Latex versus fabric resistance bands: Which are the best for building strength?

If you haven’t got room at home for bulky weights, should you go for latex or fabric resistance bands?

Resistance bands
(Image credit: Getty)

Think you always need an assortment of dumbbells and kettlebells to build strength? Think again. Nope, we’re not talking bodyweight exercises - which may make for a very decent home workout, but won’t challenge you to the max. If you’re keen to sculpt tone and carve muscle from the comfort of your own home, resistance bands are a highly effective, convenient and affordable solution used by the likes of Candice Swanepoel, Ashley Graham and Shay Mitchell...

What are resistance bands?

They’re a huge, thick elastic band that you place around areas of your body to work them harder so that you build strength. Like any weights, they function by providing an external resistance that your muscles have to work against.

“There are two types - fabric and latex - and both work by helping you maintain a consistent level of tension,” says David Wiener, training specialist at fitness app Freeletics. ”They allow people to perform resistance-based strength training workouts without the need for free weights.”

Indeed, common resistance band exercises which incorporate them include a squat with the band wrapped around the lower thigh, or a bicep curl with the band tucked under the feet. However, it’s their ability to carve a peachy behind that has boosted their profile and spawned hundreds of related YouTube workouts.

The best bit is that - unlike free weights - you can swiftly roll up your resistance band and store it away easily. Similarly, they're highly portable so you can throw one in your handbag and take it to the park (and perhaps on holiday…) And you’ll get a lot of change from a tenner. So no excuses...

What is the difference between a latex versus fabric resistance band?

Latex resistance bands are - of course - made from latex. “They are the most popular type”, says Wiener. “They usually come in a pack of three to five with each one providing various levels of tension - from extra light to extra heavy - allowing you to do a variety of exercises at different resistance levels.”

Similarly, fabric resistance bands are made from a very strong material. “They are normally sold separately, and come in three levels - light, medium and heavy,” adds Wiener.

Resistance bands

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is a latex or fabric resistance band better for building strength?

The latex resistance band is a firm favourite of Jay Wall, a PT specialising in HIIT (lifethefitnesscompany.co.uk). “It’s able to be used in almost the same way a standard weight can be used because we are able to mirror the movement whilst using the resistance band with the added bonus of it being in a more joint-friendly position,” he explains.

Katie Anderson, head of training at FLY LDN (flyldn.co.uk) agrees: “Latex bands are great for exercises with a bigger range of movement. For example, lower body exercises like donkey kicks, lateral leg lifts and more ballet-inspired movements, like first and second pliés, and upper body exercises including bicep curls, rows and chest openers.”

However, they aren’t without their downsides. First, you’ll need to wear leggings. “They can be uncomfortable as latex can cling to the skin,” notes Wiener. What’s more, it isn’t a long-lasting material. Anderson explains: “Over time, the resistance on the bands can decrease, and they may also snap after lots of usage.”

Fabric bands also have their pros and cons, depending on your goal. “They are much stronger than latex bands, adding a great amount of resistance when performing leg exercises - such as squats, hip thrust and lunges,” reveals Wiener. “They are also a lot more comfortable and have a built-in grip which ensures they do not go anywhere when you are working out.”

Anderson adds that as well as being “really good for helping maintain and stabilise certain positions, they usually last longer” - making the fact they tend to be more expensive a bit more worthwhile.

“However, fabric bands are not as versatile as they can’t be used for upper and lower body workouts because of the lack of stretch in the fabric,” points out Wiener. Anderson agrees: “The different resistances aren't always accurate. With some of the ‘heavy’ bands, you can hardly pulse against them as you have little range of movement. Some of the "light" bands can be too big and fall off the leg.”