In this, we cover the following:
We’ve talked about this in a previous post - 5 Types of Resistance Bands and Which is Best - but just to sum it up, we strongly believe the best type of resistance band is the full body loop power resistance bands. Without a doubt.
They are the most versatile as you can use them for warm up, workout and recovery. They are the most versatile of all the bands, as you can use them for everything you can use the other bands for plus much more.
This is also something that we’ve gone over in a previous post so you can read about the following in more detail if you’d like - Top 7 Benefits of Power Resistance Bands.
We will use bullet points to express the main benefits of resistance bands:
Elasticity vs Gravity
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 elasticity force can be useful over gravitational force is if you can’t lie down on a bench. 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. With bands, you can train a chest press 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).
Other Advantages of Resistance Bands over Free Weights
There are more advantages of resistance bands when comparing them to free weights, such as:
THAT BEING SAID…
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 are on the road 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 tools, 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 and will build muscle if used correctly. Similarly, there is no better exercise for HIIT than the burpee or kettlebell swings.
BUT Again, resistance bands and your bodyweight are enough to get into great shape, and there are many people out there who do so.
What are your GOALS?
If you want a calisthenics type body, then bands are all you need even more so. if you want a bodybuilder body, consider using other tools along with your bands.
Here are the typical sizes of heavy duty power resistance bands (the color is according to the brand that sells the bands. So the colors below are for us, but the actual sizes/dimensions and pounds of resistance work for any band of the same size and of the same high-quality layering.
SIZES & Free Weight Conversion:
#1 Yellow- 5 to 30 pounds of resistance (1/2” - 41" x 0.5" x 0.18")
#2 Black - 20 to 55 pounds of resistance (7/8" - 41" x 0.85" x 0.18")
#3 Blue- 35 to 70 pounds of resistance (1 1/4" - 41" x 1.25" x 0.18")
#4 Green - 45 to 115 pounds of resistance (1 3/4" - 41" x 1.75" x 0.18")
#5 Gray - 60 to 170 pounds of resistance (2 1/2" - 41" x 2.5" x 0.18")
Our bands are made from all natural Malaysian latex and we use a continuous layering process that helps to prevent any type of breakage or tearing. Our bands have a long life thanks to this technique. Moreover, because of the high quality latex and manufacturing process that we use, our resistance bands can stretch up to 2 ½ times their original length.
Yellow Band (Lowest resistance)
Now, finally, to the question you came here for...
What size resistance band should you get?
How to determine what size or sizes of resistance bands you should buy?
Well, the answer can be simple, but really, it depends on how you plan to use the resistance bands.
Ideally, and at most, you would want a pair of each of the 5 sizes of bands above. Then you could do literally everything we mentioned above in the benefits/uses sections.
If you don’t want to splurge on 2 sets of 5 bands, then you get 2 sets of 3 bands. You can manage the same exact implementations with the set of 3 bands, you just wont have the same amount of total resistance.
If you don’t want 2 sets, you don’t need that either. You could settle for one set. The only thing is, you will be limited a bit on the “combination with freight weights” stuff. Besides that, you will be able to do everything you could think of with a set of 3 or 5 bands.
Most Versatile & Affordable Option - SET OF 3 Bands
Only want to buy one band?
Now, if you only want one band, which many people do, it will depend on your use for which one to buy. It will also depend on your current conditioning level and how big (or small) you are.
We will do our best to answer the following...
What size band for:
When it comes to stretching with resistance bands, the best resistance band sizes are the two smaller ones (yellow and black - 1/2” and 7/8”). The blue band could be useful 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.
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, the blue band will be best. For shoulders, some mobility exercises will be best with the black or blue band, but some mobility exercises that require movement - more of a dynamic mobility exercise - the yellow band is the safest and best option.
If you want an alternative to free weights for full body muscle building and strength training, a set of bands will do the job. It would be best to get a Set of 5 bands for this, but our Set of the 3 smallest bands (Yellow, Black, and Blue) would offer plenty resistance for most people.
So for this, let’s say a SET of 3 bands - Yellow, Black, and Blue - is best.
They will allow you to target each muscle group effectively.
Which resistance band is best for arms?
For arms, the yellow and black resistance band will be the best. This includes shoulders, biceps, triceps and forearms.
Which resistance band is best for chest?
For chest, all three sizes will be useful. The yellow will allow you to be more explosive when doing resisted push ups. The black and blue will be great as an alternative to DB chest press, and you can do this by anchoring the band or simply wrapping the band around your back.
Which resistance band is best for back?
For your back, you can do all the variations of rows and the best size of the three would be the blue band for an average person. To make it harder, all you need to do is create more tension by wrapping the band differently, providing more tension from the starting position.
Which resistance band is best for legs?
This really depends on the type of exercise you do. If you are doing a compound movement like a Thruster, a smaller band will be challenging enough at high reps. If you want to do a form of squats, where you wrap the band around the back of your neck, just above your traps, and stand on the bottom of the band, then the blue band is good. If you have a set of 5, you can work up to the green and gray band as well for this type of exercise. The same applies to deadlifts with bands.
All in all, a Set of 5 bands is best, as you can technically get up to 170 pounds of resistance, and with this, you can grow muscles and stronger. But a Set of 3 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 without doing tons of reps. But, bands will challenge your muscles differently, and bands are said to grow tighter, denser muscles. 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.
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.
Yellow band - the yellow band is going to be for someone who can do a decent amount of pull ups without any assistance, but they want to get more reps in and work on getting a longer range of motion in their pull ups. The same applies to dip assistance. Moreover, if you are doing an intense workout and ending your workout with some pull ups or dips, this size band will be helpful even if you are in good condition. The yellow band is also helpful for someone who almost has the muscle up down but you’re not quite there yet. It will give the extra boost needed to perform the muscle up.
Black band - the black band will be good for someone who can do a few pull ups and wants to be able to get around 10-12 reps in. The black band is also good for someone who is working on their muscle up.
Blue band - the blue band is probably the best band for someone who can do about one good pull up. This is the band we usually start people with who are new to fitness and just learning how to do a pull up. It will give you enough assistance to teach you proper form, and it will also be challenging.
Green band - The green band is similar to the blue band, but with a little more assistance. It will be better for someone who is a little heavier but of the same strength as someone who uses the blue band.
Gray band - The gray band is the ideal band for someone who is overweight. It will offer A LOT of assistance. That being said, it is quite difficult to set up as you need the strength to pull the band into place so can set your foot (or feet) in the loop. Likely you will need someone to help you by having them pull the band down to feet level, so you can place your foot in it.
Based on the above, you can choose a band that suits you. That being said, we have an important tip for you to consider.
TIP FOR BUYING PULL UP ASSIST BANDS
If you get a set of 3 bands - yellow, black and blue 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 gray band. 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. So, if you are thinking of getting a green or gray, then get the set of 3 resistance bands. if you are thinking to get the blue band, you can get the yellow and black instead.
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 yellow bands or black bands 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. With more tension, you will calculate the added resistance at the high end of the range - so for the yellow it would be around 30LB each side and the black band around 55LB.
For more advanced lifters, you can use a blue band and you will likely quickly work up to a green band, and for those who are very strong and understand how to properly set up the bands for these kinds of lifts, the gray band.
Read about the benefits, purpose and how to use bands during strength training and bodybuilding with free weights and leg press machine - Strength Training 101 - How to use resistance bands for quick gains.
Stability Training using Bands During Barbell Lifts.
Also, you can use them for stability purposes if you have two by tying two 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.
A yellow band or black band is all you need for this. A black is best as the weight attached to the band will not pull the band all the way to the ground. Although a yellow will work as long as you wrap it around the bar enough.
Check out this article for how we do stability exercises using bands on Chest Day - 4 chest exercises with bands
If you want to do explosive exercises like banded sprints and bear crawls, the blue and green band is best.
For explosive exercises like banded box jumps, the yellow or black band will be better.
For seniors, the yellow band will be best. You’d be able to get a full body workout in with the yellow band and it will be challenging even for larger muscle groups so long as you keep your muscles engaged throughout the movement.
If you are a senior, definitely start with a yellow band, if you are feeling advantageous, you can get a yellow and black band.
For physical therapy, the yellow band is also 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.
Check out these two articles to see how we use the yellow band to strengthen our rotator cuffs and knees.
So 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.
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