It comes down to fitness goals


If you train casually, it doesn’t matter if you grab a resistance band or grab some free weights during your workout. Both tools will help you build muscle so you feel stronger overall and it may just come down to your preference. You might like to use one over the other, and that’s OK. But if you have specific fitness goals in mind, there are some differences between weights and resistance bands that will start to matter.

For a quick overview, resistance bands are, of course, those stretchy, elastic bands that come in a loop, tube, or band form. They also come in different “strengths,” says Dr. Dave Candy, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, CMTPT, FAAOMPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy, certified athletic trainer and owner of More 4 Life. You can get light, medium, heavy, or extra-heavy workouts, depending on how difficult you want your workout to be.

There are also plenty of options in the free weight category, with the most popular weights being dumbbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, says Candy. Read everything you need to know about what sets weights and resistance bands apart below, so you know which one to choose for your next workout.

Benefits of Weights


Free weights offer a lot more variety than resistance bands simply because there are so many different types. “Dumbbells allow for a more intensive workout because each arm balances the other and you don’t have to use as many stabilizing muscles,” Candy tells Bustle, so you might want to go for it if you’re really looking to pump. iron.

“Conversely, dumbbells force you to use your smaller stabilizing muscles more, and these are especially helpful if you have a ‘weaker’ side or are recovering from an injury and don’t want the strong side take over,” he said. said. Kettlebells, on the other hand, allow for dynamic exercises that require swinging a weight. “They’re good for building power,” Candy said. “You can also use them as dumbbells, but they require more wrist stability to stabilize the weight of the ball.”

Unlike weight machines, any type of free weight requires you to work very hard to keep it stable as you move through an exercise. And although that sounds difficult, it’s actually a good thing. According to Candy, free weights work the “stabilizing” muscles, also known as those that keep you stable. “For exercises like squats and deadlifts, weights also use your core muscles to stabilize your body, not just your leg muscles, like in a leg press,” he adds.

This versatility also means you can change it up depending on how you want to train. You can use a kettlebell to do swings and other full-body cardio moves. You can also pay special attention to a certain muscle, like the biceps or triceps, by lifting dumbbells or you can train multiple muscle groups at once by doing moves like the deadlift or bench press with a barbell. It all depends on the type of workout you are looking for.

Disadvantage of weights

Free weights are clunky and loose, and can therefore be difficult to control, leading to an increased risk of injury. The weight could slip off your hands, Candy says, and if you pick one that’s too heavy, you could accidentally put too much strain on your joints.

Another downside, according to kuudosis trainer Joey Thurman, CES, CPT, FNS, is that you can’t just dive in and start exercising. At least you shouldn’t. “As with a lot of exercises, if you’re not safe with the modalities and you don’t use the correct form, you can injure yourself,” he told Bustle. That’s why you might want to watch a few YouTube videos or hire a trainer to make sure you’re using free wights correctly.

Benefits of resistance bands


According to Ali Martinez, Certified Personal Trainer at WRKOUT, resistance bands can be used to take bodyweight workouts to the next level. Think squats, shoulder presses, and thrusters with the added resistance of a band. “Resistance bands are much easier to control and offer variable resistance under tension, allowing you to target smaller muscle groups,” she told Bustle.

The bands come in handy if you are injured or recovering from an injury as they are low impact, gentle on the joints and user friendly. “They are also effective when combined with Pilates and [other] workouts where all you need is a little extra resistance to get a really good burn,” she says.

Using a group can be a good choice when you want to mix things up. According to Candy, the stretchability of a band allows for side-to-side exercises, like shoulder rolls, standing horizontal rows, and standing chest presses. They are also more portable and generally less expensive than weights, which can also be a downside.

Disadvantages of resistance bands

The biggest problem with resistance bands is that it’s impossible to tell how much “resistance” you’re using. You have to exercise by “feeling”, says Candy, or how hard it is to separate the group, or how tired you are using it. While this isn’t a big deal, it can be troublesome if you’re trying to progress or keep up with your fitness goals.

“Although you can adjust the thickness of the band you use, the more the band stretches, the higher the resistance, so there’s less consistency from workout to workout,” he adds. he. “The other downside to changing resistance is that as the band stretches further, it becomes more difficult to move, so there is less resistance at the start of the exercise and more at the end of the exercise. practice.”

As for the risk, Martinez points out that the bands can come back to you unexpectedly, especially if you don’t properly attach them to a door frame or anchor point. “But it’s not a common occurrence,” she says, “and like everything, you start slow, familiarize yourself with using them, and get someone with experience to guide you on how to use them properly. .”

weight vs. resistance bands

Weights and resistance bands are useful for strength training. Stand in the middle of a band and pull on its ends to do bicep curls, or perform the same movement while holding a dumbbell. “You can get a good strength training workout with both, and you can train many of the same movements and muscle groups,” says Candy. The biggest difference is that you don’t know how much you’re “lifting” with groups, he says, which may be something to keep in mind. Weights also allow you to progress in small increments. You can lift five pounds and then move up to eight, 10, 20, etc.

The movement pattern, or how you use each tool, also differs, says Thurman. You do more pulling actions with bands, compared to lifting with weights. And finally, if you train a lot, there will come a day when bands won’t cut it anymore, says Candy. They just won’t be “tough” enough to give you the kind of resistance you need to up your strength training game.

Referenced studies:

Lopes, JSS. 2019. Effects of elastic resistance training versus conventional resistance on muscle strength: a systematic review and meta-analysis. SAGE Open Med. doi: 10.1177/2050312119831116.


Dr. Dave Candy, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, CMTPT, FAAOMPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Athletic Trainer

Joey Thurman, CES, CPT, FNS, Certified Personal Trainer

Ali Martinez, certified personal trainer on WRKOUT


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