Flat Resistance Bands vs Tubes: How to Choose

By | September 5, 2023

At some point, you may have paused your workout for a moment to contemplate: Is the type of resistance band I’m using really the best for this exercise?

It’s rarely said, but true. While flat and tube-shaped resistance bands are pretty much swappable, one of these two types performs better in certain applications.

Flat and tube-shaped resistance bands are both incredibly popular and versatile.

Manufacturers use the term “resistance bands” to describe both types interchangeably. Don’t be fooled, however; there are meaningful differences between the two as well as pros and cons to consider.

Pros of Flat Resistance Bands

  • A key advantage of flat resistance bands is greater comfort in use. When you’ve got the band wrapped around a foot to do curls for example the pressure is evenly distributed. Since tubes are comparatively thin, the pressure is noticeable against your body which may be bothersome to some depending on the application.
  • It’s ideal for travel as flat bands can be folded and fit into tight spaces in suitcases. To top it off, they’re lighter than tubes.
  • Better for kids, older folks with weak joints, or simple rehabilitation exercises.
  • Could be the best choice for specific exercises associated with Pilates and yoga in which increasing one’s strength is not the key motivating factor for exercise.

Cons of Flat Resistance Bands

  • They are much more likely to snap! After a certain amount of use, latex resistances will fail so it’s best to anticipate it, and have backups on hand. In addition, you can’t stretch flat resistance bands as aggressively as tubes as this will also lead to it snapping. Luckily, when it does happen it doesn’t feel like a dangerous event as it does with tubes!
  • While kits are available with several flat bands with varying resistance ratings (x-light, light, medium, heavy, x-heavy), there aren’t as many choices as with resistance tubes. The strongest flat band cannot match the strongest resistance tube.
  • They’re not quite as versatile as tube resistance bands because you can’t perform exercises that require a door attachment.

Pros of Resistance Tubes

  • Resistance tubes are resilient and generally last significantly longer than flat resistance bands. Bodylastics in particular feature “snap guard” which is an inner core that prevents you from over-stretching the band.
  • Tubes offer more choices in terms of resistance for different applications (ex. 3 lbs, 5 lbs, 8 lbs, 13 lbs, 19 lbs, 30 lbs).
  • For serious athletes and strong individuals, tubes are better for heavier exercises. Fans of programs on the more intense side such as P90X, P90X3, and FOCUS T25 will prefer to stick with tubes.
  • Key exercises such as standing chest press and standing back row require a door anchor. And it’s only available with tube bands.
  • Kits tend to get more extensive with as many as 31 pieces included with the Bodylastics Mega Resistance Bands set. Door anchors, handles, ankle straps and even carrying cases are included in any decent set.

Cons of Resistance Tubes

  • These may cause mild discomfort and temporary red marks from the tube pressing against your body as the pressure is concentrated into a much thinner area than with flat bands.
  • You wouldn’t want to be doing an exercise with a door attachment when a resistance tube snaps and have it shoot back at you. Yes, tubes are stronger and less prone to breaking but if it happens it could cause minor injury. Stay away from cheap resistance tubes and knockoffs. Don’t stretch a band without a “snap guard” core beyond what seems reasonable and you’ll be fine.
  • Not as portable as flat resistance bands.

workout-prepResistance Band Materials

One of the key differences between resistance bands is the materials they’re made from

  • Resistance band tubes are made of latex or rubber compound.
  • Tube bands have unattachable and re-attachable handles. They’re usually made of strong nylon fabric with plastic grips.
  • Their cousin, flat resistance bands, are commonly made from strips of latex or stretchy fabric.


Since resistance bands are so inexpensive this isn’t really a choice you even need to make. Your best option could be to have both types on hand for different situations.

Even if you’re a serious athlete who prefers the higher resistance ratings available in tubes, flat bands have their uses such as for travel.


Photo: nathaninsandiego