Both resistance bands and free weights have a place in a well-rounded fitness program. Each of these exercise tools offer the kind of variety, flexibility and "real-world" functionality in use not found in larger pieces of weight equipment such as weight machines. But how do they rate against each other as a workout tool?
Resistance bands are lightweight elastic strips that come in a variety of colors; each color represents a different level of resistance. These bands can be used alone, or with special accessories such as door attachments or handles to give you a wide variety of exercises to choose from.
Bands come in both latex and non-latex versions, so be sure to select the right ones for your needs. Also, one important safety tip with bands is that you should always check them for any nicks, fraying or other wear-and-tear before each use. If you find any signs of any of this, don't use that band.
Advantages of Bands
Perhaps the biggest advantage that resistance bands hold over free weights is in their transportability. Resistance bands can literally be folded-up and taken with you practically anywhere. You can use them in your office, at home or on vacation.
Another big advantage is cost. With individual bands priced as low as $3, and bulk rolls costing under $20, these are quite easily some of the least expensive, yet versatile exercise items you can find. Bands can be used for just about every exercise that can be performed with free weights. Additionally, the special accessories, such as door attachments and handles, make them even more diverse.
Main Disadvantage of Resistance Bands
The main disadvantage with resistance bands is that at some point it may become difficult to continue to make improvements in your strength using bands alone. Unlike weights, you have a finite level of resistance to choose from with resistance bands. Therefore, if your goal is to increase your maximum strength, bands alone will only take you so far.
Simply put, free weights are basically any kind of weight that are not attached to a machine. Dumbbells, barbells, weighted medicine balls and even sandbags are all examples of free weights.
Advantage of Using Free Weights
One of the main advantages of free weights over resistance bands is that the amount of weight you can choose from, and therefore the intensity level of your exercise, is unlimited. This means that your ability to continue to increase your strength is limited only by how much weight you can actually lift, not by the limits of the amount of resistance available.
Disadvantages of Free Weights
One disadvantage is the amount of space required to store your free weights. Dumbbells, barbells, weight plates and medicine balls can take up a lot of space if you have several of them. So, as you become stronger and begin to increase the amount of weights available to you, storage space may become a problem.
Another disadvantage is cost--free weights can be costly when compared to resistance bands. Free weights are often priced per pound, so as you improve your strength and need heavier free weights, this can become more costly.
Free weights are not as portable as bands. Your ability to move your weights from place to place will depend upon your ability to lift and carry them. This is definitely not something you can easily do if you want to exercise at the office or on the road.
Lastly, if you work with heavy free weights you may need a spotter to help you lift safely.