Gym equipment can be notoriously bulky, so if you’re short on space and still want to get a sweaty session on the books, think small—like the best resistance bands. These tiny but mighty additions require minimal storage and can fire up your go-to bodyweight routine in mere minutes. Another amazing thing about these stretchy tubes and loops is that unlike kettlebells or dumbbells, resistance bands can be used on-the-go, making them great for outdoor workouts. And because they’re typically sold as sets with various levels of resistance, you can transition from chill-and-easy mode to leg-quivering with a simple band switch up.
There are many types of resistance bands to choose from, some better suited for the area of the body you want to focus on. We talked to the pros to find out more about how these versatile tools work—and what to look out for when buying some of your own.
What are resistance bands used for?
“Resistance bands have so much versatility,” Utah Lee, Nike Master Trainer, tells Glamour. “I love training and teaching with resistance bands: I use them for building strength, stability, mobility training, even for cardio drills—bring on the creativity!” Lee says. You can use resistance bands in any workout—from HIIT to pilates to yoga—to fire up muscle groups faster and more deeply. Think of doing lunges with bands as opposed to without: With the added resistance, your muscles have to work much harder to stabilize, meaning each move you make is far more efficient.
Resistance bands can also be used for injury prevention and rehabilitation, and Lee says “physical therapists often use them with patients to regain strength and mobility.” For example, if you have a knee or ankle injury, you could use a lightweight band without loops to train your joints in a controlled, low-impact way.
What levels of resistance are there, and what should beginners look out for?
“Resistance bands have different resistance levels, which you can often tell by the color, width, and thickness of the band,” Lee says. These levels are typically measured in pounds of resistance that go from extra-light to extra-heavy. Bands that are sold as sets—like the colorful minis or thick booty bands—tend to come in packs of three or five, and in ombre or rainbow shades to mark the degree of resistance. Sometimes brands even write the words “heavy” or “light” on the band so you don’t get mixed up.
If you’re new to resistance training, Natalie Holloway and Max Kislevitz, co-founders of Bala, recommend starting with the lighter bands until you feel comfortable moving up.
What are the benefits of using resistance bands?
So many. But these days, it’s their size and versatility. With so many of us sweating it out in our homes, driveways, or the nearest park, resistance bands are small, stackable, and portable while still being effective and thoroughly challenging. You can work your entire body—arms, chest, shoulders, legs, and glutes—with a single band. And because you can build resistance over time, they truly do complement all fitness levels. Now that you know a little bit more about these small workout wonders, check out and shop 15 of the best resistance bands below.