The strength training community is quickly catching on to variable resistance training as the most effective means of building muscle and burning fat. Band training can be easily done at home or on the road with minimal equipment for a safe and effective total-body workout.
But not all resistance bands fall into the ‘safe and effective’ category. Thin bands are prone to snapping or breaking, which can lead to injury. They’re also ineffective. To change your body composition, you must lift heavy. Thicker, stronger bands are available, but quickly become unmanageable without the appropriate accessories.
A resistance band barbell and ground plate allow you to select the strongest bands possible and reap the promised rewards of variable resistance. Without a bar and ground plate, your movements won’t be meaningful. We explain which resistance band bar is best and why you need one.
Why You Need a Resistance Band Bar
As mentioned above, to build muscle and lose fat, you must lift heavy.1 When it comes to variable resistance, this means selecting the thickest, strongest bands possible. The greatest gains are realized when the following parameters are met:
- FATIGUE: Select a band that allows for a maximum single set of 15–40 repetitions
- CONSTANT TENSION: Move slowly and steadily through each lift (2 seconds up and 2 seconds down) without ever releasing tension
- DIMINISHING RANGE: When the full movement gets too tough, continue to perform within the range you can until complete fatigue
Most people can’t hit all three of the above parameters with tube-style resistance bands, mini-loop bands, or thin rehab-style bands. These bands simply aren’t strong enough.
Select a strong, latex closed-loop band, such as those that come with the X3 bar, and you can satisfy the above requisites. This creates the optimal hormonal and physiological environment for muscular gains. For total physique transformation, add a low-carb, high protein diet, and you’re good to go.
So why can’t you do this with resistance bands alone? Grab a band that’s rated for 100 pounds of tension or more, and you’ll soon find out why. Standing feet-only on super strong bands while attempting to hold on with bare (or even gloved) hands is a recipe for disaster.
(insert photo of the foot on the band from book)
Using resistance bands is meant to be safer than lifting traditional free weights. But if your movements are limited by the strength of your wrist and ankle joints, or if the band is stretching underneath your feet or while in your hands, there’s going to be some give. Your grip isn’t safe and you’re putting yourself at risk for a very uncomfortable snapback.
A stable resistance band ground plate and bar allow you to work with the strongest bands possible without compromising on safety or comfort. So which type of bar is best? Let’s explore.
Resistance Band Bars Versus Handles
Using a single barbell versus two unconnected handles maximizes the amount of force you can produce and withstand. As mentioned above, maximizing force is key to stimulating the right hormones for fat loss and muscle growth.
The Bar is More Functional Than You Think
As humans, we instinctively pick up heavy objects symmetrically using both hands and legs. We refer to the movements we naturally do as ‘functional movement.’ The fitness world sometimes gets this backwards. Nobody would put one hand in their pocket and attempt a heavy lifting task with the other. (I’m looking at you, Turkish Get Ups).
When we use both arms or legs bilaterally, we’re able to lift heavier. The weight we can move using a single bar and both hands to do the task is much higher than what we can push or pull with one hand grabbing a handle. Using a resistance bar maximizes opportunities for growth, while resistance band handles hold you back.
In traditional weightlifting, unilateral use of dumbbells does have some advantages for athletes. Specifically, these movements recruit more of the core.2 Interestingly, what type of strength training lets you employ bilateral movement to lift your heaviest and recruits more muscle fiber, including your core? Variable resistance training with bands and a band bar.
So which type of bar is best? Let’s take a closer look.
Common Types of Resistance Band Barbells
There are various types of resistance band bars, each claiming to be the best. Let’s take a look at the top 3 types of exercise bars and why the straight bar is the best one out there.
EZ Curl Bar
A resistance band curl bar is similar to the curl bar you’d find in the gym. Unlike a straight bar, an EZ curl bar offers a few kinks so the wrists are positioned more naturally, in a way that benefits the elbow and wrist joints.
While the EZ bar might help some weight-lifters prevent wrist injury, it’s well-known the straight bar3 is better suited for building biceps. When grabbing a straight bar, the biceps both supinate and curl, thus recruiting more muscle fibers for greater growth.
The bow-shaped bar looks just as it sounds. This bar functions as a straight bar would, but the ends are curved inward, allowing for the connection of shorter resistance bands.
The design of this type of resistance bar prevents the use of closed-loop bands, which would put too much pressure on the curvature of the bar and get in the way of most movements. This inherently makes the bow-shaped bar less optimal for heavy lifting. Because as you’ll see later, loop resistance bands are far superior to rubber tubing.
The straight, Olympic-style barbell is the gold standard of weight lifting. It’s simple and it works. The straight bar is the most commonly used weightlifting bar which makes it familiar for most users making the switch from static to variable resistance training.
A straight bar for resistance bands need not be as long as an Olympic bar, since there aren’t any plates to make space for on either end. A little more than shoulder-width distance suffices, which is exactly what the 19 inch X3 bar offers. It’s portable, offers a familiar grip, and accommodates 95%4 of the population with a narrow or wide hand placement.
Resistance Band Bars: What’s Out There
There are a variety of band bars on the market, each with its own set of gimmicks. Multiple attachment types, foldability, or additional accessories might help sell bars but aren’t necessary for function.
When it comes to toning and tightening the X3 Bar stands above the rest. Still, let’s take a look at what’s out there.
The Bodylastics Resistance Band Bar
The Bodylastics Resistance Band Bar is an EZ curl style bar that offers several options for hand placement. Ironically, shaping the bar in this manner means you lose options when it comes to the width of hand placement. If you’re petite or wide-shouldered, this 43.5" bar with hand grips at specified intervals may not be best suited for you.
The Bodylastics Bar has three attachment points, two at each end of the bar and one in the center. Elastic rubber tubes connect to the bar via carabiners. The ring attachments at each end of the bar don’t swivel, which further limits the grip you choose.
This bar is sold alone with bands available separately. Bodylastics does offer a band package that totals 404 pounds of resistance, but you’ll have to clip on 14 bands to reach that number. Whether or not there’s space for seven bands to clip to each ring at the end of the bar remains to be seen.
Doubling up, however, is the preferred method of generating resistance since none of the bands are that strong alone. Further, to prevent the tubes from snapping, each band is fitted with a piece of safety rope inside. This limits their elasticity and hence their range of motion, which limits Bodylastic’s applicability to strength training.
The bow-shaped Gorilla Bow measures 56 inches in length and arrives with an underwhelming 110 pounds of tension. For most people, this isn’t enough force to trigger exhaustion, especially when doing compound lower-body movements like squats or deadlifts.
Like the Bodylastics bar, Gorilla Bow requires you to layer on multiple bands to produce a heavier force. You can load a maximum of 3 bands onto each end of the bar. These tube-style rubber bands attach to the claw-like slots at the bow’s end with a rubber extension.
Anytime an extension is added to the band, you’ve created a weak point and increased the risk of breakage. This risk builds as you attempt to lift heavy. As we’ve said before in this comparison article, the Gorilla Bow itself is durable, but the bands will limit anyone who’s capable of heavy lifting.
Lest you think you’ll get around this by using Gorilla Bow with your own, stronger bands, remember the attachment points are unique and only work with Gorilla Bow branded bands.
Innstar Portable Gym 3.0
Innstar Portable Gym 3.0 comes with a 38-inch bar and 4 resistance bands. The strongest package available offers a total of 200 pounds of resistance, which again, isn’t much for those who squat or deadlift. When choosing which package to purchase, you better be certain how much you can lift, because each option comes with the same 4 bands. Will you max out at 105 or 152 pounds of total resistance? You better know for sure, because this is the difference between the pro and advanced.
Bands attach to each end of the resistance band curl bar with carabiners. The Innstar website also shows a chest press with bands attached to the bar using velcro straps. If it’s velcro that’s holding your bands to the bar, it may be a good thing the Innstar bands are not that strong.
Body Boss 2.0 Portable Home Gym
The Body Boss system is the only resistance band bar on our list to come with both a straight bar and a ground plate. While this makes it similar to X3 in some respects, it just isn’t as durable and won’t offer serious lifters a challenge.
The collapsible workout bar is 42" long and ships with just one set of bands which offer roughly 30 pounds of tension. Shorten the bands through one of the platform’s 10 anchor points, and you can max out at 80 pounds of resistance, but with bands too short to use for squats and most other standing movements.
Body Boss bands clip to the bar along the lower edge, which like the bars mentioned above, limits the flexibility of your grip. Your hands will need to rotate as you move through each range of motion, because the bar doesn’t.
X3: The Best Resistance Band Bar
X3 is hands down the best option on the market. The heavy-duty resistance band system far surpasses the competition when it comes to efficacy. With the X3 bar, those who can handle an intense, strong workout can certainly hit the parameters needed for muscle growth and a shift in body composition. What’s more, you can do so without compromising safety.
How it Started
X3’s founder, Dr. John Jaquish and his intern-turned-design-engineer Henry Alkire came up with the X3 bar after having successfully designed the bone density improving devices used at OsteoStrong locations nationwide.
From his research with OsteoStrong, Dr. Jaquish knew the human body had at least 7 times more strength than conventional weightlifting or exercise bands alone allow for. Training with a familiar, Olympic-style barbell, a stable platform to stand on, and strong, closed-loop latex bands lets you generate the peak forces necessary for accessing this strength.
John sketched the first iteration of the X3 Bar system on a cocktail napkin and emailed it to Henry. Together, the two came up with a final version that provides the following elements:
- Closed-loop bands attach to the bar with hooks, allowing for stretch and movement
- Internal bearings move the bar with the user’s hands throughout the entire range of motion
- A ground plate provides stability while allowing the bands to stretch and move underneath the user’s feet
Each of these simple but genius innovations puts the X3 Bar in a class of its own. Let’s take a closer look at why.
Why Closed Loop Bands?
X3 Bar goes beyond rubber tubing and instead works with the strongest, closed-loop latex bands available. There are several reasons why any resistance bar that incorporates such bands is better for strength building.
Safety: Using circular resistance bands which attach with a hook eliminates the risk of carabiners, velcro straps, clips, or rubber stoppers breaking or coming loose from the band or bar. The fewer parts and pieces, the safer and more durable your strength training system.
In addition, 30 layers of natural latex add durability and strength to the X3 resistance bands. These individual layers help prevent the bands from snapping or breaking, unlike cheaper alternatives.
Strength: Flat, continuous loop resistance bands are simply stronger. Most rubber tubing has a max capacity of 50 pounds of resistance. X3 bands in particular are capable of exerting forces greater than 600 pounds.
Loop bands get their strength from the layering of latex, their width, and the continuous loop construction. This also makes them far less likely to break in a single snap than tube bands. You’ll notice some wear and tear long before getting surprised by a pop.
Elasticity: Rubber tubing bands are naturally more taut, so the levels of resistance for each size don’t vary as much as with closed-loops bands. For example, push or pull on rubber tubing and the resistance may vary by a few pounds. Push or pull against a heavy X3 band, and the variation will exceed a few hundred pounds. What’s variable resistance without much variation? Ineffective.
What’s more, the limited elasticity of tube bands limits the range of motion and muscle activation. You’ll often see tube bands going slack at the bottom of a range of motion. Loop bands, however, recruit more muscle without ever losing tension.
Comfort: Flat bands are wider and thus have a greater surface area, which puts less pressure on the body when they’re up against your skin. If you’re following the X3 program, the bands will wrap the body during the chest press and tricep pushdown. Try this with rubber tubing, and you’ll get uncomfortable skin pinching, a common complaint from users of the Gorilla Bow.
Resistance Bars and Ground Plates: Why You Need Both
Most tube-style resistance bands are used in pairs. Each attaches to one end of the bar but needs an anchor on the opposite end. The bars mentioned in this article often come with handles to step on, ankle straps, feet straps, or door anchors. None of these can hold a candle to the X3 Bar ground plate.
X3’s steel ground plate offers a strong, stable platform against which you can push and pull heavy amounts of force. Underneath, the closed-loop bands are able to freely stretch and move, which saves the soles of your feet from rubbing and saves your ankle joints from pressure.
In our opinion, a resistance band bar is not complete, nor effective, without an accompanying ground plate. The ground plate is what makes the use of strong loop bands possible. Maxing out on exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bent rows, and even bicep curls is only made possible with X3’s platform.
The X3 ground plate is unique in its compatibility with closed-loop bands, its strength and durability, and its slim portability.
Why Not a DIY Resistance Band Bar?
Several have tried and failed to imitate the X3 bar with a DIY resistance band bar. For reasons of safety and efficacy, a DIY X3 Bar is just not a good idea. The craftsmanship of the X3 Bar is no accident. Both the design and the materials were carefully selected to maximize strength and safety of the system. If Dr. Jaquish could have made the same thing from inexpensive materials available at the local Home Depot, he would have, and he’d give you the instructions.
X3 Bar Materials
Most Olympic bars are made out of regular (not stainless) steel, which means they’re generally a bit rusted and appear worse for wear. Dr. Jaquish wanted X3 to be resistant to that kind of corrosion but also relatively light. After all, the bar is for comfort. It’s the bands that make the workout challenging.
So while the exterior of X3 is anodized for a hard, attractive coating that doesn’t rust or discolor, the interior is made of cold-rolled steel. The bar’s interior is the major load-bearing component of X3 and interfaces directly with the hooks, bearings, and any torque applied to them. Intentionally-selected materials ensure the bar is strong enough to handle peak forces.
The Genius of Internal Bearings
While stainless steel would have been too heavy for the actual bar, the hooks that hold the bands on are indeed stainless. This makes them rust-proof and durable, ensuring your bands will glide smoothly within them for no limits on elasticity.
You’ll also find the hooks aren’t soldered on as the band connectors are with most bars. Instead, the hooks rotate on bearings that allow the bar to move within the user’s hands throughout the entire range of motion.
This not only makes X3 the most comfortable resistance band bar to work with and hold on to, but it also allows for maximum force production. If the hooks were fixed, the bar would twist your wrists, creating unnatural angles, potentially causing injury, and ultimately limiting the load you can safely or effectively handle.
The long-lasting bearings are made of self-lubricating nylon. This intentional decision lets them move at slow speeds, which means their dynamism matches the controlled manner in which X3 exercises are done.
There will always be people who will say, “I can just get a wooden stick or pvc pipe and do this.” But please don’t try this at home.
A Band Bar Recap
Variable resistance training is the best way to build muscle and lose fat. But to get the promised results, you need strong, closed-loop bands.
Working out with bands like this is only safe and effective when you have a bar to grip hold of and a ground plate to keep you stable.
X3 is the only resistance band bar to offer the following:
- A durable straight bar built for the strongest, flat, continuous loop bands
- The familiar feel of an Olympic-style barbell
- Ball-bearing rotation for a comfortable full range of motion
- A ground plate for access to transformational movement
Try the X3 Bar System for yourself, and you’ll see why it’s the only strength training equipment you need.
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