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Resistance Bands vs Weights: Do You Need Weights? (2019)

Resistance bands vs weights: header image

Wondering whether you need to use weights to get in shape, or want to see the battle of resistance bands vs weights played out in full?

We’ve got your back. 

Due to this being a battle between both methods of strength training, we’re going to cover everything that each one has to offer as well as the downsides. 

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Let the battle of resistance bands vs weights begin!

Contents:

  • Advantages of Resistance Bands vs Weights 
  • Advantages of Using Free Weights vs Resistance bands 
  • Do Resistance Bands Build Muscle?
  • Conclusion 

Advantages of Resistance Bands vs Weights 

Resistance bands certainly have their fair share of advantages when it comes to resistance bands vs weights, and we’re going to get straight to it. 

Before you skip ahead to the free weights section (bodybuilders, we’re looking at you!), you might want to give this a read. You never know, it could come with some surprises that help you out in your own training… 

#1 - Flexibility 

resistance bands vs weights: flexible

They may be physically flexible, but we’re talking about their flexibility in terms of how practical they are. 

Resistance bands open up new doors when it comes to the direction of resistance in strength training. When they are pulled in a certain direction, the direction of resistance is automatically in the opposite direction. 

If you’re doing bicep curls and stretching the band from the ground, it the direction of resistance will be downwards. 

Alternatively, if you attach them to a higher surface and use them for chest flys, the direction of resistance is backwards in relation to the body (in a near-horizontal direction). 

You can manipulate the direction of resistance with resistance bands, making them very handy for accessing different methods of training with the same piece of equipment. 

#2 - Control 

resistance bands vs weights: bench workout

When it comes to resistance bands vs weights, it’s no secret that resistance bands are far easier to control. 

When we talk about control, our focus is on the fact that the resistance strength of a band increases as it is stretched through the range of motion of an exercise. 

For beginners, this is perfect as it gives the user the ability to safely find their optimum resistance strength. With this, they can avoid any nasty injuries by going too heavy too fast. 

Those who are more advanced in their training can also benefit from this feature of resistance bands vs weights, as it is a safe way of controlling how and when their muscles reach either exhaustion or their full range of motion. 

This can be great in addition to free weights, as you can perform your last few reps with resistance bands to safely reach exhaustion and improve your range of motion! 

#3 - No cheating!

resistance bands vs weights: no cheating

Another point in the battle of resistance bands vs weights is that a lot of people unknowingly cheat when they use free weights for strength training. 

Due to the direction of resistance always being downwards for free weights (or the laws of gravity), they tend to keep in motion once they are mobile unless stopped by the user. They pick up momentum due to their weight, and they become harder to control. 

An example of this in practice would be when gym goers perform bicep curls with a dumbbell. When things start to go south in terms of muscle exhaustion, some people start to use momentum to aid them in lifting the weight. 

 

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This is ‘cheating’ as it utilizes strength from the legs and back (which aren’t necessarily supposed to be engaged during this exercise). The biceps don’t receive any benefits from the exercise when momentum is used, and it makes it pretty useless.

One advantage of resistance bands vs weights is that it’s not possible to use momentum, as bands work on resistance strength levels rather than mass/weight. Your biceps are on their own here! 

#4 - Rehabilitation 

resistance bands vs weights: rehabilitation

While both weights and resistance bands can be used for rehabilitation purposes, one advantage of resistance bands vs weights is that they are undoubtedly safer and easier to use in this context. 

As we mentioned earlier, resistance bands allow the user to gradually increase the resistance as they stretch them, as well as allowing them to keep better control of the band at all times in comparison to free weights. 

This is better for rehabilitation when compared to the gravitational pull, limited direction of resistance, and the constant weight of free weights. 

Things are much steadier with bands and users will be a lot less likely to experience any pain or further injury! 

Another thing to note is that resistance bands are much cheaper and more portable when compared to free weights, making them much easier to get access to without a visit to the gym during rehabilitation. 

If you're in rehabilitation yourself, you may want to check out the BHF article on resistance band rehab

Advantages of Using Free Weights vs Resistance Bands 

It may seem like we’ve put free weights to shame in the fight of resistance bands vs weights, but that’s not the case. We like to do things fairly here at OriGym and you can’t have an argument without two sides! 

Scroll through this section to see the redeeming qualities of free weights when weighed up against resistance bands. 

#1 - Accurate

resistance bands vs weights: accuracy

One of the advantages of free weights vs resistance bands is that they are extremely accurate when it comes to what they can offer as individual weights. 

What we mean by this is that they are always marked according to their individual weight, whereas resistance bands can be ambiguous. Some are marked, but not often by an accurate amount of lbs of resistance they contain. 

Even if they are marked with a specific strength of resistance, you will only feel the full resistance if you stretch the band to its limit. 

With free weights, you get what you’re given and that’s that! 

#2 - Progressive 

resistance bands vs weights: bicep curl

Bodybuilders and fitness fanatics will use this as the main reason to ditch bands in favour of free weights, so we’re hardly going to ignore it! 

One main issue that people see with bands is that they have limitations when it comes to strength and muscle mass progression. 

Free weights allow you to quickly max out your personal best and therefore progress to heavier weights in just a few weeks. This is mainly due to the fact that if they are used properly and without the assistance of momentum, your muscles take on their full (and constant) weight. 

As your muscles adapt to taking on a constant weight, they ultimately become stronger than they would from straining against a variable weight for the same amount of time. 

Overall, weights have more scope for improvement over time. The ‘heavier’ models of resistance bands only go up to 200lbs, which is equivalent to around 90kg.

Although this is an excessive amount of resistance, it is only completely achieved when the bands are stretched to their full capacity, whereas 90kg dumbbells always provide this amount of resistance. 

We’re not saying that bands are completely inferior or can’t provide you with similar strength or muscle mass, but weights are probably the better choice if you’re looking to go into full-blown bodybuilding or to gain muscle mass in a hurry. 

#3 - Durable 

resistance bands vs weights: resistance band stretch

Perhaps one of the less talked about benefits of free weights vs resistance bands is their durability. 

You know the old saying; ‘penny wise, pound foolish’? That’s the kind of angle we’re getting at here. 

While resistance bands are much cheaper than weights, many in the fitness community are quick to call their longevity into question. Resistance bands have been known to wear out pretty quickly (depending on their quality), whereas free weights are made of more sustainable materials than rubber or plastic and tend to last much longer. 

Even when bands last a while and don’t snap or tear, they can become slack and offer less resistance than they once did. 

The durability of free weights is definitely something to consider when weighing up resistance bands vs weights, and may even urge you to invest more money into equipment that will last longer. 

#4 - Variety 

resistance bands vs weights: kettlebell

If we’re looking at resistance bands vs weights in general rather than just focusing on free weights, it becomes quite clear that weights provide more variety through being available in so many different forms. 

There are many different types of weights to choose from, including:

  • Free weights - dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, medicine balls, sandbells, sandbags, etc.
  • Weight machines - leg press, hip adduction, hip abduction, leg extension, bicep curl, tricep extension, etc. 

From barbells to weighted bags, it’s clear that weights come in many different shapes and forms. This gives them plenty of ammunition in the battle of resistance bands vs weights. 

Although resistance bands do come in different forms, they are certainly not as varied as weights are. Let’s face it, you can only design a band a certain number of ways yet with weights you can get creative. 

The list of objects that are able to have weight added to them seems endless, and we can only imagine the new fads of weights that will be released in the future.  

Want to know more about the different types of resistance bands? Check out OriGym's benefits of resistance bands article to find out more! 

Do resistance bands build muscle? 

One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to resistance bands vs weights is ‘do resistance bands build muscle?’. 

When observed out of context, this question is easy to answer. Do resistance bands build muscle? Of course they do. 

They pack a good amount of resistance considering their size and price, and if your main goal is to burn fat and gain muscle mass they can certainly help you to achieve your goals alongside a nutritious diet. 

 

resistance bands vs weights: resistance tubes

However, we’re going to take things a little deeper than the initial question of ‘do resistance bands build muscle?’, as we don’t think that that’s all you’re asking. We’re going to assume that the real question is do resistance bands build muscle as well as weights can? 

If you read over what we have so far, it seems as though the resistance bands vs weights argument is almost over. 

It’s pretty clear that weights are an unrivalled force when it comes to packing on muscle mass and building maximum strength. 

However, we’d say that the answer to ‘do resistance bands build muscle?’ lies in the goals that you have for yourself. If you’re looking to get lean or gain some muscle mass and burn fat, they’re absolutely fine and will get you the same if not very similar results with regular use (especially if you’re working up to the higher resistance levels). 

However, if you’re looking to gain some serious muscle and dramatically transform your body, weights will get you better results (and faster). 

If you’re already shredded from strength training with weights though, resistance bands can certainly be great for maintaining muscle. 

resistance bands vs weights: kick backs

Have you got a long trip coming up with limited access to a gym? Got a busy schedule for the next few months and worried about wasting time on a busy commute to the gym? 

Enter resistance bands! You can use them in your home, in hotel rooms, even in the toilet if needs must… there’s no excuse to lose what you already have! 

Pick up some resistance bands for maintaining muscle mass if you don’t have access to weights, and you shouldn’t have any real problems. 

Hopefully, this answers your question; ‘do resistance bands build muscle?’ and you’re feeling ready to go! 

Conclusion

We’re drawing near the end of our debate over resistance bands vs weights, and this calls for a real answer for our readers. 

Our ultimate conclusion to resistance bands vs weights is that you should aim to train with both. Think about it; there are many advantages and disadvantages to both, you may as well take all the advantages and leave with no downsides. 

resistance bands vs weights: using resistance bands and weights

If you train with both weights and resistance bands, you’ll never get bored. You’ll always have bands on the go when you’re travelling and a nice set of weights to come back to. 

You’ll be able to get the body that you want and rest assured that you’re not missing out on something that other fitness fanatics are seeing real results with. 

Do you need weights?

If you’re wanting to bulk up considerably, yes. If you’re just looking to get lean and improve your overall fitness then not necessarily. 

However, here at OriGym we feel that weights are an important aspect of a strength training routine as well as resistance bands, and recommend that you take using both into consideration! 

Before you go!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our debate over resistance bands vs weights, and it’s given you some motivation to get the ball rolling with your own fitness programme. 

Got a favourite in the argument over resistance bands vs weights? Get in touch on Facebook or Twitter and let us know! 

Want to become a Personal Trainer and kick-start a new career in fitness?

Give our team a call on 0800 002 9599, and they’ll be more than happy to talk you through our range of courses. 

 

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Written by Chloe Twist

Fitness Professional & Blogger

Chloe is a nerd turned fitness addict with a passion for blogging, gaming, and playing guitar. She can be found in her room either swinging kettlebells or binging on Netflix.