Resistance Bands vs Weights. The Ultimate Comparison

Are you stuck between choosing resistance bands and weights? There can be a lot of confusion when trying to determine which one will yield better returns for building muscle, improving your strength, or weight-loss.

So, to help you break free from this confusion, we’ve created the ultimate comparison for both resistance bands vs weights. We will look at the advantages and disadvantages of both, so you can make an informed and educated decision when choosing equipment for your personal home setup!

Let’s dive right in!

Lets Talk Resistance Bands!

Resistance Bands On Top Of Bag

Resistance bands can be integrated into your workouts in a variety of different ways, but let’s be honest here….they don’t look nearly as promising as weights do when training to build muscle. I mean, when is the last time you saw a professional athlete using resistance bands?

To gain clarity, we will first look at the key advantages that resistance bands have over weights. In addition, we will reveal the different types of resistance bands available, and whether or not they can be used to build muscle.

What Advantages Do Resistance Bands Have Over Weights?

Control

When comparing resistance bands to weights, the first thing you will notice is that they are a lot easier to control. It is much simpler to maneuver through the range of motions when exercising each muscle without losing stability.

If your a beginner trainer, this makes it the best option because it helps your muscles adapt to resistance training in general and helps to focus on each muscle in a more controlled manner. This is also important when it comes to safety since there is no risk of losing control when fatigued like you would with free weights.

Flexibility

It is way easier to manipulate the direction of your movements when using resistance bands while training, therefore freeing you of any limitations that you may otherwise face with weights. This allows for more flexibility when performing exercises such as flys, bicep curls, or any type of exercise that requires you to push or pull.

Allowing more flexibility can open up more opportunities to target different muscle groups which are typically limited when using weights. This allows for more freedom to experiment with your workouts so that you can find the most comfortable range of motion for that whatever exercise you are performing.

Form (No Shortcuts)

One of the biggest advantages to resistant band training is it completely eliminates the ability to take short cuts while performing your exercises. The reason behind this is because there is no way to complete a full range of motion unless you perform the action with proper form. 

For example, when you perform flys with free weights and are struggling with your last repetition, you may find yourself using your shoulders or making awkward gestures in order to complete your set . However, with resistance bands, you are still more likely to complete your target number of repetitions without compromising proper form.

Maintaining correct form will also help you get the most out of your workouts, as it targets the muscle more thoroughly without having to cheat in order to complete each exercise.

Remember, it is the quality of how you perform your workout that helps increase performance and take you to the next level, now how much you do. 

Rehabilitation

Although weights and resistance bands can be used for rehabilitation after injury, there is no doubt that resistant band training is far safer and easier to work with.

As mentioned earlier, resistance training using bands allow for more control when performing movements. The amount of resistance can also be adjusted in smaller increments which helps with a more gradual and progressive recovery, without risking the chances of furthering injury.

Lastly, resistance bands are far less expensive to purchase than weights, as it requires less equipment. This can help make your rehabilitation much more affordable than if you were to use weights.

Practicality

The last advantage of using resistance bands is they allow for more practicality for your everyday life. 

Resistance bands are much easier to store and tuck away when not using them. They are also much lighter and barely take up any space, making them ideal for traveling abroad. 

Also, a single set of resistance bands can be way more versatile, allowing you to perform a wide variety of exercises. For example, you can purchase resistance bands with open clips or loops on each end and then add accessories such as handles, anchors, and bars that you can attach, which allow for a larger variety of workouts without requiring extra equipment.

Can You Build Muscle With Resistance Bands?

The biggest question that is asked when comparing resistance bands vs free weights is whether or not they allow you to build muscle. In a simple context, the answer is of course, yes. 

The real question we should be asking is if resistance bands are just as effective for building muscle. Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Let me explain why.

Free weights can allow you to max out the amount of resistance your muscles are able to take on, therefore activating muscle memory to its highest capacity. This muscle memory acts as a form of procedural memory that helps consolidate a specific task through repetition and allows for motor learning, kind of like our brain does, but physically.

Weights will also provide a consistent amount of tension and load to whatever muscles you are targeting, whereas resistance bands only allow you to experience peak loads at certain points when performing a particular motion when exercising the muscle.

When it comes to muscle growth, weights are also a better option. This is because lifting weights causes your muscle fibers to tear more due to muscle overload, otherwise called hypertrophy. When this happens and your muscle fibers start to heal during recovery, new tissue will begin to form over your existing muscles, resulting in faster growth and strength compared to resistance bands.

Now, this being said, resistance bands will still help you build muscle as a beginner, just not as effective as weights can.

So, if you are a beginner, then resistance bands are the way to go. If you are a more advanced lifter and want to use resistance bands, then you most likely won’t experience the same type of gains because your muscles won’t be challenged enough.

What Types Of Resistance Bands Are Available?

There are five types of resistance bands available on the market today. These include:

  1. Figure 8 Bands
  2. Power resistance bands
  3. Tube resistance bands
  4. Mini Bands
  5. Light therapy bands

Lets take a look at them a little closer.

1. Figure 8 bands

As you can probably guess, these types of bands are shaped like a figure 8 and have handles on both ends, allowing you to stretch them apart or away from each other.

They can be used to target your upper or lower body by performing lateral movements that allow you to copy both dumbbell and machine-like movements.

2. Power resistance bands

Power resistance bands look like large flat rubber bands that can be used for bodyweight assistance, as well as full-body workouts. They are often used for physical therapy caused by leg or back injuries from sport-related accidents or collisions.

In all, these types of resistance bands are very versatile and can be used for burning fat, increasing flexibility, muscle endurance, stability, and can be used for rehabilitation.

3. Tube Resistance Bands

These types of resistance bands have a rubber tube with handles attached on both ends. They can be used by anchoring them to a door or pole, allowing you to perform exercises that involve pressing or pulling such as chest press, curls, and shoulder press.

Tube resistance bands are also great for workout programs like p90X, as they allow you to hit a large variety of muscle groups at once. They can also come in different variations, including loops or clips on each end which can allow you to attach accessories like bars, handles, and grip ropes to perform a larger variety of exercises.

A great example of just how versatile they can be are products like the BodyBoss Portable Gym.

4. Mini Bands

Like power resistance bands, mini bands can be used to increase stability in your lower and upper back, however, they are much smaller and thinner.

Mini bands are primarily used to supply extra stability when performing other workouts such as squats, leg extension, and hip thrusts. They can also help provide additional activation and tension to your muscles when pairing them with certain exercises.

You will find mini bands being used in a large variety of ways due to their versatility. They can be seen used by many athletes and professionals who want to prevent injury as complementary to their already existing workouts and can be used to correct form.

5. Light therapy bands

Therapy bands are long and can measure up to 7 feet in diameter. They are also very thin compared to other bands. 

Like the name states, they are used for therapy by helping people regain strength or improve mobility after an injury. They can also be used to improve strength in elderly people who can handle a low impact workout.

Another way you can use light therapy bands is during static stretching or for light warm-ups before or after a workout. Using them for this intent can help improve muscle mobility and increased muscle flexibility.

Lets Talk Weights!

At this point, it may seem that we put free weights to shame after covering all the advantages of resistance bands. But this is simply not the case.

Next, we will look at the pros of using free weights over resistance bands to dive further into our free weights vs resistance bands comparison.

What Are The Advantages Of Using Weights Vs Resistance Bands?

Progression

One of the main disadvantages of using resistance bands overweights is it becomes more difficult to improve performance and muscle growth as you continue to use them. Meaning, as you further advance in taking on more resistance, you will eventually hit a ceiling or plateau.

With weights, there are no limitations as to how much strength or growth you can experience. This is primarily due to your muscles taking on more of a challenge, which results in a higher increase of both strength and muscle.

Accuracy

Another advantage of using free weights is they are more accurate in terms of the measurable amount of load they offer to your muscles. For instance, when you go lift a 20lb dumbbell, it is marked and weighed to the exact measurement, so you know that your muscles are taking on exactly 20lbs of weight resistance.

On the other hand, when using resistance bands, you are almost guessing the amount of tension your muscle is taking on by how far the band stretches. This makes it hard to judge how much tension is being offered to your muscles, so you are pretty much training by feel, and not by measurable data.

Not being able to know a measurable amount of load to your muscles can make it hard to trace your steps and make adjustments in order to progress further, which is one of the reasons why bodybuilders simply stick to free weights and avoid resistance bands when building muscle.

Equipment Durability

Unlike resistance bands, free weights can be much more durable, meaning there is a higher likelihood that you will have them around for longer. 

Although resistance bands typically cost less, they can also be less durable. There are of course better quality resistance bands, but they will always take on more wear and tear due to constant stretching.

Weights, on the other hand, are made of higher quality materials such as metal, rubber, or durable plastics to help them resist damage. Manufacturers intend for them to be more durable because they are expected to be abused, especially when you have massive bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman dropping 100lbs dumbells several times per day!

Of course, you also have to take into account the quality of dumbells you purchase in order to deem them durable.

Variety

Maybe using a single pair of resistance bands limits you to the types of workouts you want to perform to hit that next level in your fitness journey. If that’s the case, then you will find an endless variety of weights and weighted equipment for whatever stage you are at.

There are two types of categories when it comes to weights, free weights, and weight machines. 

The different free weights you can find include:

  • dumbbells
  • barbells
  • medicine balls
  • sandbells
  • kettleballs…etc

As for weight machines, these can include equipment such as:

  • leg extension machines
  • leg press
  • bicep curl
  • tricep extension
  • row machines
  • lat pulldown…etc
With all of these options available on the market, it is next to impossible to limit your advancement towards whatever fitness goal you are aiming to achieve, whether its building muscle, growing in strength, or weight loss. 

Unfortunately for resistance bands, you can only go.

The Bottom Line

After comparing resistance bands to weights, it is clear that using bands for building muscle and strength comes with its limitations, especially if you are a more advanced trainer.

However, using resistance bands can be highly effective and beneficial if you are just starting out as a beginner, or want an extra tool in your tool belt for additional stability. They can also be a great companion for performing light stretches before or after your workouts to prevent injury or increasing flexibility. 

If you don’t want to be limited to building strength and want to build muscle fast, then weights have and always will be the best way to go!