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Resistance Bands
The Different Types and How to Choose the Best One for You

Resistance Bands
Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are giant rubber bands. Unlike weights or machines, bands can provide resistance for almost any motion. That’s why they’re often used by people going through physical therapy or rehabilitation.

Bands have also become standard equipment for stretching or mobility routines. Bodybuilders use them to target groups of muscles, and they’re quite an effective way to build bone strength. They can even be used to LOWER resistance and provide help during traditional exercises.

Because of the pandemic, resistance bands have soared in popularity. Many people are using them for at-home workouts while gyms are closed. They’re also great for people who don’t have much space to store things or to take them with you when traveling.

How to choose between the most common options.

Flat/Sheet/Therapy Bands: These are often quite wide and can be ordered in almost any length. Many gyms have them on long rolls, so you can cut what’s most appropriate. They’re easy to grip. You can tie a handle or handles on them for more control. You can also tie them to stationary equipment for more movement options. Flat bands generally provide the least resistance of all the bands.

Flat/Sheet/Therapy Looped Bands: These come in regular size (about 4 feet in length) and mini size. Regular-sized loops can be used for exercises like curls or chest presses. Mini looped bands are usually used around your legs to offer resistance while doing leg exercises.

Tube or Compact Resistance Bands: These are much harder to hang onto, so they often come with handles already attached. Some come with clips like carabiners so that you can connect them to stationary equipment. These are typically in the middle of the resistance range.

Ankle Cuff or Lateral Resistance Bands: These are tube bands with cuffs that fit around the ankles for exercises like monster walks.

Bands with Protective Coverings: These are typically tube bands with coverings made out of nylon. If the band breaks, it won’t snap back and injure you. The disadvantage is if your range of motion is beyond the length of the covering, it will bring your movement to an abrupt stop. Most have handles and clips already attached.

Thick Looped Bands or Pull-Up Straps: These are used to support during exercises that you might not be strong enough to complete on your own. Pull-ups are the most common use. With your foot in the strap, they help as you pull yourself up. These provide the most resistance of all the bands.

Latex-Free Bands: Most bands are made of latex. If you are allergic to latex, you can buy latex-free, scent-free and powder-free bands.

Don’t just buy the heaviest band you can find; they don’t work the same way as weights. The more you stretch a band out, the greater the resistance. What’s easy at the start of the exercise can quickly turn into something impossible to finish correctly at the end.

Four things to consider when choosing tension.

If you’re using bands for rehab, stretching, as a warm-up before other exercises, or for a weight lifting workout, start with LESS tension. Look for something low enough; you can complete the full range of motion without “cheating.” You should be tapping into those smaller supporting muscles and fully activating them.

You should only increase the tension when you can complete a set with perfect form. However, if you’re using the bands for stretching or as a warm-up, it might not be appropriate to make things harder. Only increase the tension if the existing bands are no longer doing the job.

If you’re using bands to help you during an exercise, like a pull-up, start with MORE tension. The band is there to give you a boost. Once you get stronger and you’re able to complete a full set without help, you can reduce the tension, so your body has to work harder.

Keep different tension levels on hand. Some days you’ll feel energized. Use heavier bands to make things a little more challenging. Other days you’ll feel tired or sore. Switch to lighter options so you can still workout without causing yourself unnecessary pain.

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Updated 5/5/2021
Updated 10/30/2021