The Benefits of Resistance Band Training

Are Resistance Band Workouts As Effective As Using Dumbbells? We’ve Got the Definitive Answer

Here’s how to use these tools to effectively exercise.

By Team PelotonUpdated July 31, 2023


If you’re ready to progress from bodyweight workouts, or simply craving a different type of strength training challenge, step into the world of resistance band training, where the training method of time under tension takes center stage.

Resistance band workouts make your muscles stronger in multiple planes of motion and build muscular endurance by spending time under tension. They’re an effective complement to the hard work you put in during your cardio workouts (like cycling or running) Plus, you’ll come out on the other side feeling unstoppable.

But what does this training entail, exactly, and most importantly: How effective are resistance band workouts? We asked Peloton instructors Hannah Corbin and Andy Speer to share what they love about resistance band training. Plus, we break down the science around how these bands build muscle with resistance and offer tips for resistance band training at all levels.

What Is Resistance Band Training?

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A resistance band is a simple apparatus: a rubber tube with looped handles attached to either end, available in varying degrees of tension. Almost any exercise you can do with a dumbbell you can do with a resistance band—you just need a little know-how. 

Some people confuse resistance bands with similar types of fitness equipment, such as power resistance tubes, loop bands, or therapy bands, so let’s break those down quickly.

  • Power resistance bands are long loops (generally 40 inches or so) that don’t have any handles (since they’re a continuous circle). 

  • Loop bands are similar to power resistance bands but much smaller. You’ll often use one by slipping the band around your hips, thighs, or ankles.

  • Therapy bands are stretchy, long bands without any handles. They’re typically lighter in resistance and are most often used for physical therapy or deep stretching. 

Now that you know what resistance bands are, let’s get into how they work. 

“Resistance bands use oppositional force to train your muscles instead of weight, and you can alter how intense of a workout you get by either choosing a band with more resistance or moving where you hold on the band to create more resistance yourself,” says Hannah. 

The higher the resistance is, the more effort you’ll need to put in—just like picking up a heavier dumbbell.

How Effective Are Resistance Band Workouts?

In a word: very. One meta-analysis of eight studies showed that resistance band workouts are just as effective (if not more so) than conventional resistance band training with free weights or weight machines. 

As the authors put it, “Elastic resistance training is able to promote similar strength gains to conventional resistance training, in different population profiles and using diverse protocols.” 

Translation? Resistance band workouts are just as effective as dumbbell workouts, and they work for a broader population set. 

Benefits of Resistance Band Training

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Wondering why you’d swap dumbbells for bands? Here’s what scientific studies have to say about the benefits of resistance band training.

Challenges Muscles With a Full Range of Motion

As studies have shown, one of the biggest advantages of resistance band training is that you’ll work your muscles through your full range of motion, giving you an even better full body workout. 

Think about a time you’ve done a biceps curl with a regular dumbbell. At some point during the motion (probably at the top or the bottom), you’re able to take a little break and relax your muscles. Not the case with resistance band training, which increases your time spent under tension by providing resistance during the eccentric (aka the lengthening) part of the rep. That way, you’re able to challenge yourself during a full range of motion. 

This particular benefit makes resistance bands helpful in physical therapy, when your goals are often to improve functionality in a full range of motion and to correct muscle imbalances.

Trains Endurance with Accommodating Resistance

Do resistance bands build muscle? Heck yes — and it’s all thanks to a concept known as accommodating resistance. Accommodating resistance just means the resistance grows heavier as you get to the top of your range of motion, so you have to use more force to finish out each rep. 

Try it yourself: Pick up a resistance band and notice how it becomes heavier as you pull it taut, challenging you to maintain the speed and power with which you execute a movement through its complete range of motion.

For cycling lovers, you’ll be happy to know that this principle makes you a stronger cyclist. “[Accommodating resistance] trains muscular endurance, a quality challenged in classes like Jess King's Sweat Steady rides, where it feels like you never get a break until it's over!” says Andy. And for runners, Andy notes that “another huge benefit of resistance band training is the ability to focus on upper back and postural muscles...endurance runners especially need to maintain strong posture during long runs.”

Creates Resistance in Different Planes of Motion

Training with dumbbells or weight machines at the gym may lock you into a strict movement pattern. Weight machines only let you move in prescribed directions, and while you can move freely with dumbbells, safety is often a concern (especially as you start to lift heavier). 

But unlike running or cycling where you’re fixed in one plane of motion, “bands allow pull or resistance from any one can create horizontal and diagonal lines of resistance,” says Andy. Building strength in this way is important for both injury prevention and maintaining multi-directional stability and mobility. 

With resistance bands, you can move in nearly any direction you want, offering you total freedom while training. This is especially helpful if you want to train for specific functions or sports (think: lifting a heavy box up and across your body, or practicing swinging a tennis racquet).

Easily Adapted for Different Levels

Trainers love resistance bands because they easily adapt to different fitness populations. For example, strength training beginners can level up from bodyweight exercises to adding a light resistance band. 

One study showed that among participants with a weight loss goal, resistance bands may be more effective than free weights and bodyweight exercises. Other studies have found that elderly people with joint issues (such as arthritis) can benefit from resistance band training as a way to build strength and reduce pain. Truly anyone can use resistance bands—and that’s the beauty of them!

Convenience and Affordability

Resistance bands are also a compelling complement to traditional dumbbell strength training, and can sometimes serve as a straight-up alternative to dumbbell lifting. Why? “Convenience!” says Andy. “You can take bands outside, on the road and store them anywhere. Perfect for use with the Peloton App when you're outside or traveling,” he continues.

You can pack and transport a full set of resistance bands in a backpack, offering tons of options for a variety of movements that free weights would struggle to replicate. They’re also much more cost-effective than buying individual dumbbells or joining a gym for access to full weight racks. (Ready to invest? Shop Peloton’s Resistance Bands, $70)

How to Use Resistance Bands

Whether you’re used to lifting with dumbbells or are new to strength training altogether, Andy and Hannah recommend keeping these things in mind. Here’s exactly how to use resistance bands.

  • Focus on the mind-muscle connection. Because the tension never fully lets up, resistance bands give your muscles constant feedback to help you adjust your form accordingly; you’ll be able to feel the work through your entire range-of-motion. As you train with resistance bands more often, you’ll become an expert at reading your body’s cues and recognizing the true extent of your strength.

  • Find the perfect resistance for you. If you need a heavier resistance, try doubling up on resistance bands or stepping your feet further apart to increase tension. Need a breather? Walk your feet in or adjust your stance to add slack to your bands.

  • Slow down your reps. If you really want to learn how effective resistance band workouts are, slow down. Slowing down each movement (especially during the eccentric, or lengthening, portion) will help you get the most out of your resistance band training.

  • Maintain tension. Say it with us now: time under tension. Try to keep the band taut throughout every part of the exercise, including at the top and the bottom. Try not to fully relax your muscles until your set is down.

  • Safety first. Check your bands for any cracks, tears, or imperfections before you start each workout; otherwise it may snap and cause an injury. Similarly, if you’re anchoring your resistance band for certain exercises (such as seated rows), make sure your anchor point is strong and secure (like a door that opens away from you).

Learn How to Use Resistance Bands with Peloton

Ready to find out for yourself how effective resistance band workouts are? You can find resistance band workouts on demand under “Strength” on the Peloton App.

To get an effective workout, learning proper form is key. “Just like you wouldn't jump on the Bike without knowing how to clip in, knowing how to properly hold and use your resistance bands will go a long way to giving you the chance to get the most out of your workout,” says Hannah.

“As always when learning a new training modality, don't rush, and focus on controlled movement in both the concentric and eccentric phase of the exercise,” says Andy. Resistance band training will challenge you to get moving in a way you may not have experienced before, and we know you’ll become stronger for it.


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