Choosing and Using Resistance Bands

Extension Band

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

If you do not have access to a gym and other fitness venue—or you simply prefer to work out at home—you may want to look into adding resistance bands to your repertoire. They can become an integral part of your regular fitness routine—or kick-start an exercise habit—right in your living area or bedroom. 

In fact, resistance bands are a fitness trend experts say deserves a permanent spot in your workout. Here's what you need to know about the types of resistance bands available as well as their benefits and purpose.

2:45

Watch Now: 5 Resistance Band Exercises for Strength Training

What Are Resistance Bands?

Resistance bands are a lightweight, inexpensive, and super versatile piece of equipment that allow you work out anywhere, says Emily Skye, a certified fitness trainer and creator of the Emily Skye FIT app. They also can help you build strength by providing tension that your muscles have to work to resist, she explains—and that makes any exercise super modifiable.

“The further you stretch a band, the more resistance your muscles are working against," Skye says.

That’s what makes resistance bands a great tool for beginners and seasoned gym lovers alike. If you are just starting a fitness program, these bands help you integrate more resistance in a controlled way, applying a gentle pressure to your muscles as your body builds coordination within exercises.

“Let’s say you’re new to strength training, and you’re trying bicep curls for the first time,” Skye says. “With dumbbells, you need to exert maximum force from the start of the movement to curl the weight up. A resistance band can help you build up your power by easing you in with less resistance at the start of the movement.”

But just like training with weights and machines, it’s easy to increase the resistance of your bands as you get stronger, continuing to challenge your muscles. Beyond the serious strength gains, resistance bands also work to improve your muscle stability, mobility, and flexibility—key components of injury prevention.

Research also shows that resistance bands are an ideal tool for rehabilitating a range of injuries, too. A study published in the European Journal of Physical Education and Sports Science found that resistance band exercises were the best approach to help athletes recover from knee injuries. Other studies show how they are effective in other forms of rehabilitation, too, like from surgical procedures and restoring someone’s walking abilities after a stroke.

Types of Resistance Bands

Most resistance band workouts you will come across incorporate the popular latex or fabric loops (AKA mini bands) you put around your wrists, ankles, or thighs. But there are other styles of bands available that are suited for different types of workouts or movements. Here is an overview of the primary types of resistance bands.

  • Tube bands with handles: These bands are great for any exercise that you’d use a dumbbell for, like bicep curls, shoulder extensions, or shoulder presses.
  • Figure 8 bands: Although these bands can be used similarly to loop bands, the figure 8 design comes with soft handle grips that can make it easier to perform certain exercises. 
  • Ankle resistance band: Designed to loop around each ankle, this band is great for adding resistance to exercises like side steps and leg lifts.
  • Power resistance bands: These oversized loops are usually more than 40 inches long, making them very versatile for bodyweight assistance (like for pull-ups), resistance (like for bear crawls or box jumps,) and exercises (like rows) that require an anchor point.
  • Therapy bands: These bands generally have less resistance to allow for deeper stretches and mobility training.

Benefits of Using Resistance Bands

Resistance bands provide a different kind of workout, which means that they have some unique benefits perks. Plus, they are as effective as more expensive equipment. Here are some of the benefits of using resistance bands.

Enhances Strength Training

Resistance bands are often used to mimic gym equipment like free weights and cable machines. Plus, studies have shown that you can achieve similar strength gains with resistance bands, Skye says.

“They pack big resistance into a small package, which makes them perfect for zooming in on target areas like your glutes and thighs to carve out definition," she adds.

One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research indicates that muscles respond to strength training with resistance bands just as well as other types of equipment, such as free weights and different machines. Additionally, how resistance bands engage your muscles may even offer extra advantages over other muscle-building methods.

“By allowing movement with more velocity, [resistance bands] recruit more muscle into the action,” says Kathy Doubleday, DPT, OCS, the clinical director of Physio Ed.

Improves Mobility

Free weights and traditional machines rely on gravity to provide resistance, making them one-dimensional, Doubleday explains. By contrast, bands provide resistance in all planes, which not only requires more muscle activation—it recreates daily movements more effectively.

“This makes resistance bands the preferred training method for functional movement, whether [you’re training for] throwing a football or improving everyday movements like reaching into a cupboard," she says.

Increases Coordination

Resistance bands also can really benefit your form and balance, Skye says. Not only do they require us to control motion in an open space—unlike machine-based exercises—but they also work your muscle stability and coordination.

“They activate the small—but important—stabilizer muscles more than a [free-weight or gym machine] workout would,” Skye says.

Offers a Budget-Friendly Option

Most resistance bands cost between $6 and $30—way less than your average monthly gym membership. They also come with almost no footprint, making them easy to stash away at home and pack for when you’re on the go.

“If finances or getting to the gym are stopping you from sticking with a strength training routine, having a band can make it a whole lot easier to keep going at home,” Skye says.

Reduces Injury Risk and Are Easy-to-Use

According to the National Safety Council, the majority of sports and recreational injuries in the U.S. occur while using traditional exercise equipment. A resistance band can be a safer strength-training option because of the way the band activates stabilizer muscles reduces pressure on your joints

Resistance bands also have a limit to their stretch, so you’re less likely to overextend muscles or joints. Plus, you have more control over the intensity—and you can stop an exercise without worrying about gravity.

They’re also simple to use. If you’re new to using resistance bands, Skye suggests adding one to simple bodyweight exercises you’re already comfortable with to start.

“For instance, loop a band just above your knees when doing squats,” she says. “Or place a band around your ankles in butterfly kicks to really give yourself something to kick against—you’ll definitely feel the extra work in your core.”

If you have a long loop band, it’s easy to replicate classic weighted moves like bicep curls or rows with the band anchored under your feet, too. But make sure to have good technique in your exercises—even if that means starting with lower resistance.

“Good form is part of the exercise,” Doubleday explains. “Keep good posture, maintaining a tall back to avoid any discomfort in the spine or shoulders."

How to Choose the Right Resistance Band

To get started, you only need one band, Skye says. But once you realize how versatile and easy-to-use resistance bands are, you may end up with a multitude of options. Here’s how the experts say to get started.

Buy a Variety of Bands

When looking for a resistance band, the biggest thing to look for is the strength or tension of the band, Skye says. If you’re a beginner, you should start with a light band. To help you know what to choose, she indicates that bands are often color-coded—like yellow for light, black for heavy. But keep in mind that color systems differ between brands and products.

Look for a kit with three to five resistance levels, Doubleday suggests. “[They] provide a solid spectrum for various exercises and give room for growth as you get stronger.”

Prioritize Quality

You also should look for quality bands when making your purchase. You don’t want a resistance band that will get sticky or snap in the middle of an exercise, Skye says.

“A thicker band will usually be more durable," she says.

It’s also a good idea to do a quick check before each workout session to look for wear and tear. If you notice any breaks in the rubber or damage to the band, it’s time to replace it.

Consider Material Type

Resistance bands are available in either an elastic fabric or rubber latex, and which is best comes down to personal preference. 

“Our patients tend to prefer the fabric loops over latex, as it is more comfortable and has a longer life,” Doubleday says.

Fabric bands also don’t roll up or slide around during your workout, Skye adds. That’s why fabric bands are generally ideal for lower body exercises. Meanwhile, latex bands can offer more stretch, which can be better for upper body exercises, explosive movements, joint stability exercises, and stretching.

Check Out Accessories

The simplest resistance band kits include simple band loops. But depending on what you’re using your bands for—or if you want to expand your collection—you can opt for bands that include different accessories, like handles, door attachments, or ankle cuffs. If you’re just getting started, the experts advise just keeping it simple to encourage building your exercise habit.  

We've tried, tested, and reviewed the best resistance bands. If you're in the market for resistance bands, explore which option may be best for you.

Resistance Band Exercises and Workouts

A Word From Verywell

Resistance bands are compact, versatile, and easy to use. You can stow them away easily and use them when just don’t have time to hit the gym. Or, you can throw them in your bag and use them to work out at the office or from your hotel room while traveling.

They also help keep your exercise routine fresh, too. It’s simple to up the intensity level in your exercise moves to seriously challenge your muscles—but you can also change it up with flexibility sessions, mobility training, and recovery movements.

Like all forms of exercise, resistance bands do come with some risks. So if you’re unsure of where to start—or how to advance—check in with a certified personal trainer or physical therapist to help you progress toward your goals injury-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are some advantages of resistance bands?

    Resistance bands promote strength training as well as improved stability, functional fitness training, and coordination. They’re also affordable, beginner-friendly, and portable.

  • Which resistance bands are good for beginners?

    Beginners should start with a light resistance band. Apply it to bodyweight exercises you’re already familiar with to build comfort. As you get stronger, you can increase the difficulty of your moves as well as the level of resistance you are using.

  • How do you know which resistance band to use?

    Assess your comfort level by trying an exercise using a light resistance band. If you want more of a challenge—and can still keep proper form, posture, and technique—progress to the next level of resistance band. 

5 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. Mavrovouniotis A, Potoupnis M, Sayegh F, Galanis N, Argiriadou E, Mavrovouniotis F. The effects of exercise on the rehabilitation of knee ligament injuries in athletesEuropean Journal of Physical Education and Sport Science. 2019;5(12). doi:10.5281/zenodo.3382261

  2. Chou LN, Chen ML. Effects of elastic band exercise on lower limb rehabilitation of elderly patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty. Rehabilitation Nursing. 2019;44(1):60-66. doi:10.1097/rnj.0000000000000109

  3. Veldema J, Jansen P. Resistance training in stroke rehabilitation: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Rehabil. 2020;34(9):1173-1197. doi:10.1177/0269215520932964

  4. Picha KJ, Almaddah MR, Barker J, Ciochetty T, Black WS, Uhl TL. Elastic resistance effectiveness on increasing strength of shoulders and hips. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2019;33(4):931-943. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002216

  5. National Safety Council. Sports and recreational injuries

Additional Reading