Weights vs. resistance bands … what’s the difference?

When it comes to strength training, many people wonder about the difference between resistance bands and weights. We incorporate both into our Board30 workouts, but is one more effective than the other? 

Numerous studies have shown that resistance bands (loop, tube or band form) are just as effective as free weights for resistance training. Bands and weights are similar in that they force your muscles to use tension to move them. 

Board30 PV co-owner, Rachel Daughtry, is a longtime fitness instructor with certifications ranging from Zumba and TurboKick to the Davinci BodyBoard. She believes there are benefits to both. 

“I lifted heavy weights for many years,” Daughtry said. “I sustained many injuries during this time. I began searching for another type of workout – one that would be easier on my aging body. When I found the Board30 workout I was very skeptical that resistance band training alone could sustain the muscle mass I had created while preventing the injuries that I was still nursing. I was so SHOCKED after one year of band training only to realize that I had lost little-to-none of my muscle mass but found myself leaner and stronger. It changed my mind and my fitness regime.”  

So, what is the difference? The biggest difference is that you don’t know how much you’re “lifting” with bands. You do more pulling actions with bands, versus lifting with weights. Bands in particular hit all tiny stabilizer muscles that free weights cannot and because of the bands going both ways – you get a unique muscle tension that not only strengths major muscle groups but also the smaller muscles around it. 

Here are some other differences:

Resistance bandsWeights & dumbbells 
The resistance is the tension in the bandResisting gravity 
Can stretch in any direction Can only move up and down but allows a full range of motion 
Hard to compromise form and can help flexibility and balance Can cheat using your body’s momentum
Can target different muscle groups simultaneouslyActivates muscle memory to its highest capacity
Can range up to 30 poundsWeight amount is unlimited 
A lot of varieties Can build significant muscle 
Very portable – can take anywhere Allows progressive overload
Cheaper than weights Not as portable as bands 

It’s also important to note that resistance band training is so effective that it is used in almost all muscle and rehabilitation therapy. 

The bottom line is you don’t need to pick one over the other. Ideally, you should work both into your routine for different reasons. By incorporating both resistance bands and free weights into your routine, you give your muscles everything they need to get stronger in a healthy, sustainable way.

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