Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Flat Resistance Bands vs. Resistance Tubes ?

I have only ever used resistance tubes, so I was surprised to discover that there were flat versions as well, and not just flat but wide as well as narrow ones. This piqued my curiosity and I decided to investigate the subject. This article is the result of my research. 
   As a general rule, both types of band have pretty much the same function and are used for essentially the same things: They are both used to perform resistance and flexibility exercises in fitness and rehabilitative contexts, as they have been since the early 20th century. That being said, there are differences between the two, which are discussed in some detail below:

Flat Resistance Bands

Flat Resistance Bands range from about 1€ to more than 5 €wide and come strips of latex ranging from a few inches in length to over 5 feet long depending on the brand and the system. The wider bands are highly malleable, especially thinner, lighter ones. They come in closed loops or open strips of latex and are frequently the band of choice for Pilates exercises and for therapeutic applications, although they are not the only type of band used in those contexts. At the other end of the spectrum some manufacturers offer narrow flat band systems such as the 4€ wide looped bands offered by RTB, or the open ended 1€ wide and 6€ long flat band system by Dura-Band (99.99% latex-free), which is manufactured using a layering process.

Some users prefer the greater comfort and stability flat bands. Wide bands especially wrap more easily and more comfortably around the torso, limbs and feet when the body is being used as an anchor. Although handles may be available as accessories for these wider bands they are not necessary in many cases because they compress easily in the hand for a good grip with minimal slippage. This makes them uncomplicated to use and easy to store or transport.

Narrower bands fall s somewhere in between when it comes to comfort.. The narrower and thicker they are, the more they resemble tubes in this respect, however, all flat bands offer some degree of stability over their cylindrical counterparts: They don't roll and they tend to €grab€ on to surfaces better. 


Different Resistance Tubes are made using varying qualities of latex and manufacturing processes. It is important to consider the manufacturing process because cheaper tubes are not only made from inferior latex products but they are extruded in a single layer, making them less resistant than their high-quality counterparts. In addition the quality of the accessories and attachment mechanisms is generally commensurate with the quality of the band: a cheaper band usually means cheaper, more fragile components. Proponents of flat bands cite these weaknesses as further arguments against the use of tube bands, and with reason. The argument, however, is less convincing with high-end tubes.

The best quality tubes are made using a continuous dipping technology that deposits liquid latex in layers, each bonding to the next and creating a super strong and tear and puncture resistant tube. All tubes are hollow but the multi-layered versions have extremely thick walls layered in concentric circles around a hollow center of narrow diameter. Brands that offer multi-layered solutions include Elastitone, Bodylastics and Lifeline.

Anti-snap technology such as external sleeves (Elastitone) or woven chords at the center of the tubes (like Bodylastics' DGS technology) add another layer of safety, comfort and durability to the best tubes. At this level the argument that flat bands are superior because they are made of a solid, not hollow, material is rendered somewhat moot. Latex or other elastic material, if stretched beyond reason will snap eventually. The point is that no band, flat or tubular, should ever break with proper use and care. 

Depending on your personal strength and your intended use of the product you may do just fine with an extruded, single-layer product but in that case make sure you do your research and don't go for the cheapest option.

Like flat bands, tubes come in open-ended and looped but the systems are more mixed and matched and there are other options which I have not seen with bands:

Common types of resistance tubes:
Closed Loops
X-shaped Linear
Specialty Tubes padded for specific use ( ex: such as the c-band loop by Lifeline which comes with cushioned grips and a door attachment and works, according to lifeline, in all three planes of motion and can be used by individuals or in team based exercises )

Resistance Levels:

Although there is no standard color coding system both types of band ( flat or tubular) are generally color coded according to resistance level. The color code might be stated in relative terms (light, medium, heavy, extra heavy etc.) but good bands also come with corresponding weight equivalents. Keep in mind that that not all weight equivalents were created equal. If you really want to get a sense of a free-weight equivalent you might be disappointed. The problem is that manufacturers don't necessarily employ the same methods. That being said, good brands make take pains to provide accurate equivalents and provide information about how they arrived at their results. You will need to compare methods and decide for yourself ( these usually involve measuring resistance at some point of extension).


As a general rule there are more accessories for tubular bands. This probably stems from the fact that tubes can really be uncomfortable to use without some basic accessories like handles and padding. From there, additional more specialized accessories would have developed naturally. Moreover, it is also no doubt easier to attach accessories to narrower tubes than wide bands. These arguments are borne out by the fact that among flat bands it is the narrow systems, which share both some of the concerns and advantages of their tubular cousins, that seem to offer more comprehensive accessory lines. These can usually be purchased after the fact or as part of special kits put together by the manufacturer. Kits include a selection of bands and some accessories. The more comprehensive the kit the more expensive it is. There are beginner to advanced kits and sometimes sports-specific or other specialized packages are also available.

Accessories might include: handles; padding; wrist and ankle cuffs; waist, door, sports-specific and/or other attachments.

Some tubes like the Bodylastics system come with built in clips for quick changes between exercises. Another advantage with this high quality system is that several tubes can be attached in different combinations to achieve different levels of resistance. The new Dura-Band system made up of flat narrow bands also uses an innovative clip system and offers a number of accessories (for those with allergy concerns, this band has the advantage of also being virtually latex-free).


Latex sensitivity is a dangerous often life-threatening allergy for many people. Latex free tubing is available from some manufacturers but by and large your options are pretty limited. You may find more options with Flat Resistance Bands. Although I have not used it myself the Dura-Band system may be an excellent alternative as it shares many qualities with both flat bands and tubes and claims to be 99.998% latex free.

My own conclusion in the final analysis is that choosing between flat bands or tubes is a matter of personal preference. If you are looking for a super light weight uncomplicated comfortable solution to supplement your fitness routine, Pilates training or add some variety to your weight training, you might choose the wide flat bands ( ex: Thera-Band, Ailyo, etc). If you want a comprehensive, stand-alone system, to engage in sports-specific exercises, or you simply like to work with as many options as possible 

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