The fitness and wellness world is constantly growing and evolving with the introduction of new fitness trends from barre exercise to one of the latest crazes, TRX suspension training. Newcomer on the scene this year are resistance bands. Some fitness enthusiasts swear by these versatile, elastic bands while others are a little hesitant to drop their dumbbells. Those that are left unsure ask the question, “which is better?” Here’s a look at what each of these muscle-building tools offer.
Resistance Bands: Gravity Defying Fitness
Resistance bands are not as new as we think- these handy, rubber bands have actually been used in rehabilitation centers for decades but are only recently gaining popularity as fitness tools. Colorful and stretchy, bands such as Black Mountain and Stroops, come in many styles, attached to handles and other ergonomic features which allow for versatility and ease-of-use. What makes them popular?
- Free Motion: Resistance bands are one of few which defy gravity in allowing the body to expand its range of motion.
- Flexible Workouts: With the ability to be stretched from different angles, bands allow lateral and horizontal movement, going against natural forces, and utilizing muscles that are normally hard to target.
- Varying Resistance: As the range of motion increases, bands stretch to create the resistance needed to build muscle. The longer the band is stretched, the more resistance provided.
- Joint Protection: Free of weight, resistance bands don’t add any pressure at all keeping bones, ligaments and tendons safe.
- Economic: Resistance bands are cheaper than other fitness equipments, and available to purchase alone, or as part of a set.
- Storage and Travel Friendly: Take your resistance bands with you anywhere- they’re easy to store and throw in a bag.
- No Gym Membership Required: Because you can take your resistance bands anywhere, wherever you are becomes your gym!
- Hard to Monitor Success: While many resistance band users report improvements in muscle strength and tone, there is no actual mean to easily quantify gains.
- Limit on Muscle Growth: While increasing stretch allows for increasing resistance, all resistance bands have a limit which when reached, will begin to have diminishing effects on muscle development.
- Wear and Tear: Especially when used incorrectly, resistance bands can be easily damaged and torn.
Free Weights: Lift With Gravity
Free weights come in many forms: dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, medicine balls and more, deriving the name “free” from its lack of attachment to any other device. Over time, these fitness tools have proven to increase muscle growth and development, improve bone density, and aid in fat loss. The most effective free weight exercises involve a vertical range of motion, working hand in hand with gravity to create resistance in muscle building. What has made free weights stand the test of time?
- Versatile Workouts: Free weights can be used to target many major muscles in a variety of different exercises which optimize muscle gain.
- Increasing Resistance Options: As muscles develop, free weights with increasing weights can be used to elevate resistance. This also allows users to track success and muscle growth.
- Portable: Unattached to other devices, free weights can be taken anywhere.
- Durable: Free weights are made with durable products which guarantee longevity.
- No Gym Membership Required: With the ability to take free weights anywhere, you can turn any environment into your own personal gym!
- Limited Motion: Free weights are most effective when used in vertical motions, limiting exercise and motion options.
- Associated Risks: As weights increase, mounting pressure is placed on the body’s joints which can create health risks. Additionally, free weight users often require a “spotter” to prevent injury.
- Takes Up Space: Free weights can be difficult to store and can take up a lot of space.
- Hard to Transport: While being portable, depending on the weight, free weights are hard to carry around.
- Costly: While prices vary, one thing is certain: free weights have to be replaced as muscles develop, which make them a recurring cost.
Which is better?
Ultimately, whether you choose to use resistance bands or stick to free weights, both offer advantages to help you maximize your muscle development and growth. Remember: there’s always the option of using both. Resistance bands and free weights can be great compliments for each other, catapulting you closer to reaching your fitness goals.