How to use resistance bands, with tips from fitness experts
Step up your workout with a resistance band and reap the results. We bring you all the tips and tricks you need to get strong and flexible with a little added tension.
Take your fitness workouts to the next level by adding in some resistance with a resistance band. Whether an exercising newbie or an advanced gym-goer, incorporating a resistance band into your exercises is great for all fitness levels and has a whole host of benefits for your physical health and stamina. It’s also a great alternative to lifting heavy weights in the gym!
Use at home, bring to the gym, or slip in your bag to take on the move with you wherever you go. Resistance bands are super lightweight and portable, cheap and cheerful for all budget types, and easy to use once you’ve got to grips with what to do.
At The Recommended, we’ve done some digging around to find out more about resistance bands, from how to use them and the top exercises to include them into their super impactful benefits. We’ve also spoken to several fitness experts to get their invaluable knowledge and opinions and rounded up some of our favourite resistance bands on the market to give you some handy shopping inspiration.
What is a resistance band?
A resistance band is essentially a large elastic band that can be used to work out your entire body. They are usually made from latex or synthetic rubber materials and are available in various levels of resistance, for example, low, medium and high.
Resistance bands are designed to activate your muscles with controlled movements to improve your strength and flexibility and create tension in a simple but effective way. They are great for working out all areas of your body, from your lower to the upper body, as well as your core - there’s more on their benefits later on in this article.
There’s a whole range of resistance bands on the market, suitable for all budgets, starting from about £4 and going up to anything of about £40-70 for top-of-the-range models. They are super versatile for different styles of working out, lightweight and portable to take on the move with you, and a great option for low-cost workouts. You can find some of our favourite expert-recommended ones in our guide to the best resistance bands.
What are the different types of resistance bands?
Resistance bands come in a variety of different forms, so there is style and tension-type suitable for all. They can vary in resistance, from light to extra heavy, and are available in different widths and lengths. On the whole, the thicker the band, the more resistance - and the stronger the tension, the tougher the exercise will be, working your muscles harder. Three of the main types of resistance bands include:
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- Loop resistance bands: Loop bands (also known as power bands) are the most common type of resistance band. They are enclosed (very much like a giant elastic band) to loop around your body and are super versatile - used in strength training exercises or as part of your physiotherapy.
- Tube resistance bands: These tube-shaped bands have handles and door attachments to mimic a gym machine. Anchor to a door or strong frame and do pulling and pressing exercises to improve mobility, strength and performance.
- Sheet bands: Most commonly used for rehab and stretching, these bands (also known as therapy bands) are made from thin sheets of rubber and do not loop. They can be wrapped around your feet, hands, or other anchor points and are a lighter option to offer the least resistance.
When to use resistance bands
Resistance bands are a great accessory to add a whole new dimension to your exercise routines and stretches. Founder of Pilates PT, Hollie Grant, explains that they can make ‘exercises harder by providing varying intensities of resistance, or easier by adding support to a movement.’ Here are a few scenarios when they are great additions:
- Strength training exercises: Up the ante and add resistance to your squats, bicep curls, lunges etc.
- Pilates and yoga: Add some resistance to your poses and challenge your flexibility and mobility during yoga and Pilates practices.
- Stretching: Release muscle tension and increase flexibility with a resistance band incorporated into your stretches.
- Rehabilitation: Use a resistance band to help aid recovery in your muscles and joints if you have an injury requiring physiotherapy.
How to use resistance bands
Once you’ve got the hang of how to use a resistance band efficiently, you’ll be well on your way to mastering an effective minimal equipment workout. Better, ‘the largest UK-based charitable social enterprise delivering leisure, health and community services’ recommends the best way to use a resistance band effectively:
- ‘Simply grip it in your hand or loop the band around part of your body, such as your legs and pull against the resistance of the stretch.’
- ‘Choose three to five exercises – a mixture of upper body and lower body is best – and complete 15 to 30 reps of each.’
- ‘Once you’ve completed the reps of the exercises you’ve chosen, do the exercises you chose again two or three times more. This is called a circuit.’
Five resistance bands exercises recommended by experts
Wondering how to incorporate resistance bands into your exercise regime? Or looking for inspiration to start? We heard from several fitness experts to get their take on the best exercises to try using resistance bands.
1. Bicep curls
Founder of Pilates PT, Hollie Grant, suggests bicep curls:
- ‘Stand in the middle of the resistance band, holding the ends in each hand. The further down the band you hold – the heavier the resistance.
- Keep your wrists straight and your elbows tight to the side of the ribcage.
- Exhale to flex the elbows (pulling on the band) and inhale to release the arms back down.’
Hollie also recommends roll-ups:
- ‘Lie on your back, legs straight, the band hooked over the feet, ends in each hand.
- Inhale to nod your head, and as you exhale, start to peel your spine away from the floor one vertebra at a time, coming up to a seated position.
- Inhale to start tucking your pelvis under, and as you exhale, start to roll back down onto the mat one vertebra at a time, back to the starting position.’
3. Lateral glute walks
Sports brand Nike suggests banded lateral glute walks:
- ‘With a resistance band slightly above your knees, squat down.
- In a squat position, move your right foot laterally, followed by your left foot.
- Keep walking to the right, in a squat position, maintaining a shoulder-width distance between each foot the entire time.
- Switch sides and perform the same number of steps to the left side.’
Nike also recommends squats to boost overall strength, working your ‘shoulders, arms, glutes, abs, quads, hamstrings and calves’:
- ‘To start, stand on one end of a large resistance loop with your feet hip-width apart.
- Hold the other end of the band so that it is taut, with both hands at chest height and elbows bent.
- Squat until your hips are lower than your knees. Stand. That's 1 rep.’
5. Clam Shells
Better suggest clam shells using a resistance band to work your legs and glutes:
- ‘Start by lying on your side so that your hips, knees, and ankles are stacked.
- Wrap the band around your legs above your knees and bend your legs at a 90-degree angle.
- Keeping your feet together, lift your left knee upwards, making sure to tighten your core and straighten your back. Slowly lower it back to the starting position.
- Do 15-30 reps on each side.’
The benefits of using resistance bands
Resistance bands have several key benefits. Here are some of the top ones:
- Full body workout: Resistance bands are a great piece of sports equipment that can work the whole body, including your lower body, upper body and core. Different exercises will focus on the different areas, building up overall strength and flexibility across your body, as well as focusing on toning and form.
- Improves strength: Resistance bands are a great way to strengthen your muscles, building up their power and overall stamina. Gym company Fitness First explains that ‘stronger muscles will help improve your performance in sport and leisure activities too - for example, your ball throw may go longer, your golf swing may be more powerful, and your tennis stroke may become faster.’ They also comment that ‘building up key muscles in the core, back, arms and legs will condition you better for simple, everyday tasks such as carrying, lifting, pulling and pushing.’
- Improves flexibility: Resistance bands can help improve flexibility in the body, deepening stretches and enhancing overall mobility.
- Suitable for all fitness levels: Anyone can use resistance bands - they are super versatile and great for all abilities and workouts. Novices can begin with lighter resistances and gradually build up resistance levels, while those who exercise frequently can go straight to using higher-intensity bands. Many exercises using resistance bands can also be done seated as well as standing, so are appropriate for all abilities.
- Affordable and lightweight: There’s a resistance band for all budget types (they’re a super affordable piece of equipment), and they are lightweight to take on the move with you while not taking up too much space at home. Save money, and make travelling around easy with these convenient bands.
- Easy and safe to use: Resistance bands are simple to use once you’ve read up on how to incorporate them into your workout routines, and pretty safe - they won’t injure you if dropped like a heavy dumbbell or weight.
- Rehabilitation: Resistance bands are often used to help recovery, whether suffering from a hip, shoulder or knee injury. They can be incorporated into physio exercises, stretching your muscles and regaining strength, building up support back into your body, as well as releasing any tension.
Our favourite resistance bands
We’ve put the spotlight on some of your favourite resistance bands below - from the best durable option to the best multipacks. Check out our full round-up of the best resistance bands, recommended by personal trainers, for the ultimate inspo!
Best durable resistance bands: TRX Exercise Bands
Build up the intensity of your workout using these resistance bands - ideal for activating and strengthening your upper body, glutes, hips and legs. Available in varying resistances and made from a long-lasting, durable material.
Best unique resistance band: Perky Booty Short Fabric Resistance Band
Add a splash of colour and fun to your workout, as well as resistance, using this vibrantly printed resistance band. Fully slip-proof and available in light, medium or heavy resistances to suit all needs.
Best multipack of resistance bands: Gymshark Glute Set
Challenge yourself with different resistances during your workouts using this three-piece set, from low to medium and high options. All are made from a lightweight but super robust material with silicone taping for a non-slip hold.
Best affordable resistance bands: John Lewis Resistance Bands
Get five different resistance levels in this five-pack of bands, ideal for everyday fitness regimes for all fitness levels. They are super lightweight and portable to take on the move with you.
Best versatile resistance band: Corezone Resistance Bands
Use this resistance band in your HIIT training, weightlifting, or physiotherapy for that added tension you are looking for. Made from 100% natural rubber latex for a breathable, environmentally-friendly option.
Want more guidance and tips on fitness and wellbeing? Check out our fitness and wellness sections, with guides including yoga vs pilates, posture tips, and the best multi-gym equipment for working out at home.
Cordelia Aspinall is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media, working across brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeForMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. She has previously worked and written for digital publications including Condé Nast Traveller, The Evening Standard, Cosmopolitan, and several other lifestyle brands.