Stressing over which to use? Here’s your all-inclusive guide to making the right choice for you.
Bands or weights? Tomatoes, Tomatoes…or not? Walking into the gym, our ultimate goal is to get our best sweat in the most efficient way. However, that can often lead to dilemmas in choosing the right equipment. When it comes to choosing gym equipment, not all pieces are made equal.
Resistance bands vs. weights
However, if you’re going into this article thinking that one might be better than the other, you’re not totally on track, yet. That said, there are specific times and uses for each of them! Here’s the breakdown on resistance bands vs. free weights, and how each can be better based on your goals.
Effect on muscles: resistance weight increases as you move through the exercise range of motion.
Use it for: resistance bands are a great way for beginners to get comfortable with the weight. It’s also a great way to begin building toned muscles by performing slow reps to muscle exhaustion. Recovering from an injury? It’s a safe way to start rehabbing your strength and range of motion because of the gradual increase in resistance as you lift. Adding resistance bands to a superset is perfect for ensuring you reach muscle exhaustion safely and effectively. After a set of 6-8 reps with free weights, try adding in a set of reps with a resistance band until you can’t lift anymore.
Effect on muscles: resistance weight stays the same during the full range of motion.
Use it for: if building muscular strength and power is your ultimate goal, free weights are an absolute must. Resistance bands won’t be able to challenge you in the way heavy, consistent weight will. As you start to get stronger, there is a finite level of how heavy of a resistance you can achieve with a band alone. Progressively loading even the heaviest band will just result in it breaking, which isn’t a marker of your strength, simply the band’s breaking point. Once you’re comfortable performing exercises correctly with bands, trade it for a comparable weight with free weights to boost your strength.
Variable resistance training is a great option for more advanced individuals and incorporates all the best pros of each apparatus. I used to use this method during lifts to improve my sprints on the track in college! For example: attaching a light resistance band to the ends of the barbell (while standing on it) allows you to reap the benefits of the back squat with weight, while also increasing the resistance in both directions with the bands! Also: check out some of our other weight liftings posts, like this one about arm exercises.