Choosing and Using Resistance Bands

Band Lunges

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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Resistance bands are a great alternative to weights or even a great addition to a traditional weight training program. They're inexpensive, versatile, and work your muscles in a completely different way than weights. In fact, studies show that muscles respond to strength training with resistance bands just as well as other types of equipment, such as free weights and different machines.

People sometimes avoid trying resistance bands because they are unfamiliar with using them. Working out with bands feels different than dumbbells and other equipment because resistance is felt during both parts of the exercise.

However, resistance bands are worth adding to your workout routine. They provide several benefits and are an affordable, space-saving choice for home use. Read on for more on the benefits and how to choose the best resistance bands for you.

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Benefits

Resistance bands provide a different kind of workout. In addition to being as effective as more expensive equipment, resistance bands offer many unique perks:

Increased Coordination

Bands work much like a cable machine, allowing you to keep constant tension on the muscle. You'll also incorporate more stabilizer muscles to keep the band in alignment throughout each exercise, adding a different dynamic to the same old moves. This helps with coordination and balance and it also helps you involve more muscle groups.

Provide an Excellent Workout

You can perform the same exercises you do with free weights. The difference lies in positioning the band. For example, you can stand on the band and grip the handles for bicep curls or overhead presses. You can attach it to a door and do triceps pushdowns.

You can wrap the band around a pole or chair for chest exercises or shoulder rotations. You can even do exercises on the floor like the seated variation of the biceps cable curl. The possibilities are endless and you'll find there are a number of exercises and workouts available to you.

Increase Workout Variety

Resistance bands allow you to change your positioning in multiple ways and create resistance from all directions—the side, overhead, behind, below, etc. This changes how your body works and how an exercise feels. 

All you need to do is anchor the band using your feet or a stable anchor point. Anchor points can be door frames, railings, trees, fences, or attachments that can be purchased with your bands or separately. Some attachments are unique to resistance bands such as handles and foot cuffs, increasing the variety of movements you can do with the upper and lower body.

Money and Space -Saving

Bands range from $6 to $30, depending on how many you get and where you buy them, which is excellent for the budget-conscious exerciser. A set provides several ranges of resistance which means, even greater cost savings compared to free weights like dumbbells and kettlebells.

Resistance bands are space-savers as well. Unlike equipment requiring a lot of floor space, resistance bands can easily be tucked under a bed or dresser or put in a closet. Even when in use, they take up much less space than a machine or barbell, making them a perfect choice for someone working out in a small room.

Travel-Friendly

Resistance bands weigh very little, and they travel well. You can easily pack them in your suitcase for and perform exercises during transport, at the airport, or in your hotel room—perfect for when you're short on time and don't have access to your usual equipment.

Effective For all Fitness Levels

Depending on how you use them, bands can be great for beginners and more advanced exercisers. You can use them for basic moves or add intensity to traditional moves.

Bands can offer a unique muscular challenge if you've never used them before, leading to results you've not experienced. They are also just as effective as other types of equipment, such as dumbbells, for many types of exercises. For beginners or older individuals, bands are easy to pick up and start with and will not aggravate joints.

Buying Tips

You'll find that there are a variety of resistance bands available and you can usually find them almost anywhere including big box stores, at most sporting goods stores, and online. There are a number of things to consider when purchasing bands for training. Here are some tips to make sure you spend your money wisely.

Buy a Variety of Bands

Most bands are color-coded according to tension level (e.g., light, medium, heavy, very heavy). It's best to have at least three—light, medium, and heavy—since different muscle groups will require different levels of resistance. A favorite for many exercisers are SPRI bands. Take a look at the tension level for each color so you can buy a variety.

Buy Comfortable, Easy-to-Use Bands

Some bands you find in stores offer interchangeable handles, which means you have to take them off and on to use different bands. Some have handles that are larger than normal or made of hard plastic. These are minor issues, but they can make using your bands more difficult than it needs to be.

Try to buy bands with padded handles and make sure you don't have to change them out.

Keep it Simple

There are a wide variety of bands available—figure 8's, double bands, circular bands, etc. If you're just getting started, stick with your basic long tube with handles. Once you figure out how to use it, you may want to buy other types later for variety.

Buy Accessories

One key to using bands is having different ways to attach them. If you have a sturdy pole or stair rail in your house to wrap the band around for exercises like chest presses or seated rows, you may not need extras. But, if you don't, you may want a door attachment. You can also buy ankle cuffs, different handles, and other accessories.

Resistance Band Exercises and Workouts

If you're ready to try your resistance bands, here are several workouts and exercises to try:

A Word From Verywell

Resistance bands make an excellent addition to any fitness routine. They are effective, affordable, and take up little space, making them a great choice for people who travel or exercise in small spaces. With a huge variety of exercises to try, you will never get bored of using resistance bands, making them a wise addition to your fitness equipment collection.

If you are an advanced lifter, adding resistance bands can challenge your muscles in new ways, helping you see increased results. If you are a beginner, these bands are easy to pick up and use, are lightweight, and accessible for all body types. Give them a try and see how you feel.

3 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. 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.

  2. Sangwan S, Green RA, Taylor NF. Characteristics of stabilizer muscles: a systematic reviewPhysiother Can. 2014;66(4):348–358. doi:10.3138/ptc.2013-51

  3. Martins WR, Safons MP, Bottaro M, et al. Effects of short term elastic resistance training on muscle mass and strength in untrained older adults: a randomized clinical trialBMC Geriatr. 2015;15:99. Published 2015 Aug 12. doi:10.1186/s12877-015-0101-5

Additional Reading

By Paige Waehner
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."