The Great Debate: Free Weights vs. Resistance Bands
Many people believe that resistance bands are ineffective when it comes to building muscle or toning the body. This belief cannot be more wrong and false. Studies have shown that the amount of force provided to stimulate the muscle fibers for growth is the same with resistance bands and free weights.
When it comes to weight lifting machines, they are very different than free weights. Machines restrict motion to a very narrow range-of-motion, and do not provide nearly the amount of resistance during certain parts of the movement. However, machines do provide some benefits, but free weights are your best option for building muscle between the two. Therefore, we will stick with strictly comparing free weights with resistance bands.
Similarities Between Free Weights and Resistance Bands
Free weights and resistance bands are similar in that they both provide the resistance to increase muscle strength. They also both provide a free range of motion, meaning that there is no restricted movement in any one direction. In addition, both free weights and resistance bands provide progressive resistance, which means you can change the weight or resistance based on your needs. When working with both, you can also do different speeds of exercises and work out different types of muscle fibers depending on the speed of your movements. These all are factors that build muscle mass, increase muscle strength, and help lose body fat.
Differences Between Free Weights and Resistance Bands
We just spoke about the similarities between free weights and resistance bands. So now let’s talk about how they are different.
Resisting Gravity vs. Free Movement – When using free weights, the resistance you feel comes from gravity. This gravity builds momentum. If you stop lifting a weight, the weight is going to fall. Building muscle comes from fighting this force. However, this momentum can cause problems, especially if you are not trained to lift properly. You need to control the weight when working out. However, you become more fatigued and your ability to control the weight diminishes with each repetition. Without proper control, the risk of injury increases.
When using resistance bands, you do not fight gravity. Instead, you are fighting the tension in the bands, but can move freely in any direction. With gravity, the only way is down. The ability to move freely allows you mimic and recreate natural movements in our daily lives. One of the main benefits is increasing and strengthening our daily activities, such as a baseball, golf or tennis swing or even opening a door.
Better Form – Proper form is essential for building proper muscular strength and symmetry, along with greatly reducing the risk of injury.
With free weights, you are more prone to using other muscles to help you with an exercise. For example, when doing standing dumbbell curls, you not only may use your biceps, but also may use your back to sway the weight up. This defeats the whole purpose of using just your biceps for this exercise and building the most muscle possible.
Resistance bands isolate the muscle you are training and allows you to focus on and improve your form.
Versatility – You may be able to swing a heavy dumbbell side to side or practice punching with a free weight in your hand. Nevertheless, this is not really practical and can prove difficult for many. These kinds of movements are much better suited with resistance bands.
Many types of athletes use resistance bands to improve in the movements that their sports require. Besides competitive weightlifting, you can do nearly every motion in sports with resistance bands. Some of the few are baseball, golf, and tennis swings, punches, ducking and weaving, etc.
Convenience – Resistance bands can fit in a small bag and weigh practically nothing. You can store them anywhere such as a cabinet, closet or under your bed. You certainly can’t do this with a set of dumbbells.
Price- A set of dumbbells can cost you hundreds of dollars. Even those adjustable dumbbells can cost over $100.00. A set of resistance bands can cost you under 30 dollars!
Which Type of Exercise is Best?
There is no right answer to this question. Both are better alternatives for specific things. However, incorporating both in your fitness routine is certainly your best bet when it comes to building lean muscle mass or toning your body and looking your best. Remember, variety is key when it comes to increasing your performance and fitness level. Therefore, use both free weights and resistance bands for your routine and watch your body grow into a better you!
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