A set of resistance bands should be the first bit of kit you pick up for your home workouts. It’s tempting to opt for a heaving rack of free weights, a treadmill or exercise bike, but in terms of getting the most bang for your buck, you can’t do better than a set of resistance bands.
The low price isn’t the only reason resistance bands are a useful purchase, either. They are portable and provide an effective way to get fitter in a variety of ways.
You can use them for strength workouts that build larger muscles, or fast-paced high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions that improve your cardiovascular fitness, or even for mobility exercises to help with injury rehabilitation and to stretch out your body.
They are, in short, a must for any fitness fan, so make sure you scan our top resistance band picks below carefully to find your perfect set. Before that, however, here’s everything you need to know when buying resistance bands.
How to buy the best resistance bands for you
What types of resistance bands are there?
There are three common types of resistance bands: flat or straight bands, loop bands, and tube bands.
Straight bands are the most basic kind and, while they can be used for all kinds of exercise, they’re perhaps best reserved for basic stretching and mobility work. Since they don’t have handles, they’re harder to use for strength work.
Loop resistance bands are good for strength training, especially the lower body. They come in different sizes and it’s generally worth getting a small and a large band because the former is handy for looping around your legs and the latter can be looped around both your shoulders and feet for exercises like squats. Loop bands are also the easiest type of band to use to assist pull-ups.
One particular kind of loop band is known as a hip band. These are typically wider than standard rubber bands and made from a fabric material. Designed to be looped around your thighs to work your lower body and glutes, they’re especially handy when warming up in the gym. The wider fabric material is more comfortable to wear around the legs than a thin rubber band, and won’t slip down your thighs when doing resisted squats or walks.
Tube resistance bands, meanwhile, come with detachable handles and are the most effective type for strength training, especially when it comes to the upper body. With most sets you can attach more than one band to the handles at a time to increase the resistance. You can also find figure-of-eight tube resistance bands with fixed handles, which are shorter than other resistance bands and so are useful for upper body exercises where you don’t need a huge range of motion.
What extras should I get with resistance bands?
Resistance bands are simple bits of kit but there are a couple of added extras worth having, chief among which is a door attachment, because anchoring the bands to a fixed point is required for many types of exercise.
A carry bag is also useful if you’re planning on taking your resistance bands on the road, and you can also get ankle straps to attach the bands to, which again increases the range of exercises you can do. Some band sets will also come with a basic workout manual, which is handy for beginners in particular.
How much resistance do I need?
As a minimum, it’s worth getting a set of three bands of differing resistances to ensure you have what you need for a variety of exercises. You can also then double or triple up bands to increase the amount of resistance, which will be important as you get stronger and require more of a challenge.
Resistance bands are typically colour-coded to indicate the different levels of resistance but – and this is crucial– there’s no universal system for these colours, so check carefully with the set you buy. As a very general rule blacks and blues tend to indicate more resistance, greens and reds are in the middle and yellows are lighter resistance, but don’t hold us to that. Light resistance bands are usually around 4-5kg at maximum stretch, and the heaviest bands commonly found in sets will be 18kg. You can find individual bands that offer over 30kg of resistance, however, which are often gold-coloured.
How much do resistance bands cost?
You can pick up a simple set of basic loop resistance bands for £10 or less, and even comprehensive tube sets with more bands and plenty of attachments will only set you back £15-£20 or so. Individual bands will usually cost somewhere in the range of £3-£7, with basic strap bands at the cheaper end of the scale.
How long will resistance bands last?
Strap and loop resistance bands won’t last as long as tube bands, but you can still expect them to get you through one or two years of workouts without breaking or losing their snap. Store them out of the sunlight to extend their life. Tube bands are hardier and should last a couple more years, though again it’s important to store them out of the sun.
The best resistance bands to buy
1. Theraband Resistance Bands: Best straight resistance band
Price: £3 | Buy now from Amazon
The simplest type of resistance band of all, but it’s still possible to go wrong by buying a flimsy straight band that will only last you a couple of light stretches before losing their snap. These Theraband strips are perfect for mobility and rehab sessions and if you opt for the heavier resistance bands in particular you can expect them to last you a year or two.
It’s worth buying a few bands and progressing through the levels of resistance, right up to the terrifyingly strong gold band, which will work for strength workouts as well as rehab and stretching. You can pick how a long a length you’d like – between one and five metres – and if you opt for a longer strip it’s easy to knot and use like a loop band.
Key specs – Resistance range: Eight levels: Tan (extra light) to Gold (Max); Length: 1-5m roll; Accessories: None
2. Bodymax Power Bands: Best heavy duty resistance bands
Price: From £9 | Buy now from Amazon
These thicker bands are exactly what you need if you’re looking for something to use for assisted pull-ups – and they’re sure to last, even if you’re using them for daily workouts. As well as being thicker than normal bands, this set gets wider as the resistance increases, with the 15mm red band being great for providing just a touch of resistance for your pull-ups, and the 100mm-wide black band challenging even seasoned gym-goers when adding resistance to squats and press-ups.
Key specs – Resistance range: Six levels, Red (light) to Black (heavy); Length: 100 – 105cm; Accessories: None
3. Inmaker Resistance Bands: Best resistance bands for beginners
Price: £9 | Buy now from Amazon
The five excellent bands in this set are just part of what’s on offer, with a workout manual and access to an ebook that details just about everything you could wish to know about resistance bands also included.
Those extras make it the ideal set for band beginners, though even experienced gym-goers will be able to pick up plenty of useful tips. The five band set comes in two different ranges – the Funda has slightly lower resistance and is better for beginners, while the Pro.V has heavier bands for those looking to progress their training.
Key specs – Resistance range: Five levels (Funda): Yellow (4.5kg) to Black (18kg); Length: 30cm; Accessories: Carry bag, workout manual, ebook and online video access
4. Strength Shop Hip Band: Best resistance hip band
Price: £11 | Buy now from Strength Shop
Strength Shop offers a range of great hip bands, including longer and stiffer options than this black band. However, this is a great all-purpose choice for use during workouts or indeed warming up your legs and glutes ahead of a squat-heavy session in the gym.
The wide fabric band is easy to slip up over your legs and comfortable to use because the material won’t catch and tug on your leg hairs like a rubber band. If you want something stiffer to use for warm-ups in the gym, the company’s Thor Band is the way to go.
Key specs – Resistance range: N/A; Length: 35.5cm; Accessories: None
5. Odoland Complete Exercise Resistance Bands Set: Best resistance band set
Price: From £28 | Buy now from Amazon
This set includes everything you need to get started with resistance band training – and more. There are five tubular bands in the set, offering a range of resistance up to the 18.1kg black band, four loop bands of varying intensities, a door anchor, and ankle straps to use with the tubular bands. You can combine the bands as you become stronger and fitter, so you’ll never outgrow the challenge they present. Your purchase also entitles you to download a free ebook of exercise guides and workouts, so you’ll know from the off what you should be doing with so much kit.
Key specs – Resistance range: Six levels of tube bands: Yellow (2.3kg) to Red (11.4kg); four levels of loop bands: Red (4.5kg) to Black (18.1kg); Length: Loops 24cm; Accessories: Carry bag, door attachment, ankle straps, e-book training guide
6. Protone Resistance Bands Set: Best resistance band set under £20
Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon
Everything you’re likely to ever need for your resistance band workouts comes in this set, including five different bands with detachable handles so you’ll never progress out of the resistance available. If you don’t believe us on that try attaching all five bands to the handles at once and knocking out a set of bicep curls.
Along with door and ankle attachments you get a band guard with the set. This sleeve goes around the band at the point it is wrapped around a bar or similar anchor to stop the band rubbing directly on the surface during your exercises, which can damage it.
Key specs – Resistance range: Five levels: Yellow (1.4-11.8kg) to Black (9-18kg); Length: Not given; Accessories: Carry bag, door attachment, ankle straps;
7. Fitness Mad Figure 8 Resistance Band: Best figure-of-eight resistance band
Price: £4-10 | Buy now from Amazon
A figure-of-eight band is not quite as versatile as the other kinds of resistance bands covered here, but the short length and large, comfortable handles you get with this type of band do make it ideally suited for exercises such as flyes and rows, where you don’t want a huge length of band to work with.
There are three different strengths available with the Fitness Mad figure-of-eight bands – blue is the lightest, green is in the middle and black is the strongest.
Key specs – Resistance range: Three levels: Blue (light) to Black (strong); Length: Not given; Accessories: None;