Weights Versus Resistance Bands – Which One Should You Use?

Both resistance bands and weights are good tools used for strength training.   This article highlights a few key differences so that you can choose the best tool for you.

Resistance bands are made of heavy-duty elastic.  As the elastic is stretched, the tension on the band increases.  This tension acts as the “weight” that you move with your exercise.  Some bands have a lower resting tension, while others have a higher resting tension, meaning they will be more difficult to stretch.

Weights are made of a heavy material like cement or metal.  They provide resistance through the force of gravity acting on the weight.  As you increase in weight, the force of gravity increases as well, which makes the exercise more difficult.

Both resistance bands and weights allow you to utilize the principle of “progressive overload”.  This means that as you strength train, you must consistently increase the difficulty of an activity in order to continue to make gains.  If using a resistance band, you can achieve progressive overload by choosing a band with greater tension as you progress.   If using weights, you can achieve progressive overload by choosing a heavier weight as you progress.

Weights can be used to target large muscles responsible for heavy loading.  This might be preferrable for people whose occupation includes lifting heavy objects, or for those who want to increase muscle size for aesthetic reasons.

Resistance bands are most often used to target smaller muscles responsible for stabilizing.  Because of elasticity, they provide variable resistance throughout the range of motion.  This means that as you reach the end of the range of motion, you are working against more resistance than in the beginning and middle ranges.  This is beneficial because it allows you to work harder in the weaker points in your range of motion.

Resistance bands are small and easy to transport, so they can be beneficial for people who have limited space, or who are frequently on-the-go.  Also because of their light weight, resistance bands allow for low-impact strengthening making them advantageous for people with joint issues such as osteoarthritis.

At the end of the day, choosing the right tool for strength training depends on what type of muscles you want to prioritize and your specific goals.  It is always beneficial to consult with a physical therapist when considering implementing an exercise program, and Lifeline Physical Therapy is always here to help!

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