Resistance Bands vs Weights: Which is Better?
Both resistance bands and weights have been staples in gyms across the world for a long time. However, they’ve been viewed as having different functions until recently. Traditionally people looked at weights as a way to build muscle mass and viewed resistance band workouts as something used for therapy and increasing mobility or core stability.
Today, there is a serious debate about which is better strength training—resistance bands or weights?
Until recently, the easy answer was weights. But now, new innovative equipment designs have incorporated resistance bands to mimic traditional weight training exercises. Not only that, the resistance band exercises can be done more efficiently and safer while still giving users the strength gains they have come to expect with weight training.
In this article, we will take an in-depth look at why resistance training is rapidly replacing free weights for strength training for both beginner and veteran weight lifters.
Table of Contents
What's the Difference Between Resistance Bands and Free Weights?
Resistance Bands for Increased Strength Studies
How do Resistance Bands Build Muscle?
Resistance Bands vs. Dumbbells
Why Variable Resistance is Superior for Building Strength
Why Weight Lifting Causes Injury
Resistance Bands vs. Weights: Which Burns More Body Fat?
Resistance Bands vs. Weights: Cost
Resistance Bands vs. Weights: Portability
Best Resistance Bands to Replace Weights
Best Resistance Band
What’s the Difference Between Resistance Bands and Free Weights?#
Understanding the functional difference between resistance bands and free weights is a good starting point before you make your decision to switch up your workout routine.
Unlike free weights, resistance bands don’t rely on gravity to provide resistance. Because they don’t rely on gravity, this increases their potential use for more functional movement patterns that mimic both everyday and sport-specific activities.
Free weights, on the other hand, can only provide resistance on a vertical plane—because gravity is stubborn. So if you do an exercise with a free weight on the horizontal plan—like moving your hand while holding a dumbbell from the left side of your body to the right side—there’s no horizontal resistance.
When you’re working out with resistance bands, the horizontal plan is in play. You can perform exercises that involve twisting your body from side to side, and movements that mimic a baseball swing or basketball pass with the benefit of added resistance. This is really big for athletes looking to enhance performance and reduce injury.
Resistance Bands for Increased Strength Studies#
One study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that a group of collegiate tennis players who trained with resistance bands significantly increased their shoulder strength and the speed of their tennis serve when compared to a control group not using resistance training.1
Another study revealed that resistance band training strengthened the rotator cuff muscles of collegiate baseball pitchers more effectively than the same training with dumbbells.2
Horizontal-plane movements are a part of performing everyday tasks. Most people take these movements for granted, and it’s why a seemingly small movement can result in a “tweak” that causes you discomfort for days or weeks.
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How do Resistance Bands Build Muscle?#
The big question everyone has is: How can resistance bands actually build muscle mass? Most people associate big muscles with big weights. Those are the images we’ve grown up with on TV and in movies. But what most people don’t know is the reason why big weights translate to big muscles.
Tension builds strength. More tension equals more strength, and bigger weights offer greater tension. That’s the “why” behind why big weights equal big muscles. So it poses the question: is there a more efficient and safer way to create tension for strength training?
Yes. Resistance bands are the more efficient and safer way to produce the tension needed to build muscle mass.
Resistance bands are not only more efficient and safe, but they provide a superior form of tension—constant tension.
The continuous tension resistance bands bring to a workout result in the most efficient way to build strength. Efficient means getting the same work done in less time. Who doesn’t want to spend less time in the gym?
Resistance Bands vs. Dumbbells#
To show how resistance bands are superior to free weights we’ll compare them to dumbbells. When you lift a dumbbell in any direction other than straight up and down, the tension on your muscles is removed at certain points in the range of motion.
Bicep curls require you to curl the dumbbell up, and at the very top of the movement, the dumbbell starts falling towards your shoulder. The tension on your bicep has been removed because it’s no longer pulling against gravity.
However, when you perform the same bicep curl with resistance bands, the tension is present throughout the entire range of motion because the elastic band is engineered for constant tension. Resistance bands solve the gravity issue of traditional free weight training.
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Why Variable Resistance is Superior for Building Strength#
The more you understand the importance of resistance and the role it plays in building strength, the easier it is to see why resistance bands are a superior choice to free weights.
The magic in resistance band training lies in variable resistance. As the range of motion of an exercise increases so does the resistance proved by the resistance band. Going back to our dumbbell example, resistance band curls require increased force as your hand gets closer to your shoulder. The more the resistance band stretches, the greater resistance it provides.
With progressive resistance, more muscle fibers must be recruited in your targeted muscle to complete the rep. As more muscle fibers get used, the greater adaptations in muscle strength are achieved. Linear variable resistance and constant resistance are something free weights do not offer.
Why Is X3 More Powerful Than Weights?
- More Resistance Where Your Body is Stronger
- Less Risk of Injury Than Traditional Weights
- Easier On the Joints, Harder on the Muscle
- Complete Muscle Fatigue for Greater Gains
Why Weight Lifting Causes Injury#
Aside from being more efficient, resistance bands are a much safer choice when compared to free weights.
Muscle gains are not a result of working on the weakest muscle range. Elite weightlifters know they must lift as heavy as possible to get big gains. The danger in this results in the weak range having to take the same load as the strongest range. There is no progression or variable resistance with free weights—the load remains the same at both your strongest and weakest points.
As a result, elite weightlifters are plagued with sore joints and injuries. Common overloading injuries occur at the elbows, shoulders, and knees. These injuries often damage cartilage and lead to joint replacements later in life. Injuries are one of the reasons bodyweight training has re-emerged in recent years. But bodyweight training only provides as much resistance as you weigh, so its potential for big gains is limiting.
Variable resistance training with resistance bands solves the overloading issue and reduces the risk of injury almost completely. Weight lifting is simply not a functional movement that humans would do in the real world. To safely and efficiently work out we must mimic the way we are designed to move.
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Resistance Bands vs. Weights: Which Burns More Body Fat?#
Both weights and resistance bands burn fat, but resistance bands are superior. Most people would agree that standing on a balance board is more challenging than standing on solid ground. What most people don’t know is that standing on the balance board increases human growth hormone (HGH) by 200-300%.
One of the most well-known and studied benefits of HGH is the preservation of muscle mass while the body sheds excess fat. HGH regenerates healthy cells, protects your muscles and skin, and promotes fat loss.3
Resistance bands require stabilization throughout the entire movement. Exercises that combine higher forces with an enhanced requirement for stabilization have shown to yield over 2000% increases in HGH.4
Because resistance bands offer a progressive overload even when performing the same exercise as you would with weights your body is forced into continuous stabilization activating your stabilizer muscles and releasing more fat burning HGH.
Resistance Bands vs. Weights: Cost#
Resistance bands are more efficient and safe compared to weights, but what about cost?
The price for free weights is determined by the pound. The heavier the weight, the more it costs. New, high-quality free weights can range from $1.50 to $2.50 per pound, depending on the brand and finished coating. On the high end, you’re looking at $100 just for one pair of 25lb plates.
How much does a barbell cost? A well-made barbell averages around $200. Dumbbells cost between $1.75 to $4 per pound, so you might be looking at $50 just for a single pair of 10lb dumbbells.
You don’t have to be a mathematician to see how expensive free weights can be. An “affordable” 5 to 50lb dumbbell set starts at $1,000.
Resistance bands on the other hand are much more affordable. A selection of four bands that range from 15 lb to 65lb of resistance cost as little as $50 in total. That’s less than a single pair of 10lb dumbbells, and will give you far more weighted variation.
One of the rightful criticisms about resistance bands was their limited weight limits compared to free weights. The heaviest bands topped out at 200lbs. That’s no longer the case with resistance bands like the X3 Bar, which boasts a max load capacity of 600lbs. When you buy resistance bands over weights, you don’t have to sweat the cost.
- Up to 600 lbs of Available Force
- Full-Body Muscle-Building Workouts
- Build Strength Faster
- Greater Gains In Just 10 Minutes a Day
Resistance Bands vs. Weights: Portability#
When it comes to convenience and portability resistance, bands get an easy win compared to weights. For perspective, compare a 30lb dumbbell to a 30lb resistance band. The band weighs just 6 ounces and can fold up to fit in your pocket.
Because of their light weight, the costs associated with shipping resistance bands are negligible. With weights, you can expect to pay as much as an additional 10% of the total cost for shipping fees.
Once you’ve established momentum with a workout routine the last thing you want to do is break it and have to start over. Portability and ease of use translate to consistency. Life gets busy. Whether you’re working late nights in the office, traveling for work, or on vacation you can take your resistance bands with you.
If you like to train at home the problem with weights is the amount of space they demand. If you don’t want to dedicate a significant amount of valuable real estate to your home gym or simply don’t have the space, resistance bands are the best option.
Best Resistance Bands to Replace Weights#
Because replacing weights with resistance bands is still catching on, we’d like to give you a list of what’s out there so you can choose the best option for your goals.
Serious Steel’s resistance bands are made of a heavy-duty latex material that is designed for band-assisted exercises like pull-ups and dips. They are strong enough to support your body weight.
Serious Steel has a number of bands to choose from. Their lightest resistance band offers two to fifteen pounds of resistance, while their heaviest provides eighty to two hundred pounds of resistance.
The company offers pull-up resistance bands, hip and glute bands, and a wide range of band accessories. Serious Steel is a good source for lighter and medium strength resistance bands.
EliteFTS is popular among serious weightlifters. The bands are designed for powerlifters and other elite athletes who want to push a lot of weight with confidence the bands will hold up.
EliteFTS Pro Strong Resistance Bands are made of natural latex rubber. The thickness is (4.5mm), and has a width of 4.5 inches.
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EliteFTS Pro bands offer one of the highest levels of resistance, providing up to 275 pounds of total tension, making it the heaviest duty of the heavy-duty resistance bands after the X3 Bar.
The rogue brand is another favorite among big lifters. Rogue has made a name for itself with its CrossFit offerings over the years. The company makes high-quality squat racks, barbells, and pretty much any type of weight lifting equipment you can think of.
Rogue’s Monster Bands are available in two different lengths - a 12" version which is good for glute bridges, and a 41" long version to help with pull-ups and other lifts.
The 41" bands come in 8 different resistance levels. The silver band is the thickest and provides 200 pounds of resistance.
WOD Nation produces jump ropes and weight lifting accessories along with their resistance bands. Their heavy resistance bands are made of all-natural rubber and are 41-inches long. They are more or less knock-offs of the more popular brands on this list but don’t sacrifice much in quality and thickness.
Iron Bull Strength makes high-quality equipment, including their barbell hip thrust pad and line of bumper plates.
Iron Bull Monster Resistance Bands are made with natural rubber and share a lot of the same features as the Rogue and EliteFTS bands, including a 41" length, a width of 0.25" up to 2.5", and lots of resistance options. The thinnest band (yellow) provides 15 pounds of resistance while the heavy-duty blue band can generate up to 175 pounds of resistance.
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DYNAPRO’s line of resistance bands are made of soft and heavy-duty latex rubber and provide a tension level of up to 170 pounds.
DYNAPRO’s bands are made with natural rubber for maximum durability, are wide enough that they don’t roll up on you during use, and can be purchased individually or bundled as a set.
Undersun Fitness resistance bands are sold in sets of 2, 3, or 5. Bands offer a range of 5 to120 pounds of resistance. The 100% natural latex bands are more affordable than many others on the market.
They aren’t as strong as some of the other heavy resistance bands on our list, but they do come with a lifetime guarantee.
Best Resistance Band#
If you’re ready to say goodbye to weights and want to try adding resistance bands to your routine you’ll want a resistance band that allows you to perform all of the same exercises as traditional weights.
For those who want all of the benefits of lifting heavy weights minus the cost, risks, and space requirements the X3 Bar is an easy choice.
X3 comes with a 21.5-inch alloy steel bar designed to withstand over 600 pounds of force. Each side of the bar has ball bearings with a hook attached that allows the bar to rotate keeping the band’s orientation consistent and your grip secure through each movement. The ball bearings ensure the resistance bands never twist or kink during a set.
The X3 system comes with four individual bands. Each band is made specifically for the X3 and features layered latex for superior strength. The four included resistance bands come in the following resistance ranges:
- Super lightweight: 10 – 50+ pounds as a single loop, 100 pounds doubled over
- Lightweight: 25 – 80+ pounds as a single loop, 160 pounds doubled over
- Middleweight: 50 – 120+ pounds as a single loop, 240 pounds doubled over
- Heavyweight: 60 – 150+ pounds as a single loop, 300 pounds doubled over
For heavy lifters, the X3 Elite resistance band is sold separately and provides 110–300 pounds of resistance as a single loop and up to 600 pounds when doubled over.
With higher resistance, the more difficult it becomes to anchor a resistance band by just standing on them. They tend to dig into your feet and put significant pressure on your ankle joints. To solve this issue, X3 comes with a stabilizing ground plate.
The high-density polyethylene surface has a notched-out area on the bottom designed to keep the band in place while relieving your feet and ankles from pressure. The ground plate is engineered to withstand over 600 pounds of force, allowing it to keep up with the heavy-duty resistance bands.
Aside from offering the highest quality full-body workout alternative to weights, X3 comes with a complimentary 12-week online training program to help you get the most out of every X3 workout.
Resistance band training is designed with precision to maximize the recruitment of muscle fiber and trigger the perfect hormonal environment for muscle growth and fat burning. If you’d like to try a more efficient, safe, and affordable workout alternative to weights, the X3 is for you.
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