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May 18, 2019 7 Comments
Are you looking to buy resistance bands but you aren’t sure what size you should get?
We are about to discuss everything you need to know about resistance bands. That way, you know how to choose both the right type of resistance band and the right size(s).
This is without a doubt the most complete guide to buying resistance bands on the internet.
Table of Contents:
The best type of resistance band is the 41 inch loop resistance band.
They come in various sizes, typically ranging from .25 to 2.5 inches in width (all sizes are the same thickness and length).
Note: these 41 inch loop bands are also known as pull up assist bands, power resistance bands, or simply, loop resistance bands.
Without a doubt, it is the most versatile type of resistance band, as you can use them for warm up, workout and recovery, whereas other types of resistance bands have more tailored uses.
Here's a quick look at the different types of bands and their main uses:
For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on 41" loop resistance bands because they are the most common and desirable. Moreover, when people ask "what size resistance band should I buy", they are usually referring to these 41 inch loop bands because they have more options than other types of bands and they can usually be bought in individual sizes rather than strictly full sets like resistance tubes with handles.
The heavy duty loop resistance bands that are great for warming up, mobility, stretching, working out, and pull up assistance are 41 inches in length.
Again, no matter what size band it is (resistance level), they will all be 41 inches in length. The size/resistance level is determined by the width of the band.
41 inches is the ideal length for these types of bands, as it allows for such versatility. However, you can find similar loop bands in different lengths, such as shorter mini loop bands for lower body workouts OR longer loop resistance bands for athletic training (i.e. resisted sprints).
Below are the typical sizes of heavy duty 41" loop resistance bands.
Note: the resistance band dimensions in parentheses are length x width x height/thickness in inches.
Ideally, you want a full set of resistance bands, as every band is useful in different ways, so you can put them all to work. Some people even get two bands of the same size for exercises like banded barbell squats.
If money is not a concern, having all sizes of bands is great as there are so many ways you can pair bands of the same size together, both with free weights and bodyweight exercises.
That said, if you don’t want to buy a full set of 5 bands, then you get a set of 3 bands, which is also good, or even just a lighter band to start then buy more as you go.
If you get a set of 3 bands, you can combine them to get the resistance of all three added up.
So, combining these 3 bands will give you the same resistance as a band of the same width as the total of the three - 1/2” + 7/8” + 1 1/4” = 2 3/5”. Therefore you would have even more assistance than one of the biggest bands.
Plus, you can combine them in any fashion to meet your assistance needs. The best part is, as you get stronger, you can change the bands you use, remove bands, until you can do high reps without any bands.
If you only want to buy one band, or certain bands based on your specific fitness goal, your choice will depend on what you want to use the resistance band for and your current conditioning level and how strong you are.
We will do our best to help you determine which size resistance band is right for you by answering the following questions...
What size band for is best for:
When it comes to stretching with resistance bands, the best resistance band sizes are the two smaller ones (1/2” and 7/8”).
The next size up from those two could be useful as well, for certain stretches that require more tension.
That being said, you can work with the smaller sizes by wrapping them or grabbing them differently to get adequate tension for essentially every stretch.
Stretching with bands is great because it allows you to get a deeper stretch, and get into positions that you would otherwise have troubles with.
All of the band sizes can be useful for mobility, depending on which area of the body you are targeting.
You want a band that has enough tension so you can pull at your joint to create normalcy. This is called mobilization.
So for the hips, as it is a bigger joint, a bigger band will be best (i.e. 1 1/4" width).
All in all, typically the best resistance band for banded mobility exercises are 7/8"-1 1/2" bands.
If you want an alternative to free weights for full body muscle building and strength training, or losing weight and getting lean, a set of 41in loop resistance bands will do the job. This will allow you to target each muscle group effectively.
With a full set of bands, you get up to around 170 pounds of resistance, and with this, you can grow muscles and stronger. But a set of 3 smaller bands would be more than enough if you are a beginner to intermediate lifter.
All that being said, if you are an advanced lifter, or close to it, you really can’t replace free weights in terms of building muscle. Nevertheless, bands will challenge your muscles differently, which is what you want sometimes.
In any case, if you are an advanced lifter looking to take a break from free weights and get toned, then the set of 3 or 5 would be perfect for you too, plus you can use them for so many other things as well.
Best Resistance Band Sizes By Muscle Groups:
Note: To add resistance with any band, wrap the band differently so it has more tension from the starting position.
When it comes to pull up assistance, if you haven’t used bands yet, then it might be confusing for you to determine which size is best to start with, as the pounds of resistance ranges we listed are for free weight conversion (tension) so its hard to apply it to pull up assistance.
Nonetheless, we will try our best to help you decide which size is best for you. It shouldn’t be too difficult.
Based on the above, you can choose a band that suits you. That being said, we have an important tip for you to consider.
Related: Pull up progression guide
Are you looking to combine bands during lifts like bench, squat, deadlift, leg press, and military barbell press?
For combining resistance bands with free weights, like banded barbell squats, even if you are an advanced lifter, you should start light. It’s a completely different dynamic and even the yellow and black will challenge you. You can eventually move up when ready.
Note: You will have to use less free weights for this as you need to calculate the extra force from the band, on top of the weight on the bar or press machine.
For this, it’s best to have a pair of bands of each size you plan to use. As the set up is better when you have two bands.
So, if you are just starting out with combining resistance bands with free weights, a pair of a smaller size is best. Furthermore, you can increase the tension by wrapping the band more when setting up so there will be more tension from the start.
Also, you can use bands for stability training by tying a bands around each end of the barbell with kettlebells or plates attached to the bands. This will challenge your stability. You will have to go much lighter when starting out with this as the stability completely changes the game. One of the first 3 band sizes will be all you need for this unless you are using heavy plates for this kind of stability training.
If you want to do explosive exercises like banded sprints and bear crawls, the middle size bands are bestt.
For explosive exercises like banded box jumps, the lighter bands will be better.
For seniors, the lighter bands will be best. You’d be able to get a full body workout in with the 1/2" band and it will be challenging even for larger muscle groups so long as you keep your muscles engaged throughout the movement.
For physical therapy, the 1/4 and 1/2 inch bands will be the best option. It will give you the right resistance to strengthen your muscles, joints and tendons.
In fact, you don’t want any more tension for many physical therapy exercises, as they are not intended to build big muscle, but more so create normalcy in your joints and muscles.
All that said, if you are shopping for bands for physical therapy, then therapy bands might be a better choice for you.
We will use bullet points to express the main benefits of resistance bands:
This is also something that we’ve gone over in-depth in a previous post. So if you want to learn more about resistance band benefits, check this post out: 7 Benefits of Resistance Band Training.
To give you a better understanding of how resistance bands work, let's quickly discuss elastic tension (the kind of resistance cause by resistance band exercises) vs gravitational force (the kind of resistance caused by free weight exercises)...
When training with free weights like a dumbbell, the resistance is created by the force of gravitation. With resistance bands, the resistance is generated by elastic force. The more we stretch the band, the great the tension is. Thus, our muscles must generate force to overcome this elastic tension.
When using free weights the direction is always downward, yet with bands, we can create force in any direction by pushing or pulling the band in the opposite direction. This is why bands are especially great for the transverse plane. When using dumbbells, the weight will be pulling you down as you are rotating or resisting rotation. With bands, the force will be towards where the band is anchored. So, if it is anchored to the left or right of you, the force will be in that direction, which makes for perfect rotational or anti-rotational exercises.
Another example of how the elastic force can be useful over gravitational force is that you can position yourself however you want. With dumbbells, you will only be able to train your chest if you are laying on the bench (flat or inclined), as the force of gravity is downward. And to hit your back, you'd need to hinge and bend forward.
With bands, you can train your chest standing up straight by wrapping the band around your back and pressing forward horizontally (you can also tie the band to an anchor directly behind you to create more elastic force, which means more resistance).
There are more advantages of resistance bands when comparing to free weights, such as:
We don’t think of bands necessarily as an alternative, with the exception of the use of bands by beginners, children, seniors, or anyone with joint issues.
We think of bands as a supplemental training tool for your fitness arsenal. A good fitness program is one that is well-rounded, and we feel that bands are an essential tool, just like a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell is.
Nevertheless, if you only wanted to train with bands, as maybe your joints are painful, you travel all the time, or you like to workout outside and don’t want to deal with a bunch of equipment, you absolutely can achieve great fitness results from using bands only.
Bands are such a versatile tool that you can literally target every aspect of fitness and get into great shape with them. We just think that if you have the opportunity to use more kinds of equipment, that's ideal, as there are some fitness tools that are better for certain things. For example, there is no better way to build muscle mass than with free weights, even though resistance bands can build muscle if used correctly. Similarly, there are no better exercises for HIIT than explosive movements like burpees and sprints.
BUT again, working out with just resistance bands and your bodyweight is enough to get into great shape, and there are many people out there who do so.
Ask yourself what your goals are and what other kinds of equipment you will be using, as that will help you determine the best resistance bands to get.
All in all, when it comes down to what size resistance band is best to buy, It’s always best to buy multiple sizes as they offer you a wider range of uses. Plus, most bands are sold in sets and come at a cheaper price this way.
If you want to buy bands, check out our list of the best resistance bands on the market right now. We tested all of the best brands!
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