Exercise Tubing and Bands

Author: Richard Weil, M.Ed., CDE
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

You've probably seen them in the gym, advertised on TV, in exercise videos, or in fitness magazines. Rubber exercise tubing and bands are terrific alternatives to dumbbells and other resistance exercise equipment. They are inexpensive, portable, pack well for road trips, won't dent the floor or mash your toe if you drop them, and you can perform every dumbbell exercise with them and more. The difference between tubing and bands is that bands are flat sheets of thin elastic rubber, usually six to eight inches wide, and come with or without a handle, while tubing is round and almost always sold with handles. My experience is that tubing is easier to use because of the handles (a big plus), plus they tend to last longer than bands.

Do They Work?
No one has studied tubing or bands head-to-head against dumbbells or weight machines to see which is more effective for building strength, but most fitness professionals agree that you can gain strength using tubing and bands. That's because any activity that causes the muscles to contract against resistance will elicit a training response. In other words, you'd get stronger pushing, pulling, or lifting bottles of water, cinder blocks, dumbbells, or your own body weight. Tubing and bands are just another device to help you get the job done. Whether they are superior to dumbbells or weight machines is unknown, and so we'll have to wait for researchers to answer that question, but I think it's fair to say that you can get a training effect if you use them.