Resistance Bands vs. Weights – Which is Better?
A workout is not complete without some form of strength training. Sure, cardio is important but strength training can actually be more beneficial to your health because not only does it strengthen your muscles and bones, but it also prevents injuries, reduces your body fat and gives you more of a toned/sculpted look. I always tell my clients: cardio will only create a smaller version of yourself; to change the shape of your body you have to add resistance. Resistance can come in many forms including your body weight, resistance bands, free weights, machines, sandbags, weight plates and much more. So, which one is the best? Well, they are all good and you really should use a mix. Why? Your body will get acclimated (aka stop giving you results) to whatever resistance you are using week after week and plus, it’s just boring to use the same tools!
When it comes to bands vs. free weights – I consider them to be about even when it comes to effectiveness and results as long as you are using them correctly. That is the key. Most often when people use bands they use one that is either way too light or so heavy/tight that they can’t use it properly. When you are picking out a band – get one that is either light or medium because you can always make it harder (pull out the slack between your feet, grip it farther away from handles, etc) but not vice versa. You want to always have resistance in your band – so if there is slack in the band or you aren’t feeling much in your muscles after 12-15 reps, then it’s time to tighten it up or get a medium band. Same thing goes for free weights (do you hear me ladies?!) – if you can crank out 20+ reps of an exercise…it’s too light for you! Aim for 3 sets of 12-15 reps if you are at a beginner or intermediate level.
Benefits of Bands:
- Easy to transport (I take mine when I travel).
- They are less expensive.
- They don’t rely on gravity – you are able to work your muscles in many different directions.
- They are easy to adjust – you can make a lighter band heavier.
- You usually end up working more muscle groups at a time.
Benefits of Free Weights:
- They make your bones stronger because of the actual weight you are having to carry.
- They tend to get your heart rate up more (aka “cardio”) because of the weight you physically holding.
- They are better for some exercises like walking lunges – where stepping on a band is not an option.
- They can be used for twists and exercises where you need to toss or move the weight quickly.
My favorite exercises to do with bands:
Bicep Curls (really squeeze your biceps at the halfway point) Try different hand positions (out wide, narrow grip, cross-body, etc).
Glute Band Walk: Place a band under both feet and hold handles at waist or shoulders (for more resistance). Depending on how much room you have – take 2-10 steps to the right and then 2-10 steps to the left keeping knees slightly bent and and feet flexed. Keep repeating side to side until glutes and outer thighs feel the burn!
Standing Chest Press: Wrap your band around a pole at chest height. Face away from the pole and press arms out (almost straight) then return hands back level with shoulders.
Standing Squat w/ Row: Wrap band around a pole at chest height. Face the pole and stand far enough away so that there is no slack in your band (or hold it off the handles). While holding on to the band, perform a squat, then when you stand up add a standing row (pull hands back and squeeze shoulder blades together).