Resistance Bands vs. Tubes: What’s the Difference?


by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Resistance bands and tubes have become popular workout accessories due to their versatility, effectiveness, and affordability compared to traditional gym equipment. They vary in size, shape, and materials. They have become a staple in commercial gyms, CrossFit boxes, and among fitness enthusiasts.

However, it’s essential to recognize that not all resistance bands are equal in terms of utility, effectiveness, and quality.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper and discuss the distinctions between resistance bands and resistance tubes, providing recommendations on the better option for your fitness needs. Despite both being made from rubber, these two workout accessories differ significantly in their design, use cases, and marketing.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before engaging in any exercise program.

What are Resistance Bands?

Resistance bands are elastic bands with different resistance levels shown by colors. They’re lightweight, portable, and perfect for home or travel workouts.

To make them more versatile, you can add handles and a door attachment, expanding the range of exercises, which is handy for home workouts with limited equipment.

Pros of resistance bands:

  • Max resistance with a wider range

Resistance bands provide a diverse range of resistance levels, promoting various fitness levels. Users can easily progress from light to heavy resistance as they get stronger. Higher-end models often offer maximum resistance, making them suitable for individuals seeking intense workouts or advanced strength training.

  • Versatile uses and easy attachment to gym equipment

These bands offer exercise versatility, allowing users to target different muscle groups. Resistance bands can adapt to various workout routines, whether for strength training, flexibility, or rehabilitation. Moreover, they can be effortlessly attached to gym equipment, enhancing their usability and expanding the range of exercises possible.

  • Durability in higher-end models due to latex layering

Premium resistance bands often feature latex layering that contributes to their durability. This layering enhances the band’s ability to withstand repeated stretching and extensive use. Investing in higher-end models ensures longevity, making them a reliable and cost-effective choice in the long run.

  • Flat design for portability and storage

The flat design of resistance bands makes them highly portable and easy to store. Unlike bulkier workout equipment, these bands can be conveniently carried in a gym bag or stored in a small space at home. Their flat shape adds to their practicality, making them an excellent choice for those who prioritize convenience in their fitness routines.

Cons of resistance bands:

  • Attaching handles to resistance bands can be challenging
  • Handles often come with additional costs
  • Poor grip

What are Resistance Tubes?

Resistance tubes, often referred to as cords, are flexible tubes with handles on either end. These handles provide a comfortable grip, promoting various exercises targeting different muscle groups. The tube’s thickness and quality determine the resistance level, allowing for customized workouts.

Pro of resistance tubes:

  • Great for strength and hypertrophy

Resistance tubes are great at building muscle and strength by providing continuous tension throughout exercises. This approach challenges muscles across the entire range of motion and emphasizes heavier loads where movements are easiest.

  • Cost-effective

Resistance tubes are budget-friendly, typically priced between $30 and $50, complete with handles and a door mount. In comparison, resistance bands cost around double the price. While resistance bands may have a higher upfront cost, their superior durability makes them a more economical choice in the long run.

  • Better portability

Like resistance bands, tubes are lightweight, compact, and easily transportable. Their portable design ensures convenience, enabling users to easily incorporate them seamlessly into home workouts, carry them while traveling, or engage in outdoor exercise sessions.

  • Versatility

Many resistance tube sets include interchangeable handles, ankle cuffs, or door anchors, expanding exercise possibilities. This versatility allows for a diverse range of workouts targeting various muscle groups.

Cons of resistance tube:

  • Resistance tubes have a confined resistance range compared to flat bands
  • Most tubes lack sufficient resistance for heavier lifting
  • Attaching tubes to gym equipment can be challenging

Which One is Right for You?

Choosing resistance bands over tubes would be the wiser choice due to better quality, increased rubber content, higher resistance, and overall durability. Despite the initial appeal of lower prices with tubes, the risk of breakage during use often leads users to reconsider their value.

Many individuals eventually switch to resistance bands, emphasizing a more sustainable and valuable investment. It’s essential to note that both options may experience breakage, and user experiences can vary.

Are They as Effective as Weights?

Resistance bands offer a practical and budget-friendly approach to exercising, either independently or as a supplement to traditional gym equipment and weights.

It’s important to know that both resistance and weights serve distinct purposes, and their effectiveness often lies in using them in conjunction rather than comparing them as superior or inferior to one another.