Sure, home is where the heart is. But these days, for many of us, home is where everything is—office, school, church and, yes, gym. For home workouts—especially if you’re aiming for an eventual return to the gym—it’s tough to beat resistance bands.
They’re inexpensive, simple to use, easy to store and transport, and darn effective for strengthening and stretching your muscles. In the first few months after the pandemic hit, web searches for resistance bands shot up 200 percent, far more than any other type of exercise equipment.
But not everyone means the same thing when they talk about resistance bands. It’s actually a catch-all term for a variety of workout tools—each with their own strengths. Read on to discover which type is right for your exercise style.
Flat bands. The most traditional style, these are simply thin, flat, stretchy lengths of latex (or latex-like) material that come in different thicknesses for varied resistance. They are the lightest and most portable type of band and can be used to add resistance to just about any exercise.
Caveat: They aren’t as sturdy as the other options, so you might need to replace them after a while.
Our pick: The TheraBand Latex-Free Resistance Band Set ($13.99) Includes three 5-foot-long bands, each of a different resistance level.
Tube Bands. These elastic tubes tend to be sturdier than flat bands, and they usually come with handles that make them easier to grip. They often also include a door attachment that can anchor them, for more intense exercises.
Caveat: Although the handles make them easier to hold for most exercises, it also renders them slightly less versatile than flat bands.
Our pick: The Black Mountain Products Resistance Band Set with Accessory Kit ($39.99) is the Ferrari of exercise bands. The tubes are a proprietary rubber covered with stretchy nylon that makes the tube nearly indestructible, and the accessory kit broadens its usefulness.
Loop bands. Newer in popularity, these intensify the difficulty of bodyweight and plyometric exercises, by adding resistance and forcing you to activate particular muscles that might otherwise not engage. Trust us—you will feel the burn!
Caveat: The loop style limits their versatility.
Our pick: Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands ($14.95) is a set of five bands of varying strength. You can choose from bright colors or shades of pink; each set includes a draw-cord storage bag.
Pullup Bands. CrossFit fans are likely familiar with these bands—essentially long loops used for assisted pullups or for adding intensity to exercises, such as bench press or squats.
Caveat: They work best in conjunction with other equipment, such as pullup bars and barbells.
Our pick: Canway Pullup Bands set ($35.99) contains four latex loops and a carrying case, at a very competitive price.