Turns out they aren’t all the same…
Tell me something: How is it that an oversized elastic—better known as a resistance band—can make your muscles stand at attention like no other?
“Resistance bands are a simple and versatile tool to work your muscles,” says Sarah Gawron, an AFAA-certified trainer, since they use constant tension to stimulate muscle growth, without putting strain on your joints the way heavy weights can. “They can improve mobility, flexibility, strength.”
Unlike dumbbells and medicine balls, you can toss them in your suitcase, store them in a drawer in your living room—heck you can even keep them in your purse. (You know, if you’re hardcore like that…) But, which ones are worth the purchase? Six top personal trainers share their recommendations for every resistance band that needs to be in your cart…yesterday.
1BEST FOR COMFORT: FULL SET OF RESISTANCE BANDS
When the resistance bands NASM-certified trainer Alexia Clark used kept breaking, she designed her own. “My set of bands has three different resistances that give you endless options to increase the resistance and intensity by doubling and tripling up bands,” she says. And since she’s all about comfort, she made them softer and wider so they sit easily on the limbs.
2BEST FOR TRAVEL: EXERCISE MINI BANDSHOP NOW
For a full-body workout Tatiana Lampa, ACSM-certified personal trainer, turns to these mini-bands. She uses them to work her outer thighs, glutes, back, chest, abs, and arms. And since she can take the lightweight loops anywhere, she’ll never miss workout.
3BEST FOR A TOTAL-BODY WORKOUT: RESISTANCE BAND SET
Anja Garcia, an AFAA-certified personal fitness trainer, is all about this tricked-out resistance band set, since it’s basically a mini gym. It comes with a starter guide for beginners, ankle straps, and door anchors for triceps extensions, biceps curls, and lat pulldowns. And the best part: “You can stack bands for added resistance, which means as you get stronger you don’t have to buy a whole new set.”
4BEST FOR CONQUERING PULLUPS: PULLUP BANDS
If you’ve been trying to master the pullup (you beast, you), these need to be in your arsenal. Garcia gave a shout out to these 41-inch long super-bands that you can tie around a pullup bar to lift your bodyweight during assisted pullups, which are great for your back and your lats. They’re tough, she says, but totally worth it.
5BEST FOR BEGINNERS: RESISTANCE LOOP EXERCISE BANDSHOP NOW
“Loop bands can work for any person at any fitness level,” Garcia says, because each loop offers a different degree of resistance. And this brand, in particular, provides a carrying bag to hold them, a guidebook, and online workout videos.
While loop bands are great for working the lower body, Garcia says she’s all about using them to up the difficulty during upper-body moves. For an extra burn, loop them around your wrists during pushups and deadlifts.
6BEST FOR UPPER-BODY MOVES: FIRST PLACE ALL-PURPOSE EXERCISE BAND
“These are my ABSOLUTE favorite bands for home use” says Pete McCall, ACE-certified personal trainer and author of Smarter Workouts. “They can be placed in a door frame or around a solid object,” he says, which is perfect for standing resistance training exercises.
7BEST FOR LOWER-BODY MOVES: HIP CIRCLE BY MARK BELL
This band is ideal for a warmup. Katherine Ellis, NASM-certified personal trainer, instructor at Our Body Electric, and coach at Uplift Studios, calls it a “highly durable training tool” that’s perfect for activating the hip and glute musclesbefore any heavy lifting. Engage your muscles by pulling this loop onto your thighs and after a few hip thrusts they’ll be able to better handle the stress of the weights you turn to next.
8BEST FOR RECOVERY: STRETCH STRAP STRETCHING AID AND PATIENT GUIDE
At six-feet long, this band features elastic loops that are ideal for anchoring your feet or hands during stretches and muscle recovery moves. “This is a great tool for improving flexibility,” Ellis says. Stuck on which moves are best? You’re covered, the strap comes with a guide.
9BEST FOR FUNCTIONAL FITNESS: RESISTANCE NON-LATEX BANDS SET
These non-latex bands “are excellent for rehabilitation, improving functional daily activities, and enhancing athletic performance,” says Sarah Gawron, an AFAA-certified trainer. She loves them because they’re an “effective alternative” to free weights like dumbbells and kettlebells, plus, they’re ideal for anyone with latex sensitivities.
10BEST FOR VERSATILE EXERCISERS: MONSTER BANDS
If you didn’t know how many widths and lengths resistance bands could come in, you will now, thanks to another rec from Gawron. These versatile loops are ideal for bettering mobility and building strength, as well as upping your agility, plyometrics, and speed training games. “Rogue Monster Bands are the highest quality—a durable piece of equipment that you can take anywhere.”