There are so many awesome ways to train, and tools to train with. Resistance bands and free weights are two of the best tools to get results. But while it’s easy to lump them together as synonymous strength training equipment, knowing the difference between the two can be imperative for getting the best experience and outcome for you.
To start, resistance bands and free weights are both vaguely labeled as “strength training” or “resistance training” tools, but they can also be used for power, speed, endurance, rehabilitation, stretching and much more! When it comes to key details such as impact on your joints, affordability, usability, beginner safety, convenience and effects, the differences between the two start to become much more noticeable.
Affordability & Convenience
Weights can be expensive, especially if you want a full set of them. Dumbbells are usually made with iron, which is a pricey material on its own. However, Covid related challenges have made the price of dumbbells higher than ever before. Free weights became a highly valued commodity during the pandemic. In 2018, the average price of a dumbbell per pound was $0.50 - $1.00. That has practically tripled now, largely because of resellers marking their products up because they know they can get away with it.
On the other hand, resistance bands are incredibly affordable and easy to find. You can even buy affordable resistance bands from COMMITTED HP! Our Better Band is adjustable, made from high-quality fabric that won’t rip, roll up, or pinch, and is inclusive of all body types! We also sell Move Bands for full-body strength training and stretching.
Resistance bands are also very light and compact making them perfect to travel with or store in a drawer. Even the heaviest of packers can squeeze one or two resistance bands into their suitcases to keep them feeling strong and stable over the holidays!
Impact on Joints
Generally speaking, resistance bands tend to be much kinder on your joints and connective tissue for the majority of users (beginner and intermediate). Bands allow beginners and intermediate users to maintain better control on many exercises, so the chance of injury via moving incorrectly is much lower. Overall, resistance bands can offer effective resistance to target muscles and movements without putting as much total load on your body.
Free weight exercises often rely on momentum, with the muscle contracting to accelerate the moving parts during a repetition. That doesn’t mean that momentum is inherently bad, it's just that free weights require more control and therefore there is an increase in the chance of getting out of position or making an error. Joints, from the standpoint of general health and longevity, respond best to steady and controlled movements — that’s partially why high-impact activities like running and jumping based sports tend to be correlated with very high rates of injury. Resistance bands tend to allow for greater control or stability, which is why they are preferred for physical therapy, warm-ups and stretching. Alternatively, those looking to increase their stability and power in a dynamic fashion may want to consider free weights.
General Fitness & Performance Usage
When we really look at it, resistance bands and free weights can actually be quite complimentary. Resistance bands are amazing for warming up before a free weight routine and they are also great for playing a supportive roll with supplemental drills or correctives. More and more often, we even see high-quality training happening with both resistance bands and free weights being used on the same exercise.
Resistance bands and free weights both offer that resistance needed to build strength and muscle. A 2018 study showed that resistance bands provide similar results to weights in upper and lower body training. However, you can only control the amount of resistance on a band so much. While a dumbbell is clearly labeled with the amount of weight, a resistance requires a bit of guessing around the resistance. This means that bodybuilders, athletes, or anybody with very specific performance or weight goals may prefer free weights since they are easier to track progress with.
While both tools, when used with proper programming, are effective for developing and building muscle, most professionals agree it is easier to make more substantial gains through utilizing free weights. This is primarily because you can progressively work up to heavier weights and manage the weight value with more precision. Generally speaking, the ingredients for building muscle within a program are intensity (resistance value), volume (repetitions), and consistency. Free weights generally allow you to manage the intensity dosage a little more closely and effectively. With that being said, in certain exercises, resistance bands have actually been found to be more effective than weights because they maintain muscle tension throughout the entirety of an exercise, increasing the volume through the total amount of time the targeted muscle is under tension.
Many people think that muscle toning, or muscle definition, happens through higher reps and lower weight, but his isn't necessarily true. Muscle "tone", as an aesthetic quality, is created by the presence of developed muscle with a body fat percentage low enough for the muscle definition to be visible. Also sometimes referred to as muscle definition. Both resistance bands and free weights are amazing for creating the foundation needed to create definition or muscle tone.
Which one will you go for?
So, are you feeling called more to free weights person or resistance bands? If you are looking for more convenience, affordability and versatility, we recommend starting with resistance bands. If you are looking for bigger challenges, power and advanced training, we recommend exploring free weights. Ultimately, if you are all in, you should definitely get both!
At COMMITTED HP we are on a mission to create an ecosystem of tools, inspiration and community for modern humans to thrive. We exist to provide health and fitness resources that help you feel, function, look and live better. With so many outdated and gimmicky products out there, we aim to get better results by focusing on innovation, quality and our customer's needs. This is our commitment to you.
Stay safe and strong!