Advantages of using Resistance Bands vs. Free Weights.
Similarities between Bands and Free Weights.
Progressive Resistance – as you get stronger you continually challenge the muscle to adapt. With free weights you pick up heavier dumbbells for more resistance. The same thing can be done with bands there are different ranges of resistance bands. You can stack bands together to create unlimited resistance. If you look at the typical product description of a resistance band (Amazon is a good place to see a lot of these), you'll see that nearly all of them give a range of resistance. For example, one band might say 25-80 lbs. of resistance while another says 50-125 lbs.
Variable Speed – you can control the concentric (shorting of the muscle) and eccentric (lengthening the muscle) portion of the reps. Time under tension per rep and total time under tension per set. A key variable in building muscle.
Free Range of Motion – When using machines, you are locked in to a fixed range of motion. With free weights there is a little more flexibility for example if you are doing a dumbbell press you press them straight up or squeeze them towards the middle.
Advantages of bands over free weights
Variable Resistance – The fact that training with elastic bands aims to challenge the ascending strength curve by providing a variable load throughout a range of motion with the most resistance experienced at or near full muscular extension where athletes typically exhibit the highest force production capability is a primary reason elastic bands in combination with constant resistance may be superior over constant resistance alone. (Argus et al., 2011; Cronin et al., 2003).
Resistance in multiple directions – Resistance band training can allow movement to change in multiple directions. Different from weights, a movement is limited to the number of reps one can accomplish, changing your position with a resistance band changes how an exercise feels and how your body adapts and works.
Constant tension through Range of motion - the level of resistance increases throughout the movement. At the bottom of a bicep curl, the band may be barely stretched offering little resistance. But the band becomes increasingly stretched as the hands are raised resulting in a steady increase in the level of resistance. The greatest resistance is at the top of the movement when the band is fully stretched. This means that the muscle is increasingly challenged throughout the movement, which according to the article, creates a demand for greater muscle activity that ultimately stimulates greater muscle growth.
Prevents using momentum “CHEATING” – Resistance bands promote better form. No matter how fast you do the movement you are never going to have momentum working in your favor. When using free weights there is more likely hood of incorporating other muscle groups to cheat the weight up.
Versatility – Resistance band training can allow movement to change in multiple directions. Different from weights, where a movement is limited to the number of reps one can accomplish, changing your position with a resistance band changes how an exercise feels and how your body adapts and works.
Cheap - With prices ranging from $6 to $20, depending on how many purchased and where you buy them, resistance bands can be a cost-effective solution to enhance and change your physical activity.
Portable and convenient – Because resistance bands can be easily packed in a suitcase when traveling, these exercises can be done in a hotel room or car if no gym is available.
Argus CK, Gill ND, Keogh JW, Blazevich AJ, and Hopkins WG. Kinetic and training comparisons between assisted, resisted, and free countermovement jumps. J Strength Cond Res 25: 2219–2227, 2011.
Cronin J, Mcnair P, and Marshall R. The effects of bungy weight training on muscle function and functional performance. J Sport Sci 21: 59–71, 2003.
Selecting and Effectively Using Rubber Band Resistance Exercise. 2011 American College of Sports Medicine. William Kraemer, Ph.D., FACSM, and is a product of ACSM’s Consumer Information Committee