Resistance bands are versatile strength training tools. They’re lightweight and portable, and they cost less than a month’s membership at most gyms, yet they can significantly enhance strength training workouts. We considered 23 sets of bands and tested 11, and found that the Bodylastics Stackable Tube Resistance Bands are the best—and safest to use—for most people. If you’re looking for superbands for pull-up assistance or mini bands for physical therapy exercises, we have picks for those, too.
Now that more people are exercising at home, most or all of our picks are sold out. At this writing, only the GoFit ProGym Extreme and Perform Better Exercise Mini Bands we recommend are available. The following models are also available, though we don’t think they’re as good as our picks.
- Stroops Slastix ($16 to $168 at the time of publication)
- Fit Simplify Resistance Band Set ($35 at the time of publication)
- Fitness Solutions Pull Up Bands ($22 at the time of publication)
The Bodylastics Stackable Tube Resistance Bands have built-in safety guards not seen in any other bands we tested: Woven cords tucked inside the tubes are meant to prevent overstretching (a common reason why bands break), and should also avert a rebound snap if a tube splits. In addition to five bands of increasing resistances (which can be used in combination to provide up to a claimed 96 pounds), the set includes a door anchor for creating points at various heights to pull or press against, two grippy handles, and two padded ankle straps. This is a pretty common setup, but we found the Bodylastics kit to be overall higher quality than the competition, and the company is one of only two we considered that sells additional tubes in higher tensions. This five-band kit is easy to use and comes with a detailed instruction manual, including links to free exercise demonstration videos, as well as subscription-based workouts on the company’s website and app.
If our pick is unavailable, we recommend the GoFit ProGym Extreme. This kit includes four interchangeable tube bands of increasing resistances that can be used in combination (totaling a claimed 140 pounds), plus two rubberized handles, two padded ankle straps, two door anchors, a spiral-bound manual, and the best storage bag we’ve seen to hold it all. GoFit’s tubes aren’t reinforced the way our pick’s are, and the company offers fewer training materials. We liked that GoFit includes two sturdy door anchors to our pick’s one, as it means you don’t have to move the anchor as often between exercises.
If you use resistance bands as your primary strength training tool, consider the Resistance Band Training Economy Fitness Package. Trainers we consulted universally chose this as their favorite kit. Instead of tubes, its four superbands—two each of two resistance levels—are large, continuous rubber loops that are more durable and longer-lasting than most molded tubes. The kit comes with two foam-covered handles, which can be clipped onto the bands to give them similar utility as a tube set, plus a versatile anchor that you can use either in a doorjamb or looped around a stationary object (say, a fence pole) for training indoors or out. The bands alone can be used for assisted pull-ups or for adding resistance to some exercises. These bands provide more resistance than most tubes, and can be stacked for even more tension. The kit includes a four-week starter workout program, plus you can purchase additional guidance on the company’s website. At nearly three times the price of our pick, this set is not the best for most people. But if you want the versatility of both handled tubes and superbands, this is the set to get.
For assisted pull-ups and other superband exercises, the ones from Serious Steel are the best in their price range.
Serious Steel Assisted Pull-Up, Resistance, and Stretch Bands are continuous latex loops rather than molded tubes. Like most superbands, Serious Steel’s are sold individually and in sets. The four-band set we tested included bands ranging from a claimed resistance of 5 pounds to 120 pounds, making them useful for assisted pull-up progressions as well as for stretching and adding resistance to some exercises. Depending on your needs, you may find the largest band in this set less useful; in that case, we suggest you consider the less-expensive set of three. Although a paper manual isn’t included, the 25-page PDF on the company’s website provides plenty of instruction to get you started. Finally, the bands have a powdery feel that makes them less slick to grip than other superbands we tested.
With a diameter of 10 inches, compared with other mini bands’ 12 inches, the Perform Better Exercise Mini Bands were able to provide more tension than the competition throughout our test exercises’ ranges of motion because their tension kicks in sooner thanks to the shorter length. For example, for exercises that require putting a band around both of your legs at the same time, the Perform Better bands feel more snug than the competition from the start, leaving little to no slack to take up in the exercise movement before the tension begins. Though bigger people may have a little more trouble getting into them, the 5′11″, 235-pound trainer we enlisted was able to do it. And although the Perform Better set comes with four bands to most others’ five, it is “missing” the lightest band, which on its own isn’t that functional for most people.
Everything we recommend
For assisted pull-ups and other superband exercises, the ones from Serious Steel are the best in their price range.
- Why you should trust us
- Who this is for
- How we picked
- How we tested
- Our pick: Bodylastics Stackable Tube Resistance Bands
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Runner-up: GoFit ProGym Extreme
- Upgrade pick: Resistance Band Training Economy Fitness Package
- Also great: Serious Steel Assisted Pull-Up, Resistance, and Stretch Bands
- Also great: Perform Better Exercise Mini Bands
- Understanding and choosing your resistance
- The competition
Why you should trust us
To better understand the utility of resistance bands, I talked to William Kraemer, PhD, a professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, and author of the American College of Sports Medicine’s brochure on resistance band training (PDF). I also interviewed Dave Schmitz, a physical therapist and personal trainer who has spent that last two decades coaching clients using resistance bands. In 2010, he launched a retail website, Resistance Band Training, where he sells superbands and accessories.
As a personal trainer and a CrossFit dabbler, I’ve used all sorts of resistance bands with clients and in my own workouts. I brought the bands we picked and tested to the gym with me and asked other personal trainers to evaluate them, too. I also considered customer reviews of bands on Amazon and perused several best-band roundups at BestProducts.com, ThoroughlyReviewed, BestReviews, and Heavy.
Who this is for
Resistance bands offer an easy way to challenge your strength without the clutter and expense of bulky, heavy weights. By stretching against force in pushing or pulling exercises, these rubbery tubes or flat loops add load both on the action and on the return. This means you can effectively get stronger without having to lift heavy things against gravity, and—because the bands themselves require a bit of control to handle—improve stabilization.
You can also use certain bands (typically, superbands) to help unload certain bodyweight exercises, such as pull-ups and push-ups, so that you can train through the full range of motion while building enough strength to no longer need an assist.
Finally, physical therapists often recommend that their rehab and prehab clients use bands (most often, mini bands) for adding light or targeted resistance to hip- or shoulder-strengthening exercises.
How we picked
As a personal trainer, I like bands because they add resistance without adding weight, and provide tension that’s independent of gravity, meaning you can do actions such as rowing or chest-pressing from a standing position rather than a bent-over or back-lying one. Bands also make it easy to add pulling exercises to a program, which strengthen back muscles that are typically neglected in bodyweight-only, at-home workouts.
We looked at the three main types of resistance bands:
Interchangeable tubes can stack together and clip to a handle or ankle strap and be anchored to create a safe tension point for pulling or pushing.The tubes themselves are hollow inside, and may have reinforcements outside or in to help protect the tube from getting overstretched.
Superbands look like gigantic rubber bands. You can use them on their own or affix them to a bar or pole by looping one end around the bar and through the loop and pulling tight. Some companies sell handles and anchors separately, or as part of a set.
Mini bands are flat loops about a foot in diameter and usually 2 inches across. They’re commonly used by looping around a limb or limbs, such that another part of the body becomes the tension point.
For this guide, we chose sets rather than bands sold individually: The experts and trainers we interviewed stressed the importance of using different resistances for different exercises as well as the ability to increase resistance as you get stronger. If you are easily able to stretch any band to the end of its give in any given exercise (or need to do so in order to feel the effects of the exercise), not only are you not getting good strength adaptations in your muscles, you could also be compromising the band’s integrity by constantly pushing it to its potential breaking point.
Some tubed sets come with an anchor, which consists of a looped strap, typically made of woven nylon, and a large, covered plastic bead on the opposite end—you thread the loop end between the doorframe and door on its hinge side, then close (and lock, ideally) the door, so the bead is securely pinned on the far side of the door. You can then thread a tube or tubes through the loop. Some superband manufacturers sell separate anchors similar to the tube sets’.
To narrow the dozens of options per type, we considered customer reviews, cross-referenced with Fakespot.com, and editorial ones from the likes of BestProducts.com, ThoroughlyReviewed, BestReviews, and Heavy. We prioritized brands I’ve seen and used as a trainer over some of the lesser-known ones found on Amazon’s best-sellers list. (From my experience purchasing fitness equipment over the years, I’ve seen that certain brands can crop up, sell a bunch of products, then disappear into the Internet ether.) We also considered price, keeping in mind that most resistance bands will last for up to a year or so.
We ended up with four sets of handled tube bands, three sets of superbands, and three sets of mini bands.
How we tested
To find the best bands for most workouts, I did several types of exercises with each set. During each exercise, I noted which band (or combination of bands) I used, if I experienced any issues with setup or during the movement itself, and how easy it was to transition between exercises. I also noted comfort of handles, stiffness of rubber, any odor, and overall user-friendliness. While testing the bands at the gym, I asked four other personal trainers for their professional opinions of the top contenders.
Before hitting the gym, I read through any instruction manuals that came with the bands or are available on the manufacturers’ websites, using my personal-training knowledge to determine if the advice is sound and useful. I also measured each band’s length (using a tape measure) and thickness (using calipers) to determine if they were sold as advertised and to gauge potential durability. This aided my attempts to better understand the manufacturers’ weight claims with regard to the resistance each band is said to generate (See “Understanding and choosing your resistance”).
Our pick: Bodylastics Stackable Tube Resistance Bands
One of the biggest concerns people have about training with resistance bands is the fear that the rubber could snap and potentially injure them. With an internal cord, the Bodylastics Stackable Tube Resistance Bands have a unique safety guard against overstretching, the most common reason for breakage. Indeed, if you stretch a band to its full length, you’ll feel the cord catch, but it won’t otherwise affect the workout. No other handled tube bands we tested have this feature.
The bands themselves appear to be well-made, with heavy-duty components and reinforced stitching, attributes that were also highly praised in the overwhelmingly positive Amazon customer reviews (4.8 out of five stars across 2,300 reviews) They’re labeled on both ends with the estimated weight resistance, in pounds, that they’re intended to provide. Although those numbers don’t really mean much, the labels can help you quickly tell which band you’re handling. Like all the sets we tested, the Bodylastics kit provides ample resistance as well as plenty of tension combinations, from very light to quite heavy. The handles feel comfortable and secure in the hands, and were our favorites of all to hold. Bodylastics handles added the least extra length to the tubes, a good thing because too-long handle straps can affect some exercises by adding unnecessary slack that shortens the range of motion. The door anchor strap is padded with the same cushy neoprene of the ankle straps, which additionally appears to protect the bands from damage.
The Bodylastics set comes with an in-depth manual, with printed URLs to free online videos on how to do everything from door installation to any of 34 exercises. These are grouped by muscles targeted and are also smartly photographed and described, including band placement and handle use. Altogether, this was the best manual accompanying any of the sets we tested, and its free workout instructions, available via the app and on YouTube, are a nice bonus, especially as no other tube set we tested explained how to put exercises together into a workout. For a fee, you can purchase additional Bodylastics workouts from LiveExercise.com.
Unlike most companies that sell resistance bands, Bodylastics also sells individual bands—to replace or supplement those included in this kit—separately.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Our pick was the only set we tested that has small carabiners on each band, with one big ring on the handle/ankle strap to clip to. (Most sets have smaller rings on the bands and one big carabiner on the attachments.) The big rings on the Bodylastics bands can get in the way and poke or rub the forearms on certain exercises, such as chest or overhead presses, where the bands have to go back along the arms.
The ankle straps included with this kit are longer than most. If you prefer a snug fit, you may not be happy with this set.
Most door anchors that come with resistance bands are tough to get in place, and the Bodylastics one was no exception. Though it worked just fine, I’d be concerned that the thick foam that surrounds it might deteriorate faster than the materials on other door anchors we tested.
Right out of the box, the metal of the carabiners on these bands appeared somewhat oxidized. This did not affect their function.
Runner-up: GoFit ProGym Extreme
The GoFit ProGym Extreme Set matches our pick in terms of overall quality of construction (minus the inner safety cord, which only our pick had). From the helpful manual to the nicer-than-most carrying bag to the rubberized handles that provide a comfortable and secure grip, the GoFit kit brings a professional-grade feel to your at-home workout. Plus, its ankle straps can adjust much tighter than those included with our pick, providing a more secure feel (though as one otherwise satisfied Amazon customer pointed out, they are too short if you want to use them around, say, your thighs). The included door anchors, a large bead stitched into wide nylon strap, also seem a bit more durable than the Bodylastics’ foam-covered one, and with two, you can place them at different levels so you don’t have to make frequent adjustments mid-workout. However, the heavily reinforced straps were a bit harder to fit into a doorjamb compared with others we tested.
The GoFit set comes with four bands rather than the typical five. Based on my thickness measurements, it’s “missing” only the very lightest one. This is probably not a big deal for most people. However, in my estimation, it reduces the total load you can create using all the bands at once (a curiosity, given that GoFit’s total claimed resistance load of 140 pounds is significantly more than the 96 pounds claimed by Bodylastics). Like the bands included in our pick, these bands are conveniently labeled at both ends.
GoFit’s glossy manual is thorough, if not quite as detailed as Bodylastics’s. The 27 included exercises are clearly explained, and organized by anchor location rather than body part. In a way, this makes sense, as it’s definitely annoying—not to mention workout-disrupting—to have to move the anchor when transitioning from one exercise to the next. Then again, as the GoFit set comes with two anchors, this is less of an issue. And with little indication to the reader of what muscles each exercise targets (save those named for body parts, like chest press), it may not be as useful for someone less familiar with working out using bands. Further, GoFit doesn’t provide structured workouts either in the manual or on its website, so if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re on your own to figure it out.
One of the trainers we consulted owns and uses this set with his clients, and said it has held up nicely. But as it typically costs twice as much as our pick, you may want to look for it on sale before ponying up.
Upgrade pick: Resistance Band Training Economy Fitness Package
If you’re seriously sold on resistance band training, the Economy Fitness Package from Resistance Band Training is worth considering. By combining continuous-loop superbands with handles and an anchor that can be used indoors or out, you get the best of both the handled tubes and ultra-durable superbands in one kit. Other superband manufacturers sell handles and anchors separately, but the workout instructions on Resistance Band Training’s website are superior.
The kit comes with four bands, two of the red “small” and two of the black “medium.” Used individually or in combination, you’ll get loads that are similar to the middle range on most handled tube sets up to well past the top end. The bands are made by overlayering and fusing many sheets of thin latex around a mandrel, which the American College of Sports Medicine says is the most durable fabrication. Whereas most handled tube bands are meant to last around a year, Resistance Band Training says its bands should last two to three years, when used according to the company’s instructions.
The hefty foam-padded handles clip onto the bands easily with carabiners, and the anchor’s design is really smart: You can either wedge it between your door and the frame, or you can loop it around a stationary object like a fence pole or heavy gym equipment to use it outdoors or in the gym. The anchor does add a bit of length to the band, though, so you’ll need more floor space indoors than when using a tube set. You can also use the bands without the included handles by gripping them in your hands directly or looping them around your limbs, which isn’t as comfortable as using handles or ankle straps but allows for additional exercise options.
When used to assist pull-ups, I thought not having much heavier bands could make this set less versatile in terms of progression. I was wrong; it’s actually just as good if not better: With a separate superband on each foot, your weight is better balanced, and using the two medium black bands felt to me to be the same amount of support as one mega band from another kit we tested.
Resistance Band Training offers a breadth of instruction through its website and YouTube channel. A huge hurdle for exercising with bands (and really, exercising in general) is simply not knowing how to do it. The consensus among trainers I consulted was that this kit is a good value despite its higher price, but only if you’re motivated to use it.
Also great: Serious Steel Assisted Pull-Up, Resistance, and Stretch Bands
For assisted pull-ups and other superband exercises, the ones from Serious Steel are the best in their price range.
Anyone who’s ever set foot in a CrossFit gym is likely to have encountered superbands. Like the bands included in our upgrade pick, Serious Steel Assisted Pull-Up, Resistance, and Stretch Bands are made of overlayered and fused sheets of latex, making them more durable than most molded loops. These bands have more than 1,300 reviews on Amazon, and customers have cited their durability as a top attribute.
The Serious Steel set, like some other superband kits, comes with four bands of increasing size. For assisting pull-ups, three bands did the job well at increasing intervals, but the largest one pulled me extremely off-center and felt like it was going to slingshot my 122-pound body through the ceiling.
This largest band’s heft is probably overkill for most people, and after playing around with these and other superbands, I would recommend that if you require a lot of assistance (or want a lot of resistance for other exercises), you use two of the smaller bands, rather than this large one. If you’re unlikely to use, or grow into, this heftiest band, you can buy the less expensive three-band set. Neither set comes with a printed manual, but a 25-page PDF on the company’s website is plenty explanatory, including setup instructions and 40-plus photographed exercises and stretches, grouped by exercise type.
Compared with those in another superband kit we tested, Serious Steel’s bands were of uniform length; stretched more smoothly; had a nice tactile, powdery grip; and, surprisingly, even had a pleasant, vanilla-y scent. Although they are more expensive than some other superbands we considered, we’re confident their higher quality is worth the added cost.
Also great: Perform Better Exercise Mini Bands
You’d be hard pressed to find a modern physical therapy clinic without some sort of mini bands, and with their low cost, it’s not a huge investment to buy your own for at-home exercises. The Perform Better Exercise Mini Bands were the best we tested. They actually did perform better, starting with the simple fact that they are shorter—with a folded length of 10 inches to others’ 12 inches—and can therefore provide resistance sooner in any range of motion, something that several Amazon reviewers also praised. Though the smaller loop can be harder to fit both legs in, a 5′11″, 235-pound trainer didn’t mind.
This set comes with four bands to other sets’ five, but the “missing” one is the lowest resistance, which is unnecessary for most people. But even at comparable weights, the Perform Better bands generally feel harder to use on account of their shorter length, so if you need much lower resistance for certain rehab exercises, you may prefer the company’s 12-inch-diameter XL Bands, or bands from the Fit Simplify set we tested. Perform Better’s included poster-like instruction sheet has photos and clear descriptions of seven common mini-band exercises.
One complaint we heard about this type of bands in general is that they tend to roll up and tug on body hair. If the possibility of inadvertent pinching is a concern for you, we recommend wearing sleeves or pants while using mini bands.
Understanding and choosing your resistance
All resistance-band manufacturers make claims about the amount of tension each band provides, indicated in a range of pounds. But experts we interviewed said you should take those numbers with a grain of salt. “Resistance band training is based on an elastic component—as you stretch the bands, the resistance gets harder,” said The Ohio State University’s William Kraemer, PhD. “This means that the longer you stretch a band, the more resistance you get.” Because of this increasing tension, bands are best used for loading exercises that should get harder or tax the muscles most at the end of the range of motion. Things like presses and rows are well-suited to resistance bands; biceps curls, in which the muscle should be most taxed in the center of the movement, are less so.
Further, the weight numbers provided by the manufacturers vary wildly for bands that look and feel similar and measure the same, in terms of length and thickness, and some—especially the superbands—list enormous ranges for a single band, such as 50 to 120 pounds. “If you really want to measure your strength, you need to do it using weights,” Dave Schmitz of Resistance Band Training told us in a phone interview. “If you try to use bands to do that, you’ll be disappointed. There are too many variables going on that you can’t measure. With bands, you’re training to get the effect of getting strong, but not training to measure strength.”
What’s most important in choosing which bands to use while exercising, then, is to challenge yourself. If you can easily stretch the band to the end of its safe range—around one and a half to two times its resting length—for a million reps, you’re not getting much strength benefit. A good rule of thumb: Choose a band that you can handle with good form—and are able to control and not let snap back on the release of the movement—for three sets of 10 to 15 reps of any given exercise. If that’s too easy or becomes too easy, it’s time to increase your resistance.
The Lifeline Variable Resistance Training Kit is reviewed favorably on Amazon, but it disappointed us. The unpadded, hard plastic handles are uncomfortable to grip, and the set doesn’t come with ankle straps or a manual, just a flyer prompting us to log onto Lifeline’s website and view its training videos. The tubes—which are made of layered latex and feel fairly sturdy—slip in and out of the base of the handles instead of being permanently connected to carabiners, as our picks are. We found that it took too long to switch them out between exercises.
A best seller on Amazon and in a staple of editorial roundups, the Black Mountain Products Resistance Band Set disappointed. The quality was lacking, from its foam-covered handles to the typo-ridden overly photocopied manual. This kit comes with only one ankle strap, compared with most sets’ two. And the carabiners on the ends of the bands need to be rotated into place every time you clip them onto the handles—very annoying.
An inexpensive tube set, the Fit Simplify Resistance Band Set hangs near the top of Amazon’s best-seller list, but it suffers the same meh quality and annoying carabiner design as the similarly priced Black Mountain Products set. Its manual is slightly better, however, and includes advice on properly loading your exercises.
The Fitness Solutions Pull Up Bands are significantly cheaper than many other superbands. Although the company claims these are made using the layering process, as opposed to being poured in a mold, we couldn’t find the telltale ridge or seam that sets overlayered bands apart. The bands also felt different—stiffer and slicker—than others we looked at that we know are layered, rather than molded.
An inexpensive best seller, the Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands five-loop set could be a fine choice if you want mini bands with a larger, 12-inch diameter or a lighter resistance than our pick from Perform Better.
The Insonder Resistance Bands Set was the least expensive mini-band set we considered, and it shows. Several of the bands we received were visibly uneven where they had been cut. Nicks are known to compromise the integrity of resistance bands, so we chose not to test this set.
Though inexpensive and well-reviewed on Amazon, we nixed the Tribe Resistance Band Set because it appeared nearly identical to the Black Mountain Products and Fit Simplify tube sets.
Fitness Insanity Resistance Band Set is another Amazon best seller. However, we couldn’t find a company website, and some customers noted that their sets arrived with pieces missing.
Stroops Slastix are fabric-covered stackable tubes that are designed to be more durable. They are much more expensive and don’t come in sets like others, so we opted not to test them.
Sklz Mini Bands are produced by a major brand and cost more than others, so we considered testing them to see whether they were worth it. However, with just-okay reviews on Amazon and middling reviews on the company’s own website, we didn’t bother.
William Kraemer Ph.D., Selecting and Effectively Using Rubber Band Resistance Exercise, American College of Sports Medicine
William Kraemer Ph.D., professor in the department of human sciences at The Ohio State University, phone interview, October 19, 2017
Dave Schmitz, physical therapist, personal trainer, and owner of Resistance Band Training, phone interview, October 19, 2017
Best Resistance Bands, BestReviews, November 1, 2017
Jonathan Maxwell, Exercise resistance band review, ThoroughlyReviewed
Amy Schlinger, Resistance bands to take your workout to the next level, BestProducts.com, December 8, 2015
Kate Halse, Top 10 Best Resistance Bands for Workouts 2017, Heavy, August 6, 2017