What is the Best Compact Workout Equipment?


Hands down, the best option for someone limited on space is a set of resistance exercise bands. For anyone wondering what is the best compact workout equipment to spend your money on, I would still recommend these before anything else. These were amongst the first few items I purchased when I first really started working out again at home and wanted to incorporate some resistance training. The great thing about these is the amount of space they take up is minuscule, so they’re great apartment sized exercise equipment or for home gyms with small spaces.

The nice thing about resistance bands is that when you’re done with them you can fold them them up and toss them into the small bag they usually ship with, making them the ultimate small workout room idea. This also makes them great for travel – when I was traveling to San Francisco a few years back about once every month, not once did I get flagged by the airlines for having these in my carry-on. If you don’t want to put them in a bag when you’re finished, resistance bands are small enough that you can just throw them into a corner of your room to get them out of the way.

 Super Heavy Resistance Bands Set by BodylasticsResistance Bands Set by Flexible Sport Review
 Super Heavy Resistance Bands Set by BodylasticsResistance Bands Set by Flexible Sport Review
Amazon Rating
Lowest Price$119.95Amazon See it$21.94Amazon See it
BrandsBodylasticsFlexible Sport
Typesresistance bandsresistance bands
Weight0.02 pounds
Product Dimensions17.1 x 10.3 x 10.3 inches0.067 x 0.078 x 4.6 inches
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Are resistance exercise bands effective?

If you’re new to using resistance bands for strength training, you may be skeptical about how effective they are when they’re compared to traditional dumbbells. You can buy these bands in resistances ranging from less than 10 lbs up to 90 and even 100 lbs. Additionally, you can combine bands together to create even more weight than what you might get out of a single band.

Practically speaking, what this means is if you have a 10, 20 and 30 lb resistance band, you can combine the 30 and 20 lb bands go get 50 lbs. All you have to do is attach both to the handle you’re using and you have 50 lbs of resistance. The way the manufacture does this is by creating slightly thicker bands for more resistance. My favorite bands are by Bodylastics  and have a total resistance of 404 lbs if you stack them like I just described, but you can also use these bands with as little as 3 lbs of resistance. They’re not the cheapest option you’re starting out, but if you’re the type who likes to buy something one time and be done with it this is the top of the option.

I purchased my first set of resistance bands because I was actually wanting something that could replace a pull-up bar. At the time, I was going through Beachbody’s Body Beast program and they recommended using resistance bands with a door anchor if you didn’t have a pull-up bar. I can’t find the exact set i purchased from Amazon 4-5 years ago, but this set by Pin Jian  is fairly close to my original purchase.

What is it that makes resistance bands the best compact workout equipment?

Any product that you can stick in a carry-on and lets you get in a full body workout automatically puts that product pretty high up on my list.

A good set of resistance bands will come with a door stop attachment that lets you use your door as an anchor so you can do various pressing and pulling movements. This effectively lets you do things like wide grip lat pulldowns, bent over rows and behind the back cable curls. Better resistance band kits will have ankle attachments so you can do various leg exercises like this video shows on Youtube. You can also do weighted curls because the door anchor can be attached to the bottom of your door. The Bodylastics kit even comes with two ‘anywhere’ anchors that gives you even more options for attaching your bands to various places other than your door.

Similarities between free-weights and resistance bands

A lot of people would assume flimsy resistance bands can’t possibly compare to a good set of dumbbells. However, research has shown that the peak load on muscles are similar whether you’re using bands or traditional weights. This mens the amount of muscle fiber activation and the amount of force generated is the same between the two types of resistance training.

Additionally, increases in muscle size and decreases in body fat are the same when people are following a training program using resistance bands or free weights.

[The references to these studies, for the more academically inclined, are provided in an article written by Jim Stoppani, PhD over at Bodylastics’ website.]

Differences between free-weights and resistance bands

Free weights need gravity to work. Because gravity is always pulling down towards the ground, your resistance is always pointed in the same direction. Resistance bands don’t have this problem since the door anchors allow you to provide resistance in different directions, even horizontally. A study from Louisiana State University (also linked in the article above) showed tennis players and baseball pitchers strengthened their shoulders more effectively with resistance bands than participants did with free weights.

As someone who’s torn their rotator cuff while playing basketball, I can tell you that nothing helped with this until I started doing cable/resistance band exercises to strengthen those muscles again.

Another key difference with elastic resistance bands is that free weights do not offer “linear variable resistance”. What this means is as you stretch the band more towards its extreme, the resistance provided by the band increases. For a bicep curl, as you bring your hand closer to your shoulder the resistance will increase. This is a good thing, because it means the number of muscle fibers engaged in the movement also increases. You simply don’t get this with free weights.

Different types of Resistance Bands

Resistance bands can be purchased at different price points, depending on your needs. If you’re looking for cheap home gym ideas, the Pin Jian set is a great value at roughly $40 on Amazon, but you can find sets for half the price if you poke around Amazon for a bit. Keep in mind you want something with handles and a door anchor, at a minimum. You can skip the chest and anchor accessories if you don’t need these, but you absolutely want something with those two accessories along with a few different resistances so you can stack them as you get stronger from whatever strength-training program you’re following.

My favorite is the Bodylastics set because of the sheer versatility, but it may be an overkill for a lot of people if you don’t need a couple hundred pounds of resistance in your workouts.

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