Stretch Your Muscle Groups Right at Home: Best Resistance Bands
Can’t help but imagine your grandma sweatin’ to the oldies when you hear the words “resistance bands?” Well, you’re right that even some of the best resistance bands have been around a very long time — and for good reason. They’re light, portable and inexpensive compared to free weights or home gyms. And most importantly, they work! So it’s no surprise that resistance bands are back in a big way, reengineered for the 21st century.
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In this article we’ll explain why you should give these stretchy exercise sidekicks another look, then guide you to select the best bands for your fitness needs.
When it comes to exercise, there’s no place like home
It’s one of the cruel ironies of trying to stay in shape. Often those with enough free time to be regular gym-goers cannot afford it — because they’re unemployed or otherwise overextended financially — while those of us who are gainfully employed simply haven’t the time. Between our jobs, businesses, school, families, it’s usually difficult to meet our basic commitments, much less drive to the gym. Still others among us may not be able to leave home oftentimes, due to having small children or elderly parents to look after.
For all these reasons, the trend of working out at home is exploding. Turn on the TV late at night and you’re likely to be bombarded by ads for various newfangled contraptions, many carrying a hefty price tag.
Enter resistance bands. There are different variations of resistance bands available on the market, but they tend to fall into some general categories, such as:
- Therapy Bands – Often made from strips of latex. Designed for cost effectiveness and versatility, not user comfort. Can be cut to specific lengths and tied off to create handles or loops.
- Compact or Figure-8 Bands – Made from rubber tubing or other stretchy material, with some type of handles at either end. In the case of figure-8 bands may also may have a handle or padding in the middle. Easily adaptable for upper or lower body exercises.
- Loop Bands – Basically a huge industrial strength rubber band, available in various resistance ratings. Among the best resistance bands for legs and butt workouts. Sometimes called a “booty band” for this reason, but can also be adapted for various arm and shoulder movements.
- Long Resistance Bands or Tubes – Often consist of a long rubber tube with handles on either end, while others have connectors for exchanging handles, straps or door anchors.
- Lateral Resistance Bands – Specially designed for legs, with ankle cuffs. Sometimes used to train sports agility or martial arts kicks.
Considering the alternatives are dumbbells, kettlebells or massive home gym systems, the advantage of resistance bands could not be any more stark in this regard. Most bands weigh just a pound or two, while others register mere ounces.
Compact & Portable
Not only are they lightweight, but the best bands can also be stored easily in a dresser drawer, closet or under the bed, making them perfect for the apartment dweller or those otherwise space-challenged at home. What’s more, they’ll hardly take up any room in your suitcase or carry-on, making them a friendly travel companion indeed.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), traditional weight lifting injured 107,655 Americans in 2015, just edging out the notoriously dangerous trampoline by about 500 injuries. What about contact sports like ice hockey, martial arts and wrestling? Weight lifting injured more people than all three combined! Plus, unfortunately, as we age and our bones become more brittle, our muscles and connective tissue less pliable, so the chance of getting hurt lifting weights only goes up. All reasons why more and more people are seeking out the best resistance loop bands or other types of exercise bands. (1)
However, as with any type of fitness device, resistance bands may cause strains or sprains — even if used according to directions. Be aware of your personal limitations in terms of strength, endurance and range of motion — and push the envelope at your own risk.
Prices start at just a few dollars for single loop bands, and while more inclusive sets can cost considerably more, a vast majority of even the best bands go for less than $50. Compare that to a single pair of 25-pound steel dumbbells, which run about the same and are far less versatile.
One of the reasons bands have been a staple in the physical therapist’s gym for decades is that, with the right know-how, they can be customized to work just about any muscle, tendon or ligament in the body. If used correctly, bands are an effective tool for multiple fitness goals including strength, endurance, agility and flexibility. In fact, perhaps by virtue of their stretchiness, the best resistance bands for legs can help you maximize your stretching routine as well.
This video contains a series of exercises you can perform right at home using resistance bands:
In the end, the number of uses for resistance bands is only limited by your imagination and/or your willingness to conduct a simple Google search.
By now there should be little doubt about the many advantages of resistance bands, but do they really work? According to scientific research, the answer is an unequivocal YES!
For example a 2018 study in the Journal of Human Kinetics showed resistance bands to have a comparable effect on arm muscles in when pitted head-to-head with free weights. (2)
A 2017 trial published in the European Journal of Sport Science found similar results in both upper and lower body exercises. The only exception was squats, in which traditional weight resistance engaged significantly more muscle response. (3)
Many other studies demonstrate these results can indeed be replicated, when elastic resistance bands are compared to free weights and nautilus machines. (4)
Choosing the best bands
Prior to shopping around, it would be helpful to know your general fitness goals, as well as the environment in which you plan to workout most of the time. If lower body is your area of focus, you’ll want to find the best resistance bands for legs, which may include the best resistance loop bands.
On the other hand, if your lower half is already covered by an activity such as running or cycling, and your priority is to get well-toned arms and shoulders, your best bet is likely compact, figure-8 or long bands. Can’t decide, or just want to attain all-around fitness? Don’t worry, almost every type of resistance band can get the job done — with a little research or personal ingenuity. Also, lots of comprehensive band sets are available, which give you a little bit of everything.
Is your workout space a cramped bedroom or tiny studio apartment? If so, long bands may not be the most suitable choice, as they are often used in various lunging exercises and those involving a wide range of motion. Then again, you may be able to secure them around a bedpost or door hinge and get along just fine. Before purchasing, go to your workout spot and assess the logistics. Then give some of your selected exercise routines a dry run, minus the bands, to see if they’re viable. If you’re close to banging into lamps or walls, then reassess your choice of bands, your location, or both.
In the final analysis, rest assured that no matter what resistance bands you choose, the old saying goes — if there’s a will there’s a way! If your home space just isn’t conducive to exercise, for whatever reason, perhaps you can explore some public areas nearby such as a park or community center.
Best resistance bands
What you have here is the most basic of exercise machines — one long loop band that can be tied to stationary objects or grasped at varying lengths to customize a number of different exercises. In terms of design it couldn’t be any simpler, though adapting for use will require some know-how and creativity. Customers like that this band is solidly made, and many report using it for pull-up training.
- Simple and compact, easy to store and carry
- No extra parts to lose or break
- Made of heavy gauge rubber with resistance of 10 to 35 lbs (depending on the length used)
- Not suitable for heavy resistance exercises, such as squats or arm presses
This three-band set consisting of 5-10, 15-20 and 20-25 lbs resistance bands each with built in handles with comfortable foam padding. What distinguishes this product from competitors is their “patent-pending” adjustability, allowing you to customise any length of band desired. Several customers liked this product as a means to use one of several popular exercise programs that incorporate resistance bands. Many cited the adjustable length as the major advantage of this set over its competitors.
- Adjustable component allowing you to tailor use specifically to your needs
- Well-designed handles for a solid grip
- 30-day money-back guarantee offered by the manufacturer
- Not possible to group bands together to increase resistance
This set of bands has everything you need to get started with full-body resistance band workouts, right out of the box, and comes at an exceptional value. It consists of five long bands of varying resistance, with carabiners at either end for attaching handles or straps, also included; four loop bands of varying resistance; door anchor; workout guide and carrying case. Many customers praise this set for being of good quality and an exceptional value at such a low price.
- Comprehensive multi-band set
- Ability to group multiple bands together to increase resistance (total 75 lbs)
- Money-back guarantee offered by the manufacturer
- Bands have relatively light resistance
If you’re in the market purely for loop bands, this set may be a good starting point. You get five latex loops, each 12” long and varying in resistance from “X-Light” to “X-Heavy,” along with a mesh carrying bag and instruction booklet. Customers overwhelmingly praised these bands for helping them accomplish their exercise goals for a reasonable price, and they especially liked the wide range of resistance available in the set. However, a number of people complained the bands were too thin and didn’t provide enough resistance, while a smaller percentage claimed the bands broke completely during use.
- Enough loop bands to meet widely different resistance needs
- Can be used for stretching, physical therapy, yoga, pilates and more
- Very good price
- Those who want an alternative to loop bands will need to buy an additional product
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Similar to the set from Odoland, except does not include loop bands, so appears targeted more to upper body workouts. Though with included ankle straps, leg workouts are very much a possibility as well. The package includes five long bands attachable by handles, straps or door anchor; workout guide and carrying case.
Customers generally love the durability of these bands and say combining several together offers all the resistance required for intense workouts. Some users, however, did report breaking one or more bands with strenuous exercise, while at least one customer complained that the “length of draw” was too short, meaning the resistance increased too fast as the band was pulled.
- Heavy-duty bands ranging from 10 to 50 lbs resistance
- Each band consists of a hollow rubber tube reinforced with a woven elastic cord on the inside for added strength and safety
- Ability to combine bands for up to 150 lbs total resistance
- Set does not include loop bands, which are ideal for many leg exercises
Clearly, choosing the right resistance bands for your training requires time to research and some knowledge. All of the options we showed above can help you create a beneficial workout program that matches your physical needs; however, our favorite is the Odoland Resistance Bands set.
First of all, this option can be easily adapted according to your training level. Not only are there multiple bands that match your needs, but they can also be grouped however you want. As a plus, you also get a door anchor and additional pieces such as loop bands to complement your at-home workouts.
Unlike most exercise equipment that costs too much, takes up too much space and is difficult if not impossible to travel with, resistance bands offer a spectacular value proposition to those wanting to exercise at home, at the office and even while traveling the world. Granted, you may not be as familiar with the workout routines as you are with free weights or nautilus machines. But with the vast amount of free resources available on the Internet, and the relatively low price of even the best bands, it almost seems crazy not to give them a try.