Resistance bands or weights?
If you would have asked me 24 hours ago whether or not resistance bands had a different impact on strength training than free weights, I would have said yes, they have different impacts. In fact, I was asked that question, I asked it myself. My knee-jerk reaction was to say they are different, but when I challenged myself and dove into my beliefs, I found that they did not make sense, but I did not have proof.
So, in the spirit of curiosity, I dove into what current research there was on the subject. The best study that I found was this one, a meta-analysis using 8 studies ranging from 2003 to 2016.
Let’s break down the highlights of this analysis:
- Included studies HAD to compare bands to weights and evaluate results based on muscular strength gain
- Included studies had people who were both recreationally fit and athletes
- The age range was 15 to 88 years old
- Included studies were from five different countries: Brazil, United States, Spain, France, and Australia
- Included studies even looked at individuals with heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- The duration across these 8 studies ranged 4 to 12 weeks long, 2 to 5 times per week
- Both the upper body and lower body were targeted
Across all studies, the authors found “that there is no superiority between training performed with elastic resistance and training with weight machines and/or free weights on strength gain.” The study went on to show that “There were no statistically significant differences between training with ERT (elastic resistance training) and CRT (conventional resistance training) for patients with chronic diseases and healthy individuals.”
I have to say that I was surprised and also impressed. This study did a fantastic job and I am incredibly thankful that this work was done.
Thoughts and Considerations
So, what does this mean? It means that you can get just as strong and experience the same amount of gains with resistance bands as you can with weights. Does this mean you should never use free weights again? No, I think that weight training is still good to do and should remain a tool for training. However, if you want to improve your fitness and want to save money, space, and time (assuming you are going to a gym) then buying a $30 pack of resistance bands is the way to go for you!
The last consideration that I would have between free weights and resistance bands is this: working with bands is significantly safer than free weights. The repercussion of failing on a squat with free weights is potentially deadly; if that barbell staples you to the floor with enough weight, you could be paralyzed or worse in the worst-case scenario. Failing a squat with bands just means you let go of the bands and that is it.
If you are looking for specific resistance band work outs, make sure to check my youtube channel, here. If you are looking for personal training and would like to explore this with me more, please reach out to me here on my website or email me at email@example.com!
Lopes, J., Machado, A. F., Micheletti, J. K., de Almeida, A. C., Cavina, A. P., & Pastre, C. M. (2019). Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis. SAGE open medicine, 7, 2050312119831116. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050312119831116
Jordan Tank, Personal Trainer, Columbus, Ohio
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