Mastering Bollinger Bands Strategy to Improve Your Trading

Jeremy BiberdorfBy: Jeremy Biberdorf

June 12, 2024June 12, 2024

Bollinger Bands are a highly regarded technical analysis tool developed by John Bollinger in the 1980s. They are used to measure market volatility and provide a relative definition of high and low prices. At their core, Bollinger Bands consist of a middle band, which is a simple moving average (SMA), flanked by an upper and lower band that are standard deviations away from the SMA.

The beauty of Bollinger Bands lies in their ability to adapt to changing market conditions, making them invaluable for traders who need dynamic tools that reflect current market psychology and volatility.

Tools like TradingView and TrendSpider are helpful platforms where traders can apply Bollinger Bands to their chart analysis, providing a visual representation that enhances decision-making.

How Bollinger Bands Work

Construction of Bollinger Bands

Bollinger Bands are typically set up with the middle band calculated as a 20-day simple moving average (SMA) of closing prices. The upper and lower bands are then calculated based on the standard deviation of the market prices from the SMA.

The standard setting for the bands is 2 standard deviations from the SMA. This setting can be adjusted based on the trader’s needs and the specific asset’s volatility:

  • Middle Band: 20-day simple moving average (SMA)
  • Upper Band: SMA + (2 x standard deviation)
  • Lower Band: SMA – (2 x standard deviation)

Interaction with Market Prices

The bands will expand and contract based on the volatility of the market. During periods of high volatility, the bands widen; during periods of low volatility, the bands narrow. This dynamic nature of Bollinger Bands makes them a versatile tool for identifying the strength of the price trend and potential volatility changes.

Discover other important trend indicators here, and volatility indicators here.

Bollinger Bands

Strategies for Using Bollinger Bands

Trend Following

Bollinger Bands can be effectively used to gauge the strength of trends. In a strong uptrend, prices tend to stay closer to the upper band, while in a strong downtrend, prices are near the lower band. Trading within the bands can indicate a robust trend, while consistently closing outside the bands might suggest a potential weakening or reversal.


Identifying potential tops and bottoms can be achieved when prices move outside the bands. If a price continually touches or moves outside the upper band and suddenly fails to reach the upper band, this can signal a reversal from an overbought condition.

Conversely, if the price touches or moves outside the lower band and then fails to reach it on subsequent tries, it may indicate a reversal from an oversold condition.

Breakouts and Breakdowns

A price moving outside the Bollinger Bands can indicate a breakout or breakdown. Traders might see a move above the upper band as a breakout signal, possibly starting a new uptrend. Similarly, a move below the lower band might signal a breakdown, potentially heralding a new downtrend.

Squeeze Plays

A “squeeze” occurs when the bands come very close together, constricting the moving average. This situation typically indicates that the market is very low in volatility, and is often considered a precursor to future increased volatility and potential breakout opportunities.

The strategies outlined provide a framework for using Bollinger Bands effectively across different market conditions. Integrating these strategies with other technical analysis tools can create a robust trading strategy that enhances accuracy and decision-making in trading.

Combining Bollinger Bands with Other Indicators

To maximize the efficacy of Bollinger Bands in swing trading, it’s beneficial to use them in conjunction with other technical analysis tools. This approach helps confirm trading signals and reduce the likelihood of false positives.

Combination with RSI (Relative Strength Index)

The RSI is a momentum oscillator that measures the speed and change of price movements. When Bollinger Bands are paired with RSI, traders can identify more reliable overbought or oversold conditions. For example, an overbought signal from RSI above 70 combined with prices touching or exceeding the upper Bollinger Band offers a strong sell signal.

Learn More About RSI

Integration with MACD (Moving Average Convergence Divergence)

MACD is excellent for confirming the momentum behind the trading signals identified by Bollinger Bands. When the MACD line crosses above its signal line while the price is near the lower Bollinger Band, it suggests a potential buy signal. Conversely, a MACD line crossing below the signal line while the price is near the upper Bollinger Band might indicate a selling opportunity.

Learn More About MACD

Synergy with Moving Averages

Adding moving averages to the Bollinger Bands setup can help in trend identification and confirmation. For instance, if the price is above a long-term moving average, such as the 50-day or 100-day SMA, and also remains close to the upper Bollinger Band, it underscores a strong uptrend.

Practical Trading Tips Using Bollinger Bands

Effective use of Bollinger Bands involves more than just recognizing the bands’ expansion or contraction. Here are some practical tips for integrating these indicators into a coherent trading plan:

  • Set Appropriate Stop-Loss Orders: To manage risk effectively, set stop-loss orders just outside the Bollinger Band opposite your trading direction. This can help protect against market reversals after entering a trade based on a band breakout.
  • Adjust Position Sizes: During periods of high volatility (when the bands are wide), consider reducing your position size to mitigate risk. Conversely, in times of low volatility (when the bands are narrow), you might increase your position size, given the lower perceived risk.
  • Use Timeframe Analysis: Apply Bollinger Bands across different timeframes to get a comprehensive view of market behavior. For instance, while you might use a 1-hour chart for entry and exit decisions, viewing a daily chart can provide insight into the broader trend.

Advanced Techniques and Considerations

While Bollinger Bands are straightforward to use, advanced traders can employ more sophisticated strategies to enhance their effectiveness:

  • Adaptive Bollinger Bands: Some traders adjust the standard deviation settings based on market conditions to make the bands more responsive to changes in volatility.
  • Limitations and Pitfalls: Be aware of the limitations of Bollinger Bands, especially during highly volatile market periods where prices can persistently hug or exceed the bands, leading to potential misinterpretations of standard signals.
  • Backtesting: Before fully integrating Bollinger Bands into your trading strategy, backtest your approach using historical data. This can help refine your strategy and adjust your parameters to suit your trading style and risk tolerance.

Key Takeaways About the Bollinger Bands Strategy

Bollinger Bands are a versatile and powerful tool that, when used correctly, can significantly enhance your trading effectiveness. They provide clear indicators of market volatility, trend direction, and potential price reversals, making them indispensable in a trader’s toolkit.

By combining Bollinger Bands with other technical analysis tools, adjusting trading strategies based on the bands’ signals, and remaining mindful of their limitations, traders can improve their ability to make informed trading decisions. Continuous learning and adaptation are key, as is the case with any trading strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Look for convergence of signals. For example, a buy signal is stronger when both Bollinger Bands and MACD indicate a bullish reversal at the same time.

Both platforms offer easy setup options for Bollinger Bands, typically found in the indicator menu where you can select Bollinger Bands and customize settings like period length and standard deviations according to your trading needs.

Always confirm Bollinger Band signals with other indicators and avoid making trades based solely on the price hitting the upper or lower band. Look for additional confirmation through volume, RSI, or candlestick patterns to make more robust trading decisions.

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Jeremy Biberdorf
Jeremy Biberdorf

About the Author:

Jeremy Biberdorf is the founder of Modest Money. He's a father of 2 beautiful girls, a dog owner, a long-time online entrepreneur and an investing enthusiast.

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