Do resistance bands work? We asked the experts

We're big fans of exercise bands but even we have to ask: do resistance bands work to tone muscle and build mass?

do resistance bands work?
(Image credit: Getty)

Resistance band training is becoming more and more popular in the gym—but do resistance bands work, really? We’re here to answer the big Q.

In short, yes, incorporating the best resistance bands for women into your workout routine will work. Once only found in physio rooms and in the storeroom of your local health center, more and more gyms are now bringing them out and seeing the benefits and the versatility of them.

Resistance bands have especially become popular since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, due to the very simple reason that they take up little to no storage space and are an easily accessible way to work out from home. 

The exercise bands come in two styles: one is a tub style, and the second a flat band style. If you’re just starting out, Barry Ash—a personal trainer and health and wellbeing coach, who also runs Rock Solid Health—suggests starting with the tube style, as they come with all of the attachments you need and have a handle, which is kinder to your hands.  

Here's everything you need to know about working out with the trendy exercise bands, so you'll never again need to wonder: "do resistance bands work?"

Do resistance bands work to build muscle? 

Yes, resistance bands do build muscle. Though free weights, like the best dumbbells for women, have always been the go-to for muscle-building, resistance bands can be equally effective at building both strength and muscle mass. 

Resistance bands help you to build muscle by recruiting stabilizing muscle groups, and providing extra intensity to other body-weight exercises. They also help you to focus your body on control, flexibility, and even rehabilitation. 

Barry Ash says: "There are two ways to use resistance bands. The first is unanchored exercises. This is where we use your own body to create a fixed point. You would stand on the band and hold the ends to perform the movement, which is great because you can train anywhere you like, at home, in the garden down the beach or in the park."

"The second way is anchored exercises," says Ash. "With these you will need a separate piece of equipment called a door anchor or a hooped attachment—basically these attachments allow the band to be anchored to doors, trees or anything that is strong enough to hold the resistance. This enables you to increase the variety of exercises you are able to change the angles you are training at to change the intensity that you are training at."

There are many benefits to using resistance bands, Ash says: "They are cheap, they don’t take up any space, and the options you have when it comes to your training are endless."

Do resistance bands work better than weights?

Honestly, it’s down to personal preference, especially as every body is different—but in general, resistance bands are just what the body needs in terms of changing and adapting. 

Barry Ash tells My Imperfect Life: "Resistance bands are made from latex or synthetic rubber and come in the two styles, and a variety of sizes, lengths and resistance strengths. What you can do with them is only limited by your imagination."

"They work very similarly to conventional weights such as dumbbells, barbells and your body weight, with one exception: the weight curve is different," explains Ash. "When you lift conventional weights, the weight curve changes as you move through the movement you are performing. Its resistance changes from light to heavy to light, depending on where the weight is in relation to your body."

With resistance bands, however, the tension just gets progressively heavier as the bands get stretched. "This is why I love bands, says Ash. "With just one band, you can change the amount of resistance you put onto your muscles by just changing the length of the band. And this is the right stimulus we need for our bodies to adapt and change."

Both weights and resistance bands are great for building up your strength—and gaining a bunch of muscle along the way—but resistance bands help you to do this more steadily, and you are at less risk of being in any pain or experiencing an injury with them. 

Used in addition to free weight training, resistance bands might just be that one form of exercise to build up muscle that actually feels like a breeze—while also being something less expensive and taking up less space, if it’s a workout you want to do at home instead of down at the gym. 

Hattie Gladwell is a freelance journalist who has written for, Cosmopolitan UK, LADBible, Grazia UK, The Independent, The Debrief and The Mighty. She is also a mental health advocate, and uses her Twitter following to raise awareness of mental illness.