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7 best resistance bands to help you stretch, strengthen and sculpt muscles

Smash your goals and complete full-body workouts with these stretchy tools

<p>Their ability to isolate and target smaller muscles makes them great for injury rehabilitation</p>

Their ability to isolate and target smaller muscles makes them great for injury rehabilitation

When the first lockdown hit, home exercise equipment quickly came under the spotlight, selling out just about everywhere, and resistance bands finally had their moment.

Physios and personal trainers were already aware of just how useful and effective they were beforehand, but more of the general population are now more in the know than ever before.

Resistance bands are great for building and maintaining strength and tone when you’re on-the-go, or if you live in a smaller space where it’s not possible to have a stack of weights handy.

Their ability to isolate and target smaller muscles is why they’re so often used for injury rehabilitation, and they can also help you move more deeply into stretches.

How we tested

We tested a range of resistance bands for workouts with a variety of moves and tensions (ie wrapping around the foot twice rather than once to up the resistance), looking at versatility, quality and comfort.

Read more:

The best resistance bands for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – TRX bandit kit: £69.95, Trxtraining.co.uk
  • Best for a full body workout – P.volve p.3 resistance trainer set: £69.99, Johnlewis.com
  • Best for comfort – La Pochette resistance band, medium: £15, Lapochette.co
  • Best for assisted pull-ups – Umi resistance band: £14.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget option – Enertor exercise resistance bands: £12.99, Enertor.com
  • Best for durability – Les Mills + SmartBand: £35, Lesmills.com
  • Best for rehab exercises – Meglio latex-free resistance bands rolls 23m: £29.99, Mymeglio.com

TRX bandit kit

Best: Overall  

Rating: 10/10

These resistance bands from TRX, which is known for its suspension trainers, are high quality and come in a variety of resistances. Included in this versatile kit are four long, looped bands – two each of the blue (2-7kg) and green (7-14kg) – along with two ergonomic handles that you can slide the bands into.

The handles make the bands easier and more comfortable to use for certain moves as they stop them digging into your hands, and the rubber handle covers provide good grip, even when you’re sweaty. The handles and bands are light, so are ideal for travelling, and you can pop two bands into the handles to up the resistance.

P.volve p.3 resistance trainer set

Best: For a full-body workout

Rating: 9/10

This is a clever set consisting of two ankle straps, one short tube band as well as a long one, a handle and a 1.5lb ball. You attach the band to the ankle strap at one end with a carabiner and ring and the handle at the other. The ball can be used as an independent weight, but can also attach to the end of the band so you end up with both resistance and weight.

This set is designed to be used with the P.volve app, which provides workouts focusing on strength and function. We like the emphasis on low-impact, functional movement, and it offers classes from 20-minute core and arm definition, up to a 60-minute full body sculpt. The only slight faff is that you have to unhook the strap to swap it to the opposite leg when you work the other side of the body, but it only takes a few seconds.

La Pochette resistance band, medium

Best: For comfort

Rating: 8/10

This addition from La Pochette is a looped band for lower body exercises that’s made of stretchy, breathable fabric rather than latex. It’s wide, making it very comfortable around the legs with no cutting or digging in, and it has an inner grip to stop it sliding down.

It’s extremely durable and feels extremely safe to use, with no concerns that it will snap. It can be hand washed, and is also available in heavy and light.

Umi resistance band

Best: For assisted pull-ups

Rating: 9/10

These looped bands are available in various resistances: extra light (6.7-13kg), light (18-31kg), medium (27-45kg), strong (31-54kg) and strongest (36-67kg). This set of bands is the strongest, and perfect for assisted pull-ups to help you build up to doing a full, unassisted pull-up.

Loop your chosen band around a pull-up bar and thread it through itself, and you can place either your knee or foot into the bottom of the loop to help you lift your chin over the bar. It is a heavy-duty, wide, long and strong band, and made pull-ups easier without propelling us too swiftly.

Enertor exercise resistance bands

Best: Budget option 

Rating: 8/10

These are a cheap, simple and well made set of looped bands that provide a spectrum of resistance to help you progress as you get stronger, or to help you use different bands for different muscle groups.

Included is green (extra light: 5-10lb), blue (light: 10-1lb), yellow (medium: 15-20lb), red (heavy: 25-30lb), and black (extra-heavy: 35-40lb) – plus, they all come in a small bag to help with transport, and storage. They’re super light, so great for travelling. The website has some helpful videos on how runners can use the brand after injuries.

Les Mills + SmartBand

Best: For durability

Rating: 8/10

Les Mills On Demand classes were a go-to in lockdown and remain popular with those who still prefer working out at home. This resistance band is part of its home exercise equipment range and you can use it throughout the online classes, or just for your own workouts.

It’s a well made piece of kit – the band itself is strong, durable and a nice width (it’s flat rather than tubed), and the comfortable handles are attached with strong webbing. There is a band with stronger resistance (SmartBand extreme) but this option suffices for both beginner and intermediate levels. 

Meglio latex-free resistance bands rolls 23m

Best: For rehab exercises 

Rating: 8/10

Meglio offers rolls of resistance therapy bands with five different levels of resistance, from extra light to extra heavy. You can cut it to your preferred length and then tie it into a loop, onto a door handle or just wrap either end around your hands. These bands are used within NHS physio departments and are great for rehab exercises or if you’re a personal trainer who wants to give bands to clients for specific moves. If you’re sensitive to latex, they’re latex-free, and recyclable at the end of their life.

Resistance bands FAQs

Are resistance bands effective?

“They’re unbelievably effective,” Kira Mahal, founder of MotivatePT told us. “They’re our favourite piece of equipment and the first one we always tell our personal training clients to buy. They allow you to easily progress compound exercises so they’re brilliant once you have passed the beginner stage.

“For example, once you’ve mastered a set of lunges, the best progression is adding a resistance band in and then playing with the intensity,” Mahal added. “They are also incredibly effective for improving balance – we use them a lot with beginners who don’t have great core strength, senior clients and pregnancy clients who struggle with balance as their belly grows.”

When would you choose resistance bands over weights?

“We would choose them over weights in many instances,” Mahal said. “They’re great for warming up and for targeting small muscle groups for rehab clients, and we love them for our pregnancy clients, as there is far less risk of injury. They really allow you to hone in on smaller areas of the body without letting dominant muscle groups, such as your quads, take over.”

What types of resistance bands are there and how do you use them?

Resistance bands can be flat or tubed, come in a length or a closed loop and are made from various types of stretchy material. They come in different levels of resistance, so choose one that suits your level of strength and what you’re using them for – they’re graded either by weight or levels of resistance, such as extra light to heavy. Sets with a range of weights are ideal as you can either progress or use different bands for different moves (for example, your legs can handle more resistance than your upper body).

Resistance bands are very versatile – longer ones can be stepped on and used for upper body work – for example, lifting it upwards in a bicep curl. Shorter loops tend to be used more for lower body work, such as having it around your thighs in a squat position and taking small steps to the side to work against the resistance, but can also be used for upper body. YouTube is a great resource for resistance band exercise inspiration.

The verdict: Resistance bands

The TRX bandit kit is well made, offers excellent versatility in terms of resistance range since you can easily double up the bands inside the handle, and you can use them with and without the handles, too. The set also travels well which is great for keeping up your fitness regime when you’re on holiday.

The Enertor set is a good place to start if you want to see how you get on with resistance band work without investing a lot of cash first, or if you just want to add in some warm ups/strength work before or after your usual exercise regime, such as running or cycling.

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