Buying Exercise Bands for Pilates

Older woman stretching in gym
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Exercise bands, also known as resistance bands, stretch, workout or flex bands, have been around for quite a while. They started out as rehab tools but are now mainstream equipment in the fitness world.

A resistance band is one of the most portable, versatile and low-tech pieces of exercise equipment one can have. They provide adjustable resistance for both stretch and strength exercises.

There are two main kinds of exercise bands: regular bands that look a lot like extra big ribbons, and bands that are made of tubing. The tube bands are usually cinched in the middle and have handles. Naturally, the type of exercise band you choose will depend on the kind of exercise you want to use it for.

I usually see the flat, ribbon type of band used in Pilates studios and DVDs. This kind is barefoot-friendly and easy to manipulate around the body. The tubing style bands are certainly adaptable for Pilates use, but I see them more often in the context of strength training where, for example, one might need to hold onto real handles while doing an intense bicep curl.

Choosing Exercise Bands

Buying an exercise band is not a huge expense, but you still want to get a band that meets your needs.
Here are a few things to consider before buying:

  • Make sure that the band is long enough. It is better to choke up on the band than to have one that doesn't allow you full range of motion. A rule of thumb: Get a band length within 8 inches of your height. I have seen exercise bands sold off of bulk rolls in some fitness or medical supply stores; this may be a good way to go if you are especially tall.
  • Most of the ribbon style bands are made of latex. If you are allergic to latex, opt for latex-free bands.
  • Get the right resistance level for you. Exercise bands are often sold in packs with different levels of resistance, and I think this is a good way to go. For Pilates, the resistance levels are usually in the mid-range — medium to medium-heavy. I often use different levels of resistance for my upper and lower body workouts.
  • The tubing bands are offered in much heavier weights. If you are looking for a lot of resistance, then tubing is the way to go.
  • Many bands are sold with resistance band lessons plans or DVDs. Look for these if you are new to stretch band workouts.
  • Some of the latex ribbon bands are sold with a detachable handle option. This is great for simulating Pilates reformer workouts.
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