What Is the Difference in Colored Resistance Bands?

Man working out with resistance band

Resistance bands are a portable, less expensive alternative to other strength-training tools, such as free weights and machines. Available in a variety of tensions from very light to extremely heavy, resistance bands are color-coded to denote the level of tension. The Mayo Clinic website notes that darker bands generally provide more resistance than lighter bands. However, this is simply a guideline and does not always hold true. Each manufacturer color codes its bands differently so you should always check the levels for the brand you own.

Very Light Bands

Yellow is the most common color for bands that provide very light resistance, although some brands use tan or green for this resistance level. These bands provide very little tension, equal to only a few pounds of weight. Light tension bands are used for rehabilitation purposes and to work small, stabilizing muscles, such as the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder joints.

Light/Medium Bands

Light to medium tension bands are usually green or red in color, but some brands use green to denote a heavy resistance. Light and medium bands are appropriate for beginning exercisers or those who want to increase muscular endurance by doing high repetitions -- 15 or more -- with less weight. These bands are typically used to do isolation exercises for smaller muscle groups, such as pressdowns for the triceps, curls for the biceps or lateral raises for the shoulder muscles.

Heavy Bands

Heavy bands are often dark blue or green in color, but at least one brand has a light blue band that offers heavy resistance. Appropriate for beginner or advanced exercisers, heavy bands are used to work larger muscles, such as your hamstrings, quadriceps or chest muscles. Some exercises that may be appropriate for heavy bands are leg curls, leg extensions and chest presses.

Extra Heavy Bands

Black, blue, purple and silver bands typically offer extra heavy resistance. Some manufacturers break this category down even further into extra heavy, super heavy and ultra heavy. Ideal for more advanced exercisers wanting higher levels of resistance, these bands are used to do compound exercises that work more than one muscle group, such as squats, lunges and rows.


If you are not sure what tension a band is, observe the thickness of the band. The wider the band is, the more resistance it offers. If the rubber resistance equipment is in the form of a tube, the thicker the tube is, the more resistance it offers. Choose the appropriate tension based on your current fitness level and exercise goals. While one person may use a heavy band to do sets of eight-repetition chest presses, another person may only use a medium band, do 15 repetitions per set and still get enough resistance. As with any form of resistance, start light and gradually increase the resistance over time.