Resistance Bands or Weights. Which Is Better For Building Muscle?

By Steve Hall

June 23, 2021

*We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links. Please see our Disclaimer to learn more.

With the lockdowns, the shut-ins, and working from home the world has experienced, many have searched for alternative training methods. Space for training at home is often limited, and with the obvious space saving advantages of resistance bands many people wonder if resistance bands or weights are best for building muscle at home. 

Resistance bands and weights are both equally good at promoting and helping with muscle growth. While resistance bands have less strain on joints, being used when you have limited space and providing constant strain, weights offer much more accuracy and durability when training.

It is important to understand exactly how resistance bands and weights can help muscle growth. While both can promote rapid muscle growth, each requires slightly different training methods, and each offers different amounts of resistance at different positions in an exercise .

How Do Resistance Bands Build Muscle?

Apart from the light weight and the space-saving properties of resistance bands, they specifically train your muscles differently to weights. Understanding how your muscles will be trained and developed when using resistance bands is an essential part of using them effectively.

resistance bands

We will be taking a look at precisely three of the things that resistance bands do to your muscles, how they prevent you from cheating, and why using them is often better than using free weights. These bands have become popular for many reasons, and understanding these will enable you to be a lot more effective in your training.

1. Resistance Bands Give You Constant Resistance Throughout The Movement

From the moment you pull a resistant band taught, the amount of strain on your muscles will be constant. The resistance continues to increase until you cannot continue. This is one of the biggest positives that resistance bands can give to your muscle training.

When training with weights, some exercises will actually become easier as you move through the exercise. For example with biceps curls, there is almost no resistance at the top of the movement. When training with bands however, you will not experience this. Instead, you may find that it becomes tougher to pull on them as you move through the entire curve of the exercises you are doing.

2. You Can’t Cheat With Resistance Bands

One of the biggest mistakes that beginners make when they start training with weights is they use the momentum of the weight to hoist the weight through a set movement. This is when you see someone crazily swinging a weight through the air, essentially cheating to complete the exercise. This is not only dangerous but gives you almost no chance at muscle growth.

Resistance bands do not allow this as no amount of momentum can help you to complete the movements. In contrast to weights the more momentum you try to create the harder the exercise becomes.

3. You Can Do Speed Training With Resistance Bands

Even if you are an experienced lifter, you will have to move slowly when training with weights. Most of the time, the entire workout that you are doing with weights requires slow, precise movements to put the necessary strain on your muscles.

resistance band speed training

Resistance bands can provide constant resistance no matter the speed at which you are training, For example, you can use resistance bands with speed exercises such as punching drills, jumps and lunges to increase your range of motion, build speed, strength and explosive power.

The Advantages of Weights

While resistance bands are great and have a lot of advantages, weights are still an old favorite. Understanding the advantages of weights in comparison to resistance bands is essential for you to know when to use each of them.

There are multiple reasons that people still love and prefer to use weights for their training needs. Weights are probably the oldest type of gym equipment, and they will be a mainstay to training needs even as training equipment improves.

1. Weights Are Easier to Track Progress

Resistance bands are great at providing constant strain, but they dramatically change through each motion you are making. This means that they offer a lot less resistance at the bottom of a movement than when they are fully stretched out. Older bands can also lose some of their resistance over time.

A 10-pound weight will weigh 10-pound until the day it either breaks in half or is melted down for scrap material. This allows you to easily and accurately measure how much progress you are making. You always know which weights are near your limits, giving you a clear record of your progress.

2. Easier To Go ‘Heavy’ With Weights

Even with the latest technology, resistance bands have a limit to the amount of resistance they can provide. You can use multiple bands at a time, but then it becomes more difficult to figure out how much resistance you are getting and combining bands together can also be quite difficult to grip the more you combine together.

With weights on the other hand, it’s far easier to add weight to a dumbbell or barbell and know exactly how much you are lifting. Barbells and dumbbells are just as easy to handle no matter what weight you have.

3. Weights Are More Durable

Your weights will never change how much they weigh; even if you drop them after every set, chances are you will damage the floor more than the weights themeselves. Although weights are more expensive than resistance bands, they will still provide you with consisten training year after year.

This is, unfortunately, one of the downsides of resistance bands; as they start aging and with continued use, their benefits decrease. A resistance band used every day will usually have to be replaced every one to two years.

When Should You Use Resistance Bands In Place Of Weights?

To understand when you should be use resistance bands, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of weights and resistance bands in each situation. Both of these pieces of training equipment can be used in several different locations and provides unique benefits.

1. Resistance Bands Are A Good Home Replacement For Cable Machines

Resistance bands are suitable for replacing many machine exercises you have access to while exercising at a commercial gym and are particularly good at allowing you to do similar exercises to cable machines.

The bands can be attached to doors, wrapped around bars, held by the feet, or curved around the back to train all the muscles that you would usually only be able to train on cable machines in the gym.

While free weights can train some of these muscles, they can’t easily provide resistance in sideways movements like cable or pulley machines. Most people don’t have the money or space to install a cable machine at home, so the resistance bands are a much more affordable replacement.

2. Resistance Bands Are Great If You Have Limited Space

The biggest issue about even free weights is the amount of space needed to store them. Resistance bands on the other hand need almost no space at all. It is true however, that some resistance band exercises will require space to actually perform the movements, such as rows. You will typically attach the bands to a door and then have to step back a few paces to pull the bands tight.

It should be noted however, that although traditional free weights take up a lot more space than resistance bands, you can get innovative space saving free weights such as dial adjustable dumbbells that take up much less space.

3. Resistance Bands Are Great For Traveling

Weights can never beat resistance bands for traveling ease, as the bands take up no space in any bag and can be used in almost any hotel room. Resistance bands are perfect for those looking to train their muscles while traveling for or for business or pleasure.

Weights will never be easy to travel with. If you know you will often be traveling, a good set of resistance bands should be an essentiall addition to your luggage.

Conclusion

If you are just getting started with strength training and have a dedicated space for your workout, resistance bands are an excellent place to start. As you begin adding more equipment, we recommend adding free weights as well to round out your home gym.

Resistance bands and free weights are both great tools to help you increase your strength and fitness levels how and when you use them depends on your situation. I hope this article helps you to decide how best to approach your training at home.

Social box scroll stop element

Steve Hall

Steve is a strength training fanatic who geeks out over the best, most efficient workouts, nutrition and gear to help get you stronger and healthier!

More to explore


If you have a home gym or are looking to set one up, you will want flooring that protects you, your floor and your equipment. There are a [...]

What Is The Best Flooring For A Home Gym? Ultimate Guide

Many people prefer the freedom of having a home gym. You can work out whenever you get a chance, you never have to wait for equipment, etc. Commercial [...]

Home Gym Mirror Guide: Benefits, costs, what type and size

If you’re wondering, can you build a home gym for under $500, then yes, you absolutely can! It might not look fancy, but it will get the job [...]

Is It Possible To Build A Good Home Gym For Under $500?