Are Resistance Bands as Good As Free Weights?
5 Advantages Resistance Bands Have Over Dumbbells and Barbells
If you work out at home, you may not have room for clunky sets of dumbbells or barbells. They take up room, they’re heavy, and they cost money. And what happens when you go on vacation? You can’t haul those heavy weights around with you. Yet you still need strength training to build strength and preserve muscle mass.
Is there a less expensive, space-saving, and still effective way to build strength? You bet there is! It might surprise you to learn that you can get an effective strength-training workout using only resistance bands. In fact, resistance bands offer some advantages over barbells and dumbbells. Let’s look at five advantages resistance bands have over dumbbells and barbells.
1.You Can Do More Exercises Using Resistance Bands
Working with resistance bands expands the number of exercises you can do to build strength. Barbells and dumbbells limit the number of exercises you can do since you have to work your muscles within a certain plane of motion. With weights, there’s a defined path you must follow, based on gravity, to get the benefits. That’s not true of resistance bands since their resistance comes from tension generated by the bands, not gravity. Therefore, you have more options when you train. Not only does this give you more flexibility but working muscles at different angles can boost muscle growth.
2. They Maintain Tension Throughout an Exercise
When you strength train with barbells and dumbbells, the tension on your muscles changes as you move through the exercise. For example, with a biceps curl, the tension drops off at the top of the movement where your hands are close to your chest. That doesn’t happen with resistance bands since tension within the band, not gravity, generates the resistance. Since the tension stays high throughout the exercise, it gives your muscles more stimulation for growth.
3. Resistance Bands Limit Momentum
When you do an exercise with a barbell or dumbbells, it’s easy to cheat. When the going gets tough, you can use momentum to “bounce” the weight up rather than force your muscles to do the work, thereby removing how much stimulation your muscle gets. That’s not true with resistance bands. To complete an exercise using bands, your muscles have to generate force throughout the full range-of-motion of the movement, so you activate more muscle fibers and, potentially, build more muscle. Working with resistance bands is natural protection against cheating.
4. They’re Excuse Proof
One problem with dumbbells and barbells is they aren’t portable. This means there’s a temptation when you travel or go on vacation not to exercise. Resistance bands are excuse proof because you can take them anywhere and use them even in a tiny hotel room. They’re light enough to drop in a travel bag and you’re ready to go! With resistance bands being so easy to work with, you’ll be more likely to work out.
5. Resistance Bands Are Easier on the Joints
Everyone should be concerned about joint health since our joints have to last a lifetime. Resistance bands are as effective, and sometimes more so for building strength than weights, but they place less stress on your joints. Therefore, resistance bands are an ideal way to build strength if you have any form of arthritis or injuries.
Despite being kinder to the joints, resistance bands can be as effective as weights for building muscle size. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research asked a group of sedentary women to work with either weights or resistance bands for 10 weeks. When they looked at muscle gains, both groups enjoyed similar improvements in muscle endurance and muscle size and improved their body composition by losing body fat. The losses were similar between the two groups of women. Other research shows working with resistance bands can increase strength as much as weights.
The Bottom Line
Enjoy the strength-training benefits that resistance bands offer. Another perk: You don’t have to worry about dropping a barbell or dumbbell on your foot. If you drop a resistance band on a foot, you won’t even feel it.
- Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: September 2008 – Volume 22 – Issue 5 – pp 1441-1448.
- J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Feb;25(2):459-63. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c1f8b6.
- SAGE Open Med. 2019; 7: 2050312119831116.Published online 2019 Feb 19. doi: 10.1177/2050312119831116.
- J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Sep;22(5):1441-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31817ae67a.