Looking to get toned? There's a band for that.
How the heck does something as unassuming as a resistance band—essentially oversized elastic—make our muscles work so hard?
"Resistance bands can be deceiving," says Health senior fitness editor Rozalynn S. Frazier. "They may not look like much, but they offer a ton of benefits." To name just a few, resistance bands can be used for overall body strengthening as well as mobility enhancement, and they're low-impact and joint-friendly, she adds. "Consider it your all-in-one gym."
Convenient to keep in your home gym for those times when you want to fit in a serious strength workout but can't make it to a workout class, resistance bands allow you to sweat it out at home. Plus, they're affordable, travel-friendly, and extremely versatile. What's not to love?
We’d argue exercise bands are the underrated piece of equipment you should have in your fitness arsenal. Scroll for the 8 best resistance bands that will tone your arms, legs, abs, and booty.
Best for beginners: Bala Bangles Resistance Bands
If you're a newbie when it comes to working out with resistance bands, this set of 3 bands is the perfect fit. Each band represents a level—extra light, light, medium, heavy, and extra-heavy—so start with the loosest and work your way up to the medium and heavier ones, which are targeted for more intermediate and advanced strength training. Bonus: They're versatile enough to be used for physical therapy and rehabilitation.
Best for travel: PBLX 5-Piece Resistance Band Set
Getting a full-body workout on the go just got way easier thanks to these oversized bands. The 100% latex bands can be manipulated for a variety of exercises, including back rows, weighted squats, and even overhead presses. Each kit includes 5 heavy-duty bands that offer different levels of difficulty to amp up your strength training. Plus, the bands’ compact, lightweight construction makes them super easy to toss in your suitcase or purse, so you have them with you whenever you want to squeeze in a sweat sesh.
Best for multitasking: TheraBand Non-Latex CLX Consecutive Loop Bands
Looking for a band you can use on land and in the water? These resistance bands are pool-friendly for all your aquatic workouts and hydrotherapy exercises. Frazier loves them because there are loops within the bands, which make it easier to do a variety of moves and allows you to train with dumbbells simultaneously. "It also means you don’t have to wrap or tie the bands around your hands or feet—just stick ’em in the loops and voilà," she says. These are also latex-free, a good choice for anyone with allergies (or just those who hate the smell of latex).
Best for nailing pull-ups: XPRT Fitness Assisted Pull-Up Band
Our current fitness resolution? Conquering the pull-up, or at least successfully doing one on our own without our gym buddy's help. These bands make it easy to choose one based on your bodyweight and the current number of unassisted repetitions you can do. Remember that when you use them for pull-up assistance, you can secure it beneath your feet or under your knee for different levels of support.
Best for your booty: 360 Athletics Figur8 Resistance Tube
This booty-blasting exercise band strengthens and builds all 3 glute muscles—maximus, medius, and minimus—to help you get a Kim Kardashian-like butt in a month. Simply slide a loop over each ankle before conquering one of Health’s butt workouts to increase resistance and better target your glutes. Prefer a more traditional resistance band? We also love these cheeky (pun intended) Black Mountain Resistance Bands ($20; houzz.com) to work your booty at 3 different intensity levels.
Best for upper body: Gaiam Restore 3-in-1 Resistance Band Kit
With comfortable foam handles (see ya, blisters) and 3 resistance levels, this exercise band is perfect for arms. It’s not only long enough for shoulder presses, but heavy-duty enough to stand up to your most elaborate arm routines, too. Beginners can opt for the lightest resistance band available (green) and slowly work their way up to an advanced weight (gray), while regular gym-goers can layer all the bands together for the ultimate challenge.
Best for lower body: Nike Resistance Loop
Frazier also likes a fabric resistance band because there's nothing she hates more than having to straighten out a band in the middle of a move—ugh! This heavy-duty squat band shouldn’t flip up or get all twisted the way that latex or rubber sometimes do, she says. This band activates and strengthens the hips and glutes; just slip it around your knees and walk with long strides to warm up, then keep it on for your squats (it'll teach you to push your knees out).
Best full band set: Black Mountain 5-Piece Resistance Band Kit
This affordable kit from Fila includes all the equipment you’ll need to conquer a full-body workout. The set includes 5 bands (with resistance levels ranging from light to extra heavy) that you can stack for an even harder workout if you're looking to really challenge yourself. It also comes with a door anchor and exercise guide to increase the variations possible with your kit. Plus, there's a nifty complimentary gym bag so you can keep them organized at home or take them with you when you travel.