Your warm-up, workout and cool down are like a nutritious three-course dinner. You begin with an appetizer, indulge in your main dish and finish with a dessert. Resistance bands are like seasoning. Sure, flavorless food is edible, but your meal is a lot more enjoyable with a little spice on top.
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As with seasonings, there's an endless amount of resistance band varieties on the market, each adding its own flavor to a workout. But just as you wouldn't toss a random spice onto a dish, you don't want to incorporate just any band to your workout.
That's where we come in. Here are the 15 best resistance bands you can buy for any workout or goal.
How We Chose
We chatted with K. Aleisha Fetters, CSCS, certified strength and conditioning specialist and author of Fitness Hacks for Over 50 to get her take on the best resistance bands out there right now (plus a few tried-and-true personal favorites). These top picks are based on criteria including:
Best for Versatility: Long Looped Bands
As far as versatility goes, long looped bands (also known as pull-up assist bands) are tops, Fetters says. These bands are about an inch wide and about two to three feet long and come in a variety of colors, designating different resistance levels.
Long-looped resistance bands are an excellent fit for just about any workout, allowing you to do more exercises than possible with a shorter band. While there's no one way to use a long looped band, generally you'll anchor one end of the band either under your feet or around a stable structure and hold the other end in your hands.
These bands shine in compound exercises, like a squat to overhead press, deadlift or wood-chop, she says. But you can also double- or triple-loop these bands to recreate exercises you'd generally do with a shorter band, like lateral band walks or banded glute bridges.
Although any band has the potential to snap if you apply too much force, be particularly cautious with a long looped band, as you risk the rubber hitting your face during certain pulling exercises, Fetters says.
"For this reason, some trainers adamantly tell people to not do face pulls with resistance bands," she says. "I rarely have trainees perform face pulls [a back and shoulder exercise] with bands unless I'm incredibly confident that they have thick, quality bands, and that they will retire the band at the first sign of fraying or cracking."
Buying long looped bands in a pack tends to be the most cost-effective option, she says. Available in a variety of resistance levels, these bands tend to be a little pricier than shorter bands, as they're usually more durable. You can expect to pay between $30 to $40 for a set of long looped bands.
1. RitFit Pull-Up Assist Band
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $26.95
2. Whatafit Pull Up Assist Bands
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $31.99
3. Wsakoue Pull-Up Bands
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $29.99
Best for Glute Work: Small Looped Bands
Small looped bands, sometimes called mini bands or booty bands, are generally 9 inches long and about 2 inches wide and come in a variety of colors and resistance levels.
Small looped bands are best for training the lower body, particularly the glutes and hips, Fetters says. While there are many creative ways to use all of the best resistance bands, you'll generally loop mini bands either above your knees or right above your ankles. Avoid looping any bands directly around your knee joint.
Small looped bands come in handy for lateral band walks or banded glute bridges during a dynamic warm-up for more muscle activation pre-workout. Or, loop a band above your knees during your hip thrusts for a challenge.
With some creativity, you can also use these bands for upper-body exercises, although they're not hugely versatile, she says. Longer bands are better suited for upper-body or total-body workouts. "Still, [small looped] bands are the cheapest you'll find," she says. "I pretty much recommend everyone across the board invest in a set of these."
These bands are sold in packs of three or more, including several different resistance levels. Usually, a pack with a light, medium and heavy band will cost around $10 or less. Plus, they take up practically no space at all.
1. Nicole Miller Resistance Bands
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $7.99
2. Fit Simplify Resistance Loop
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $11.95
3. Aduro Sport Resistance Bands
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $9.99
Best for Upper-Body Exercise: Tubes With Handles
Like short looped bands, exercise tubes with handles are a less dynamic option. Often used in the pre-dumbbell stages of strength training, these bands are a few feet long with a handle attached to either side of the rubber.
These tubes are probably the most intuitive bands to use: All you need to do is hold a handle in each hand, anchoring the band either under your feet or to a stable structure.
The handles are the biggest draw here, as they feel more natural for upper-body resistance exercises, like biceps curls, shoulder presses and chest presses, Fetters says. While you can seamlessly perform these exercises with long looped bands as well, the handles definitely provide added comfort, preventing the rubber from irritating the skin.
While the handles add comfort, they also take away from the versatility of these bands, she explains. If you're focused on upper-body exercise or can afford several different bands, these are a great option to consider. But for general workout purposes, she recommends skipping this style.
You can buy resistance bands with handles in various colors and resistance levels. However, these are usually the priciest type band, costing between $30 to $50, depending on the set.
1. RitFit Single Resistance Exercise Band
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $10.95
2. TheFitLife Exercise Resistance Bands with Handles
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $22.68
3. Yuhengle Exercise Resistance Bands with Handles
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $9.97
Best for Comfort: Cloth Looped Bands
When you work with thicker bands that deliver higher levels of resistance, the rubber can begin to dig into your skin, causing some discomfort.
Cloth looped bands are a great solution, especially if thicker small looped bands are giving you grief. This style looks a lot like the small looped band; however, they're usually a few inches wider and made of stretchy fabric.
Also sometimes called booty bands, hip circles or glute loops, these are best for lower-body band exercises. They're used exactly like the small looped band: Place hip circles just above your knees during a workout, avoiding contact with the actual joint.
Stronger than rubber looped bands, cloth bands aren't the best option for beginners, as they'll probably feel too high in tension, Fetters explains. With that said, some cloth bands do come with an adjustment option, enabling you to manually tighten the diameter and increase or decrease resistance.
Cloth bands are available in packs of different resistance levels, ranging from $20 to $30.
1. Trained Fabric Booty Bands
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $12.50
2. GYMB Booty Bands
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $13.99
3. Te-Rich Resistance Bands
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $13.98
Best for Physical Therapy: Latex Elastic Bands
Also known by the popular brand name TheraBand, these elastic bands are a mainstay in most physical therapy practices, Fetters says. Unlike other resistance band styles, these are not looped and are usually sold by the roll, allowing you to cut the rubber to the length of your preference.
These latex bands are usually much thinner and lighter in tension than other strength bands, making them the perfect tool for rehabilitative exercise prescribed by a physical therapist. You can use this style by holding each end, anchoring the middle portion under your foot or around a structure. Or, you can knot them yourself and create your own short-looped band.
Although they're versatile and can be used like the short and long looped bands, these aren't too practical for actual exercise. As they're super light and, often, manually knotted, they break pretty easily, increasing your chance of getting snapped by the band, she explains.
Pricing on latex bands can range anywhere between $10 to $100, depending on whether you buy by the roll or in a set.
1. Potok Resistance Bands Set
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $6.99
2. GIMIAJIA Resistance Bands
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $9.99
3. TheraBand Resistance Bands
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $12.03
2 Things to Consider When Shopping for Your Best Resistance Bands
1. Your Fitness Purposes
Before purchasing, ask yourself what types of exercises you'll be doing with the bands, Fetters says. This will help you narrow down the biggest variant: band length.
If you anticipate doing mostly upper-body moves, you might want to consider bands with handles, for example. All lower-body exercises, and you might want a mini band. Use the chart below to get an idea of which bands are best for your fitness goals and workout routine.
The Best Resistance Band Types
What You Need to Know
Long Looped Band
Short Looped Band
Tube With Handles
Cloth Looped Band
Latex Elastic Band
2. Your Price Point
Generally the best resistance bands are about the same price. But larger packages of different bands can be a little costlier than single-band packs.
For those looking to save a few dollars, look for the most versatile band for your purposes — probably a long looped band. Or, you can opt for self-cutting packs of latex elastic bands. That way you can create your own short and long loop bands (by tying each end of the latex) without having to buy multiple types of resistance bands.