Resistance Band Squat

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Resistance Band Therapeutic Recovery Routine

These exercises help to improve posture and small stabilizing muscle strength while warming up the muscles for more intense work. They also bring blood flow to overworked or sore muscles to aid in recovery.

Use this workout to either recover from more intense exercise or boost mobility and stability in your joints to warm up or prevent injuries and strain. Try three sets of 10-20 repetitions of each exercise. You can do these movements prior to the workout above or on your off-days.

External Shoulder Rotation

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

More Resistance Band Workouts to Try

Here are some more resistance band workouts to try.

A Word From Verywell

Resistance bands are an effective, portable, and affordable tool for building strength, mobility, and stability. They are also often used for rehabilitation and preventative work. You can be assured that as long as you use them properly, resistance bands will challenge you and help you progress towards your health and fitness goals. Be sure to follow all the safety measures by checking your bands for defects and anchoring them properly.

Was this page helpful?
6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bergquist R, Iversen VM, Mork PJ, Fimland MS. Muscle activity in upper-body single-joint resistance exercises with elastic resistance bands vs. free weights. J Hum Kinet. 2018;61:5-13. doi:10.1515/hukin-2017-0137

  2. Lopes JSS, Machado AF, Micheletti JK, de Almeida AC, Cavina AP, Pastre CM. Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis. SAGE Open Med. 2019;7:2050312119831116. doi:10.1177/2050312119831116.

  3. Iversen VM, Mork PJ, Vasseljen O, Bergquist R, Fimland MS. Multiple-joint exercises using elastic resistance bands vs. conventional resistance-training equipment: A cross-over study. European Journal of Sport Science. 2017;17(8):973-982. doi:10.1080/17461391.2017.1337229.

  4. Yeun YR. Effectiveness of resistance exercise using elastic bands on flexibility and balance among the elderly people living in the community: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Phys Ther Sci. 2017;29(9):1695-1699. doi:10.1589/jpts.29.1695.

  5. Aksen-Cengizhan P, Onay D, Sever O, Doğan AA. A comparison between core exercises with Theraband and Swiss Ball in terms of core stabilization and balance performance. Isokinetics and Exercise Science. 2018;26(3):183-191. doi:10.3233/ies-173212.

  6. Kwak CJ, Kim YL, Lee SM. Effects of elastic-band resistance exercise on balance, mobility and gait function, flexibility and fall efficacy in elderly people. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(11):3189-3196. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.3189.