Choosing between resistance bands & free weights can often be confusing especially for beginners. Weights are heavy and could lead to injury, so the question is - Which is better for you weights or resistance bands? Also if you choose to work out from home, then cost and storage space will play a determining factor. We have scientifically explored resistance bands vs. free weights and their impact on our bodies to help determine which should you choose for your workouts.
What are resistance bands?
Resistance bands provide variable resistance which means, it yields constant tension on your muscle throughout the entire exercise. This offers a safer and more effective way to exercise. These bands are available in various sizes, and their weights differ depending on the thickness and length.
Resistance bands are often used in physical therapy but are now a staple piece of equipment in strength training, Pilates, and more! Another added benefit of using resistance bands is that they are convenient and space-saving compared to free weights.
What are free weights?
Most people think that weighted dumbbells stacked in gyms are free weights, which is not a wrong assumption, but free weight is a much broader term. Technically, any weight used in weightlifting that is not attached to any other apparatus is defined as a free weight. Hence, by definition, kettlebells, barbells, and medicine balls are also free weights.
Free weights are known for the versatility that they bring to a workout. Unlike resistance bands, weights do take up space and are also much more expensive. In terms of safety, the use of free weights can cause a higher risk of injury, due to incorrect form or lifting too heavy without the proper instruction.
Where do resistance bands do better than weights?
Resistance bands give you more of a variety of exercises for the cost, they tend to be more affordable than free weights.
2. Varying levels of resistance
With variable resistance levels, resistance bands offer much better versatility, as well as the weight, can be adjusted very easily.
Resistance bands can be easily stowed in a bag or drawer and virtually take up no space. So whether you are traveling or on a holiday, you can choose to work out from anywhere with resistance bands which isn’t the case with weights.
4. Greater free movement
Resistance bands can support all movements that people usually perform with free weights.
5. Lower risk of injury
Resistance bands make it more challenging to overextend the joints than free weights, so the risk of injury is relatively low. The elastic tension naturally limits the range of motion, making it safer for home use. Also, there is no risk of dropping a heavy weight on your foot.
6. Better for perfecting posture
According to trainers, band-assisted exercises are much better for learning new, challenging workouts as they allow one to maintain correct posture easily. For instance, if you have difficulty doing pull-ups, you can use the resistance bands as a support mechanism to offload some weight as a sling. It’s just an example; you can easily learn challenging workouts using resistance bands.
7. Works small muscle groups
As mentioned earlier, resistance bands are often used in rehabilitation exercises. It is because it allows targeting small muscles which are usually harder and one can also target big muscles like quads, glutes, and delts. Resistance bands thus play an essential role in overall-muscle strength, stability, and mobility.
Resistance bands are great for warm-up exercises for the same reason. They can work for those small muscle groups before you start with a more intense strength training workout.
8. Great for strength building
Even though resistance bands are not as heavy as free weights, they still create tension and resistance in the muscles, which builds strength over time. Especially if you are a beginner at strength building, resistance bands are great for you.
According to SAGE Open Medicine, resistance bands can build upper- and lower-body strength like free weights.
4 differences between free weights and resistance bands
1. Free weights depend on gravity
The elastic resistance of the bands makes them effective on the muscles, but this resistance is somewhat varying.
For instance, if you row using resistance bands, the resistance will gradually increase as you pull the band away from your torso. Resistance bands offer constant tension throughout the exercise and can be used in different planes of motion since they use variable resistance. Free weights can only be used in one plane of motion, thus, resistance bands offer more variety in your workouts.
2. Weight Tracking
As resistance bands offer variable resistance, it takes time to keep track of your progress in a systematic manner. With free weights, you always know how much you are lifting. That’s a clear advantage when comparing resistance bands vs. free weights. However, now that LIT AXIS tracks your weight, there is no additional benefit to using free weights.
3. Different planes of motion
In everyday life, you are constantly lifting different items in different planes of motion. For instance, you grab your groceries from the floor and lift, you twist and turn, and you are always moving in different directions. That is why resistance bands are more effective at preventing injuries because you can push, pull, and twist while getting constant tension.
Weights will only benefit you if you are lifting directly from the floor in a single plane of motion.
4. Overloading Factor
When trying to gain strength or build muscles, tracking your progress with resistance bands is difficult because you don’t know exactly how much weight is on you. Progressive overload is mandatory to develop muscles and strength. It involves gradually increasing weight as you get stronger to keep challenging your muscles. This concept is hard to follow with resistance bands, but with free weights, you can make precise gradual, and slight weight increments.
Factors to determine whether to opt for resistance bands or free weights?
As we elaborated, there is no clear winner in comparing resistance bands vs. free weights. Your choice is relative to your fitness goals.
Let us look at each factor in more detail
1. Do you want to tone or build muscles?
If you want to achieve that lean look, you have to tone your muscles. Resistance bands are great for toning muscle mass.
2. What type of workout do you want to perform - low or high impact?
Both have a significantly variable impact on your body. Resistance bands only utilize the resistance in the band combined with your body weight for a workout. Usually, they are gentler on joints. Free weights are ideal for high-impact workouts as they consistently maintain resistance throughout the muscles during movement. As a result, free weight exercises cause more body pain and increase the risk of injury.
3. Space constraints & portability
Resistance bands are the clear winner here. As they take up virtually no space, you can carry them wherever you go. On the contrary, free weights are usually stuck in your home gym and hard to transport.
So now that we have a clear comparison between weights and resistance bands, we would like to introduce you to a product that replaces free weights altogether.
LIT Axis Smart Resistance Bands
LIT AXIS is a portable intelligent resistance band training system designed to replace the traditional free weights, cable system, suspension trainer, and Pilates reformer.
Remember we discussed how difficult it is to maintain systematic tracking with resistance bands? LIT AXIS overcomes this challenge with intelligent technology that pairs the band with the LIT app on your phone. It tracks your reps, resistance loads, and time under tension and automatically detects muscle imbalance to correct it immediately.
LIT AXIS allows you to perform Pilates, strength training, cardio, recovery, or any other exercise you want from the comfort of your home making it the most versatile resistance band out there.
Learn more about LIT AXIS smart resistance band here.
In the resistance bands vs. free weights debate, there are no winners. Each has its strength and weakness, and the choice must depend on your workout goals. Irrespective of which you choose, you will get results as both are great for full-body workouts.