Getting Stronger: Free Weights vs Resistance Bands

Dwayne Oxford
Aug 11, 2019 · 3 min read

Originally posted June 18th, 2015

It could very well be that the only debate that’s really going on is the one inside my head. However there’s no denying that exercise bands AKA resistance bands as a path to strength and big ole muscles, is seen as opposite sides of the universe as it relates to free weights.

This video below is probably the best explainer why exercise bands now comprise 95% of my isolation and accessory work, instead of free weights:

I’ve said this before about exercise bands but appearances can be deceiving. One of the reasons it took me so long to get on the exercise band train is the look, not to mention all the negative assumptions about the usefulness of bands. I mean, when you look at these skittle colored rubber bands, they don’t really give you the impression that you are going to build big slabs of muscle and strength. Maybe it’s time these band manufacturers to start adding rubber spikes and camouflage patterns to the product design. To be honest, when was the last time you saw some IFBB pro bodybuilder flexing with red and yellow exercise bands instead of free weights on the cover of FLEX or Muscle Fitness magazine? I guess Dumb bells and chains look way more masculine and “testosteroffic”.

My road to bands was out of necessity. I didn’t want to lug around dumbbells and bench press plates for the rest of my life at home. I started looking for strength gaining alternatives, and ran into Bodylastics. They’re not the only company that do professional grade exercise bands, but they are one of the best.

Presently legs/calves are really the only area where I use free weights and that’s if you consider kettle bells and weighted vests as free weights. No bars and no plates. Many people might ask, “What about progressive overload, how do you get stronger?” Simple, just add more bands to a movement, just like I’d add more plates or a heavier dumbbell. If I could shortly summarize the benefits, they would be the following:

  1. Very portable. I can take my bands with me when I travel. All I need is a door to strap the bands on.
  2. The constant tension activates a lot of areas of the muscle, especially the stabilizer muscles.
  3. Less injury prone. The bands are way easier on the joints.
  4. Cost effective. 300 pounds of tension will cost you about $90 dollars.
  5. Lots of variety and speed. You can easily move in and out of positions quickly. Staggered and super sets are ideal for resistance bands.

With everything said, this is not a diatribe to take a whey protein dump on free weights. Free weights continue to be part of my workout regiment. Mostly on compounds movements. I’m not even saying that people should stop using free weights. I’m merely stating that bands is a great alternative and you don’t have to fear getting small or not making strength gains because you don’t use free weights the majority of the time. That’s it.

If the phone you have available is the best phone for photography, then the equipment you have available is the best equipment to workout. Not the fitness equipment you wish you had, but is not accessible.

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