When you want to exercise, do you use free weights or resistance bands? While both can be used in building muscle strength and endurance, each have their own advantages and disadvantages in their use. Studies have shown that both forms of resistance training produce similar amounts of muscle activity, so here are some of the differences where an individual might choose one over another:
Free weights, like dumbbells and kettlebells, are a constant weight, meaning you will always be moving against the same amount of resistance throughout the movement. This may allow many more muscles to be involved throughout the movement, such as stabilizer muscles like the rotator cuff. Free weights also allow movement in a multitude of directions, allowing for more complex movements than a resistance band. Weights are also more durable than resistance bands, and progress can easily be measured by the ability to lift increasing weights. However, they tend to be less portable, more expensive, and work most effectively when against gravity meaning they are limited to vertical movements.
Resistance Bands are the lighter and more portable equipment of the two, but that does not mean it is not effective. The elastic band provides variable resistance, allowing the user to manually adjust how difficult the exercise would be depending on the tension of the resistance band. Like weights, there are also many colours that indicate difficulty of the band, typically with lighter colours representing easier difficulties and darker colours representing harder difficulties. The important difference with resistance bands is that they are not reliant on gravity, meaning that horizontal movements can be done using bands when tied to a pole or a doorknob at home. This allows more functional movements to be trained, and due to training specificity, it can help develop muscles that will protect against injuries during that movement. However, they are more easily damaged and torn, and because you have a variable resistance, the difficult only matches the free weights are the end of the movement rather than throughout.
Regardless of the method you prefer, it is more important to have a correct form when performing the exercise to reduce the risk of injuries and to get the best results out of the exercise!