Resistance bands have been used for fitness for over 70 years, but with the home gym boom, they are more popular than ever. For most people, resistance bands are appealing because of their variety, affordability, portability, and safety.
Today the market is flooded with various types of resistance bands. How do you know which bands are best? It depends on your goals. Some people use resistance bands for physical therapy, others use them for cardio and stretching, and people use resistance bands to gain muscle.
Heavy resistance bands have been a favorite tool in the powerlifting and bodybuilding worlds for decades. That’s right, some of the biggest, baddest, strongest lifters on Earth rely on heavy resistance bands to take their gains to the next level.
Serious weight lifters understand what variable resistance does, and the science backs it. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows the benefits of combining elastic and free weight resistance.
You’re probably saying this is great, but you don’t have a home gym filled with thousands of pounds of iron. Not many people do, and not many people need that. You can get all the same gains of heavy weight lifting by only using a heavy resistance band.
The invention of the X3 Bar made this possible. The X3 Bar system is a first of its kind that allows you to do traditional heavy weight lifts at home – with no weights. The combination of a bar, foot plate, heavy resistance bands, and program results in the same gains you’d get lifting free weights, but with the added benefit of safety, affordability, and portability.
In this article, we’re going to take a close look at the best resistance bands. We’ll explore the different options on the market and help you decide if adding heavy resistance bands or light resistance to your workout makes more sense.
Table of Contents
What Types of Resistance Bands Are There?
For years the most common type of resistance band was the therapeutic resistance band. Today, a lot more bands in the resistance band market are available. If you dive into the world of resistance bands, you’ll find about nine different types. Many of these muscle building bands have built-in add-ons making them more functional workout tools than resistance bands of the past. They’re even found in the gym bag of personal trainers.
Types of resistance bands you’ll find on the market today include:
- Therapy Bands (lighter resistance bands / the lightest band available)
- Fit Loop Resistance Bands
- Figure 8 Resistance Bands
- Ring Resistance Bands
- Lateral Resistance Bands
- Pull up Bands (for assisted pull-ups)
- Tube Bands with Handles
- Power Resistance Bands
- Portable Home Gym Resistance Bands
This article focuses on heavy or power resistance bands and portable home gym resistance bands that include heavy resistance bands.
What are Resistance Bands Made From?
Resistance bands have a lot of different names—exercise bands, loop bands, booty bands, hip bands, etc. Whatever name they have, they’re typically made from latex, rubber, or fabric. When searching for the perfect resistance band, you’ll want to keep comfort and quality in mind.
Latex Rubber Resistance Bands
Latex bands typically come in packs of three or more and offer resistance levels ranging from extra light to extra heavy. They also come in a variety of lengths. In some instances, short bands are used for lower body exercises, and longer bands are used for upper body exercises. The lightest latex bands are popular for rehab exercises and warm ups.
- Various resistance levels—perfect for any fitness level
- Extremely versatile—can be used for both lower and upper body
- Inexpensive—depends on the brand and resistance level but can start as low as $10
- Easy to keep clean—can be rinsed and wiped off fast
- Can be an issue if you’re allergic to latex
- May be uncomfortable if you don’t have the right accessories
- Cheap bands will roll up on you while using
- Low-grade versions can rip or tear quickly
TPE Rubber Bands
TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) are non-latex resistance bands made out of synthetic rubber. They’re manufactured by clumping and drying petroleum-based chemicals together. They are the most common types of resistance bands you’ll find, but considered to be light resistance bands because they offer lower resistance.
- Non-allergic—can be a good option for individuals with latex allergies that don’t want a heavy resistance workout.
- UV-Resistant—can withstand heat better than natural rubber and will not get dry or brittle over time.
- Less elasticity–TPE bands are not as elastic as latex bands, and because they are made from artificial plastics they lose their ability to retain their shape over time.
- Non-biodegradable–unlike latex, TPE is petroleum-based, so it will not decompose in nature and is considered non-biodegradable, making it a poor choice for environmentally conscious consumers.
Fabric Resistance Bands
Unlike rubber resistance bands, fabric resistance bands are normally sold separately and come in three resistance levels—light, medium, and heavy. Typically fabric bands are only used for glute activation and lower body workouts but are still high-quality bands.
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Comfortable—fabric bands usually have a non-slip grip so the band stays in place while you’re performing exercises.
Strong—the material makes these types of bands less stretchy, adding a great amount of resistance when performing leg exercises.
Inexpensive—they are a little bit more expensive than rubber bands, but not by much.
- Versatility—strength and lack of stretch make fabric bands less than ideal for upper body workouts.
- Cleaning process—fabric resistance bands have to be washed in a washing machine and air-dried. So it’s a bit of a longer process.
How Do You Use a Heavy Resistance Band?
Heavy resistance loop bands are like massive rubber bands. They’re a continuous flat loop that can be used for a variety of purposes. You can loop the bands and stack resistance bands for bodyweight assistance when performing pull-ups, dips, or other exercises.
They can add light resistance when performing push-ups, bear crawls, and box jumps. Powerlifters use them to add resistance for squatting, bench press, and shoulder press. When added to a free weight workout, weight lifters anchor them to the squat rack or bench rack to provide variable resistance to what would otherwise be a static lift.
Serious powerlifters rely on power resistance bands to help target specific weaknesses in their lifts. Most people struggle with the end range of lifts, and bands can help get you past those weak points.
Increased time under tension also means more muscle activation and faster gains. Most people get a little rest at the top of their free weight lifts—resistance bands eliminate this break time. Constant tension forces you to stabilize your body, which engages your core muscles and adds another strength-gaining element to your workout.
How Much Weight is a Heavy Resistance Band?
When we talk about heavy resistance bands we’re referring to their resistance weight—not the weight of the bands themselves.
Resistance bands alone are not heavy, as they’re made from light rubber. The average weight of a single resistance band is anywhere between 95-250 grams. Even if you combine several resistance bands you’re not going to feel much weight.
When you add 20lbs of free-weight resistance, you automatically feel that pressure on your joints. Three bands weighing 300 grams can provide you with the same resistance as a 30lb dumbbell minus the joint strain.
Depending on the brand of resistance bands you buy, they will come in different colors, which represent the level of resistance. Typically, most brands offer around 5 different classes of resistance.
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A heavy resistance band set might look something like this:
- Yellow (1/2" width): 30 pounds
- Black (7/8" width): 50 pounds
- Blue (1 1/4" width): 70 pounds
- Green (1 3/4" width): 120 pounds
- Gray (2 1/2" width): 170 pounds
Again, keep in mind every company offers its own colors and resistance levels.
Other resistance bands max out around 180 pounds. The X3 all-in-one home gym resistance bands can provide more than three times this amount, topping out at over 600 lbs of resistance, which puts these heavy bands in a class of their own.
What is a Good Weight for Resistance Bands?
The appropriate weight you choose will depend on how much assistance or resistance you want for a particular lift or exercise.
A lot of people use power resistance bands for pull-up assistance. Pull-ups are one of the best ways to develop your back, but most people can only do a few pull-ups if any. If you can only do one or two pull ups, you might try adding a 50-pound resistance band. The band lightens the load of your body weight, allowing you to do more pull-ups.
If you want to add resistance to your squat or bench press to create a variable resistance workout, it can be done fairly easily. If you’re adding bands to your bench press, there are a few ways to do it. It’s most common to wrap the band from one end of the barbell to the other, between the sleeves of the collars, underneath the bench. Load your weights after the band is connected.
Why Is X3 More Powerful Than Weights?
- More Resistance Where Your Body is Stronger
- Less Risk of Injury Than Traditional Weights
- Easier On the Joints, Harder on the Muscle
- Complete Muscle Fatigue for Greater Gains
Buying resistance band sets is always a good idea because you’ll need different bands for different exercises. You can also combine bands to create different levels of resistance as your strength increases.
Training with resistance bands alone is another option, if you have a strong anchor point. There are a variety of resistance band exercises you can do without weights.
X3 bar users love the X3 resistance band system because it provides all the benefits of weight training and bodyweight training without the need for a strong anchor point or pull-up bar, and it allows you to target the same muscles you would when powerlifting.
Are Resistance Bands Better Than Weights?
So far, we’ve been talking about combining resistance bands with weights—but what if we tossed the weights to the side and only used resistance bands?
X3 Bar inventor Dr. John Jaquish shocked the fitness world when he published “Weight Lifting Is a Waste of Time: So Is Cardio, and There’s a Better Way to Have the Body You Want.” The Wall Street Journal Best Seller has sold tens of thousands of copies since its controversial release.
For years fitness experts have rightly been arguing that lifting weights is better for burning fat than cardio. Dr. Jaquish took it to the next level by showing that not only was that claim true, but that weights are an archaic and unnecessary way to build muscle.
Resistance bands alone can not reproduce relevant loading for strength training, but variable resistance training has been proven far superior to weight training. Dr. Jaquish needed to find a way to unleash the benefits of heavy resistance bands and solve the resistance loading problem.
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The solution was to engineer a machined alloy steel resistance band bar with internal bearings—much like an Olympic bar used with traditional weight training. The second piece of the puzzle involved engineering a heavy-duty ground plate to protect ankles from the high forces produced by heavy resistance bands.
The final piece of the X3 puzzle was custom engineering superior resistance bands, the strongest of which is capable of offering over 600 pounds of resistance.
Resistance bands alone are not better than weights. However, resistance bands engineered for maximum resistance and packaged with the right accessories are better than weights. They offer a safer, more affordable, and more effective way to build strength and access even better gains than traditional weight lifting offers.
And because you’re under constant tension, your workout time can be reduced to just 10 minutes per day as opposed to 60 to 90 minutes that weight training demands.
Can Resistance Bands Build Mass?
Do you really need to lift weights to build muscle mass? No. There are plenty of hulking individuals who have never lifted a weight in their life. They’re either genetically gifted or they do manual labor all day. What about the rest of us mortals? The answer is the same. Nobody has to lift weights to build mass. As shocking as it sounds, resistance bands are far more effective.1
When you lift weights, you’re limited by the amount of weight you can push or pull when your body is in its weakest position—such as with knees deeply bent at the bottom of a squat.
Once you push past the initial weak point, you gain strength and momentum as you work through the movement. However, the weight load never changes. The result is you’re limited by what your weakest range can handle and you never maximize what your strongest range is capable of.
Variable resistance training, using resistance bands, solves this problem. Variable resistance introduces a strength curve that mimics what your body is capable of.
Let’s look at the deadlift as an example. With variable resistance training forces are a little lighter at the bottom of your deadlift and a little heavier as your hips power through at the top. The variable forces result in greater muscular growth in much less time when compared to traditional weightlifting.
Again, it’s worth noting that as well known as this information is, the market never produced a product to take full advantage of it. Prior to the release of the X3 Bar, no resistance band system could replicate the heavy resistance levels of traditional weights. X3 Bar solved that issue, and remains the only resistance band system that matches and surpasses the resistance loads achieved with traditional weights.
So yes, you can build muscle mass with resistance bands, but they must be engineered and packed in a system that allows you to replicate the same loads as free weights. The X3 Bar does this.
Are Resistance Bands Better for Joints?
People used to think long-distance jogging was a great way to get exercise. We now know this is a great way to destroy your knee joints. Today, the fitness world is having a similar awakening with weight lifting and the joints.
We know that in order to gain muscle lifting weights you have to increase the weight. The problem is, our form is most vulnerable at our weakest range of motion during a heavy lift. And when we increase the weight, it only gets worse. Assuming we can even do the lift, the load goes to our joints, and damage ensues.
If you’ve ever spent any amount of time in the gym, you’ll have met somebody that doesn’t bench anymore because they injured their shoulders going heavy. Flat bench press is primarily a chest exercise. The reason they injured their shoulder joints is because at the weakest range—the bottom—they couldn’t safely handle the load. They likely lost their form and engaged their shoulders to compensate. Or, the cumulative joint damage simply became too significant to ignore.
The same thing happens with people hurting their knees and back with squats and deadlifts.
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Resistance bands, on the other hand, provide feedback to your joints throughout the full range of motion. This creates more joint stability through muscular activation and decreases the amount of stress put on your joint surfaces. This is just one reason why physical therapists turn to resistance bands to provide increased stability and support for those working with damaged joints and other injuries.
What’s more, with variable resistance, the load you push or pull against at the weakest part of your lift is actually less than the load provided when you’re at your strongest. As your body reaches its strongest, impact-ready position, the band stretches and tightens, offering you greater resistance.
When you’re lifting weights, your muscles are fighting gravity. Gravity is a vertical force and only provides resistance in a vertical plane. Resistance bands provide resistance in all directions. The multi-directional resistance allows for more muscle and joint engagement in a functional way that helps build muscle and strengthen joints.
Most injuries occur when your muscles are trying to support forces outside a vertical plane. With resistance bands, the force is variable, which increases linearly as the band stretches. You muscles don’t get to relax, so you can’t cheat by using momentum.
Many heavy weight lifters use momentum during their lifts and that’s when joint injuries occur.
Top Heavy Resistance Bands
X3 Bar Resistance Bands
X3 Bar’s heavy-duty resistance bands are best in class and exceed all other heavy bands when it comes to durability and resistance offered. The custom-engineered multi-layer latex bands come in 5 different strengths, offering from 10 to over 600 pounds of load.
Simply put, their exceptional thickness and strength makes them unsafe to handle without the accompanying Olympic-style grip bar and ground plate. Doing so puts wrist and ankle joints at risk, and limits your full range of motion when lifting with strength and power in mind.
For this reason, we review the X3 Bar as a system separately below. Skip to that section, or keep reading to see which second-best alternatives are out there.
EliteFTS Pro Strong Resistance Bands
EliteFTS is a favorite among serious lifters. The bands are geared towards powerlifters and other elite athletes who want to push a lot of weight with confidence the bands will hold up.
EliteFTS Pro Strong Resistance Bands are made of natural latex rubber. Thickness is (4.5mm), and have a generous width of 4.5 inches to give the band lots of ‘grip’ on the barbell.
EliteFTS Pro bands offer one of the highest levels of resistance, providing up to a whopping 275 pounds of total tension, making it the heaviest duty of the heavy-duty resistance bands after the X3 Bar.
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Rogue Monster Bands
Rogue brand is a favorite among heavy weight lifters. They’ve made a name for themselves with their CrossFit offerings as well.
Rogue makes high-quality squat racks, barbells, and pretty much any type of weight lifting equipment you can think of.
Rogue’s Monster Bands are made of natural latex rubber, and are available in two different lengths—a 12" version which is great for glute bridges, and a 41" long version to help with pull-ups and pretty much everything else.
The 41" bands come in 8 different resistance levels. The silver band is the thickest and provides 200 pounds of resistance.
Pricing is reasonable, with an orange pair costing $16 and the heavy-duty coming in at $100.
Iron Bull Strength Heavy Duty Resistance Bands
Iron Bull Strength is relatively new in the weightlifting world. They make some high quality equipment, including their barbell hip thrust pad and line of bumper plates.
Iron Bull Monster Resistance Bands are made with natural rubber and share a lot of the same features as the Rogue and EliteFTS bands, including a 41" length, a width of 0.25" up to 2.5", and plenty of resistance options. The thinnest bands (yellow) deliver up to 15 pounds of resistance while the heavy-duty blue band can generate up to 175 pounds of resistance.
WOD Nation Heavy Resistance Bands
WOD Nation makes affordably priced training gear, including their jump ropes and weight lifting accessories. Their heavy resistance bands, ideal for lifting, stretching, or for doing pull-ups, are quality bands at a low price.
The bands are made of all-natural rubber and are 41-inches long. They are essentially knock-offs of the more popular brands on this list but don’t sacrifice much in quality and thickness.
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DYNAPRO Power Resistance Bands
DYNAPRO’s line of resistance bands are made of soft and heavy-duty latex rubber, and provide a tension level of up to 170 pounds.
Designed to be snap-resistant, DYNAPRO’s bands are made with natural rubber for maximum durability, are wide enough they don’t roll up on you during use, and can be purchased individually or bundled as a set.
UnderSun Fitness Resistance Bands
Undersun Fitness resistance bands are sold in sets of 2, 3 or 5. Bands offer a range of 5 -120 pounds of resistance. The 100% natural latex bands are more affordable than many others on the market.
Although they aren’t as strong as some of the other heavy resistance bands on our list, they do come with a lifetime guarantee.
Best Heavy Resistance Band
Now that you’re a resistance band expert you have all the information you need to make the best decision. You’ll notice there’s really not a lot of difference between the different heavy resistance bands out there.
However, they all have the same limitation—you can’t build significant muscle mass with them. They are great accessories to free weights if that’s your thing. Serious powerlifters and bodybuilders have been taking advantage of resistance bands for decades.
But what about those who want all of the benefits of lifting heavy weights minus the cost, risks, and space requirements? Until now there were no alternatives.
If you’re looking for the best resistance bands for replicating heavy-duty weight lifting without the need for expensive weights and storage space or the risk of injury—The X3 Bar is the clear choice. X3 checks a lot of other “best” boxes too, including:
- Best resistance band to replace fitness equipment
- Best resistance band for lower body exercises
- Best resistance band to target all muscle groups
- Best band with the strongest resistance level
- Best band with ankle straps
- Best band with attachable handle
- Best overall resistance band
- Best seller
What Comes with the X3 Bar All-In-One Home Gym?
The 21.5-inch steel bar features machined alloy steel. It’s designed to withstand over 600 pounds worth of force. Each side of the bar has ball bearings with a hook attached that allows the bar to rotate so the band’s orientation remains consistent through each movement, and your grip stays secure. In addition, the ball bearing feature ensures bands never get twisted or kinked during a set.
The quality and resistance level of the bands sets the X3 Bar apart from other heavy resistance bands. X3 comes with four individual bands. The heavy-duty resistance bands are designed to provide greater resistance and last longer than bands you may have seen in the past. The lighter bands allow you to add more resistance to heavier bands as needed—just like weights.
Each resistance band is made specifically for the X3 system and features layered latex for superior strength. The four included resistance bands come in the following resistance ranges:
- Super lightweight: 10—50+ pounds as a single loop, 100 pounds doubled over
- Lightweight: 25–80+ pounds as a single loop, 160 pounds doubled over
- Middleweight: 50—120+ pounds as a single loop, 240 pounds doubled over
- Heavyweight: 60—150+ pounds as a single loop, 300 pounds doubled over
The X3 Elite resistance band is sold separately. It provides 110–300 pounds of resistance as a single, closed-loop and up to 600 pounds when doubled over.
When resistance bands are stronger and more powerful, anchoring them by standing on them becomes increasingly difficult. They dig into your feet and put an enormous amount of pressure on ankle joints. Not to mention, it’s unsafe; one slip and a band can come snapping back at you.
Some manufacturers think they’ve solved this problem by including door anchors, clips, or velcro straps to anchor bands to a solid, stable object. Unfortunately, these methods of anchoring aren’t suitable for supporting heavy resistance bands. Leaning your entire body weight against a band is a recipe for disaster. Anchoring a closed-loop band to a single point also causes friction which leads to fraying and snapping.
Only the X3 system has a workable safe solution in the form of a stabilizing ground plate.
The high-density polyethylene surface has a notched-out area on the bottom designed to keep the band in place, and free your feet and ankles from pressure. At the same time, this notch allows the band to stretch underneath you, making your workouts not only safer and more comfortable, but more effective.
The ground plate is designed to withstand over 600 pounds of force, allowing it to keep up with the heavy-duty resistance bands.
A complimentary 12-week online training program helps you get the most out of every X3 workout.
At first, each week consists of a push day and a pull day, each performed twice per week for a total of 4 workouts. After completing week 4, users move to a 6-day workout schedule.
No Weights, No Cardio
Each easy-to-follow workout consists of only four exercises. Users perform just one set per exercise. However, before you think it sounds easy, that one set is performed to failure. When you can no longer do the complete movement, you continue doing partial reps until you absolutely cannot move the bar.
This training method is designed with precision to maximize the recruitment of muscle fiber and trigger the perfect hormonal environment for muscle growth and fat burning. This is why with X3, you’ll see results sooner than you would with any other strength training method.