Adjustable Dumbbells vs Resistance Bands

What Are the Benefits of Using Resistance Bands?

Michaels is personally a fan of resistance bands and loves incorporating them into her workouts. “I love resistance bands because they are cheap, versatile, and transportable,” Michaels says. “They also allow you to train from a variety of angles that dumbbells might not necessarily allow for. For example, you can push and pull them, which makes them great for rehab work on rotator cuff injuries, shin splints, etc.”


How Should You Incorporate Dumbbells Into Your Workouts?

Michaels says that she almost always incorporates dumbbells into the home workouts she creates, including those in The Fitness App. “Your body is your top tool, but there are certain limitations to bodyweight training alone unless you are a consummate pro with a strong fitness foundation,” she explains. “For beginners, dumbbells allow you to train parts of the body like back and arms without having to understand how to use more complicated pieces of equipment like a TRX or a pull-up bar. Plus, beginners may not have the strength for those types of exercises.”

Michaels shared a few examples of exercises you can perform with dumbbells to target those tough-to-hit back and biceps muscle groups when using bodyweight alone:

  • Bent-over rows
  • Upright rows
  • Hammer curls
  • Reverse curls
  • Lateral flys
  • Reverse flys

She says that dumbbells also significantly increase the range of exercises you can do for other muscle groups as well, which provides the variety and training stimulus needed to prevent fitness plateaus. “While you might be doing a host of different bodyweight exercises to hit your chest and shoulders, like triceps dips, push-ups, and down dog, [with dumbbells], you can add moves like triceps kick-backs, triceps extensions, anterior raises, overhead press, Arnold press, etc.”

Lastly, she says using dumbbells is a great way for advanced athletes to increase the intensity of bodyweight exercises by adding resistance and performing resisted compound movements like a forward or lateral lunge with a curl, a squat to overhead press, or a deadlift to an upright row. “Advanced athletes can use dumbbells to add resistance to almost any exercise, thereby increasing the intensity of their workouts. For example, adding dumbbells to lower-body exercises like squats or lunges can really up the ante,” Michaels explains.

Resistance Bands OR Dumbbells The Differences

Aside from the physical characteristics of bands and dumbbells, there are a surprising amount of differences in what you can do with each resistance tool, as well as what type of results you can expect.

But lets break down the differences between the two into advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages Of Resistance Bands

  • The most notable advantage of resistance bands is the transportability of them. They can fold up easily into a laptop bag or carry-on suitcase so that you literally have no excuse NOT to exercise while on the road for work or on vacation with the fam.
  • Another advantage bands have over dumbbells is cost. You can pick up resistance bands for as cheap as $5, but as with any product you usually get what you pay for. I paid $20 for a 100lb pull resistance band and paid another $14 for the handles. I can also switch out the band for something with less resistance pretty quickly which is a nice feature.
  • The potential for increased range of motion with exercises that are more “functional”. You can much more easily use a resistance band with a full range of motion through a baseball swing than you could trying to use a dumbbell.
  • Cant use momentum to get in any cheat reps.

Disadvantages Of Resistance Bands

  • Limited amount of resistance for exercises where heavy resistance is required (think lawnmower pulls)
  • Difficult to accurately monitor strength gains other than “feeling stronger”
  • With increased resistance (stretching of the band), you risk snapping the band resulting in injury…You should see some of the welts I got on my back after some overhead tricep extensions…
  • Variable resistance through the range of motion can produce “dead spots” where you are not engaging muscle fibers fully.

Advantages Of Dumbbells

  • Nearly unlimited levels of resistance (depending on what you have available)
  • You can nominally monitor strength gains and know when you need to bump up your intensity to continue making strength gains.
  • Virtually indestructible (unless you have some cheap adjustable dumbbells), invest in a quality set!
  • Balance – with dumbbells you can lift the same weight in each hand while with resistance bands you can inadvertently have more tension on one side vs the other.
  • Greater muscle recruitment – More of the smaller supporting muscles are used with dumbbells and result in a more complete physique.

Disadvantages of Dumbbells

  • High risk of injury if exercises are performed without the proper form.
  • Takes time to learn proper technique unless you have a trainer guiding you through each movement (Thats why I like P90X…Tony Horton leaves no room for error)
  • The cost of dumbbells can be extremely steep. For a decent set of used dumbbells ranging from 5lbs – 50lbs, you can expect to pay anywhere between $200 and $800. That includes adjustable dumbbells as well.
  • Storing dumbbells can take up quite a bit of room unless you have adjustable dumbbells.
  • Traveling with dumbbells is near impossible unless you want to pay out the but for baggage fees, lol

Here are my P90X results after 180 days of using ONLY bands and a pull-up bar:


What Are Free Weights?

Free weights are defined as any training load that

Free weights are defined as any training load that is not connected to other gym apparatus. An example of a commonly used free weight is a dumbbell. When it comes to the resistance bands vs free weights debate, free weights evenly distributes the weight to provide better balance. They usually come in pairs to allow exercises with one free weight for each hand. The top reason free weights are such a popular exercise tool is that they put a full strain on your muscles from the moment you start the movement.

However, there are very good reasons to introduce free weights and resistance bands together into your resistance and strength training. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of resistance bands vs free weights.

Sample free weights Exercises

With free weights, it’s all about letting gravity work it’s magic. The following are some of the more common sample moves that use a dumbbell. As a personal trainer, I also recommend these exercises to my clients, and you’ll see this often at the gym.Bicep Curl: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Pull each weight in the upward direction in a slow and steady move. This exercise increases the strength of your arms, and also defining them.Tricep Extension: Stand straight and hold the weight over your shoulder with your elbow pointing straight up. Slowly extend your arm in the upward direction fully stretching it out, and make sure you don’t start with something too heavy.Upright Rowers: Standing upright, hold a free weight in each hand about hip-high. Then pull them upwards to just below your chin, and then slowly let gravity pull them down again. You might want to pick something heavy for this one. You get to burn more calories doing this move due to two or more muscles working together.Lawnmowers: Lean forward with one leg stretched out behind you. Support your weight by leaning on your knee with one arm. Use the other arm to pull up a free weight as if you’re trying to start a lawnmower. Be careful, though, as your back must remain perfectly straight.Shoulder Press: Hold a dumbbell in each hand at about shoulder height. Alternately push one weight up while fully stretching your arm. This workout targets the muscles on your shoulders, triceps, trapezius, and core, thereby increasing your fitness strength.

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Benefits of Resistance Bands vs Dumbbells and other Weights

Resistance bands are an invaluable item to have in your strength training toolkit. They can offer many similar benefits to using dumbbells or barbells. Like traditional free weight training, resistance bands allow you to:

  • Increase your body temperature, get your blood flowing and muscles warmed up effectively
  • Work through a full range of motion when you are exercising
  • Train all the major muscles in your body
  • Recruit stabilizer muscles that don’t get challenged so much when you’re using machine weights
  • Use the principle of progressive overload to gradually increase your muscular strength, muscular endurance, and muscle size over time
  • Improve your muscle tone 
  • Choose from a wide range of exercises that can help you improve functional strength

You might not realize that they can challenge your muscles in a different manner than free weights. Here are some of the obvious benefits of elastic resistance training, plus some advantages you may not have thought of.

1. Exercise resistance bands can assist you with b

1. Exercise resistance bands can assist you with better quality movement and exercise progressions, in a way that dumbbells can’t

You can use resistance bands to assist you with certain exercises. This cannot be done in the same way when you’re using dumbbells. For example, a resistance band can help you add more control to abdominal exercises such as Pilates-style rollbacks, or crunches.

I’m a big fan of quality movement over quantity. Resistance bands really allow you to work on perfecting your technique with exercises like this. Assisted-style exercises such as a Pilates-style rollback or leg lowers with a resistance band (see image below) allow you to move to the next progression level without sacrificing your technique. Therefore, they’re a great progression tool to have in your equipment kit.

Chin-ups are another exercise where bands are great for offering resistance. You can use bands with greater resistance when you need more assistance with your chin-ups. As you become stronger and get closer to pulling your own body weight, you can use bands with progressively less resistance.

2. Elastic bands allow you to more easily control

2. Elastic bands allow you to more easily control your levels of resistance

A major advantage of resistance bands is that you can easily make very minor adjustments to your resistance level. Sure, you can purchase adjustable dumbbells that allow you to select the weight you need for a particular strength training exercise. However, you can’t adjust your resistance weight as quickly and easily as you can with resistance band training.

For example, if you’re tiring during an exercise and you want to get a few more high-quality reps in, you can make a very subtle and quick adjustment to your level of resistance when you’re using a band. Simply let your hands slide a little or unwrap the band slightly, depending on how you’re using it. 

This is a lot faster than swapping out a pair of dumbbells, thus allowing for minimal disruption during your set. Similarly, instead of grabbing some heavier dumbbells midway through a set, you can simply shift your hands a little, or wrap your resistance band up a little more if you want additional tension.

3. Bands are small and lightweight, and therefore easily moved and stored

One major benefit of resistance bands is that they are super lightweight. You don’t need to worry about dropping one on your foot, or about your bands taking up a whole corner in your living room. Training with resistance bands is a great option when you have limited space available.

They can be packed away in a bag or drawer when you’re not using them, and you can easily take them on holiday with you or to different workout locations. This makes them perfect for “anywhere” workouts.

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4. A super versatile tool

Resistance band exercises are not limited to exercises for building strength such as the biceps curl or leg extensions. They can be used as part of a stretching routine for recovery after workouts, or in between workouts. 

For example, you can lie down on your back, and place your band around the back of your hamstring, calf, or foot, depending on your level of flexibility. Keep your other leg bent with your foot on the floor, or extended if you are more flexible. With one hand on each side of the band, gently use the band to draw your leg towards you until you feel a good stretch through your hamstrings.

This sort of exercise versatility is another aspect that sets resistance band training apart from traditional workout tools such as barbells and dumbbells.

5. Resistance bands offer a novel approach to stre

5. Resistance bands offer a novel approach to strength training

With conventional devices for strength training, such as dumbbells and barbells, there’s a point in the exercise that’s considered the “hardest” part of the movement. For example, the bottom of a squat, or the bottom of a bench press or pushup is the “hardest” part of the movement, even though you’re using the same weight throughout.

When you train with elastic devices such as resistance bands, the opposite effect is felt. Due to progressive resistance from the band at the end of the repetition, the top of the squat becomes harder as the resistance on the band increases. Similarly, the top of a pushup or the top of a chest press with a band becomes the hardest part of the exercise.

Because elastic devices like resistance bands work your muscles in a different way to conventional devices, this produces a “novelty” effect for your muscles. Training in a different way from what you are used to offers a new training stimulus for your muscles. The variable resistance provided by resistance bands offers a new challenge for your neuromuscular system. It can have a beneficial effect on muscle strength and muscle growth, even for people who are experienced in free-weight resistance training.

6. Building muscle with resistance bands with subt

6. Building muscle with resistance bands with subtle adjustments to the direction of pull

Another neat feature of resistance bands is that you can change the angle of resistance, independent of the direction of gravity. With conventional resistance training using free weights, you need to get a bit creative, since gravitational pull only moves in one direction.

With elastic tubing resistance, you can adjust your angles more easily, to achieve what you want to. This means you can focus more easily on improving a certain aspect of your lift. For example, it’s possible to change the direction of pull during an exercise such as a deep squat with an elastic band. Subtle adjustments can enable you to shift the emphasis to different muscles if desired.

7. Elastic devices can be used in conjunction with conventional devices to take your strength to the next level

You can even use your resistance bands in conjunction with free weights! Doing so can help you take your strength and muscle growth to the next level. For example, you could improve your deadlift lockout strength by attaching bands to your barbell. This will pull your body position forward. In turn, it will trigger you to emphasize the “pulling back” part of the end movement, to help you improve your lockout strength. This approach could also be used with other exercises such as a bench press or bar squat.

8. Elastic tubing resistance is superior for explosive training

There are plenty of ways that you can use the variable resistance that bands provide, with explosive movements. Bands can be used to emphasize the most powerful and explosive parts of the movement. Resistance band tension is highest at the top of the movement, which reflects exactly what you’re trying to achieve with explosive styles of training, such as plyometrics.

9. Free-weight resistance training tools have a much higher price point

Outside of big clunky machines, dumbbells and barbells are some of the highest-priced pieces of exercise equipment you can buy. The shipping fee can also be very expensive, due to the sheer weight of the package. 

High-quality resistance bands can be purchased for around $12 for a set of bands that range from lighter resistance to heavier. A modern set of adjustable dumbbells on the other hand could retail at $400 plus shipping. A kettlebell that can be adjusted to different weights comes in at about $140.

On top of this, many people decided they wanted to purchase equipment such as dumbbells as a result of the pandemic situation and subsequent gym closures. This resulted in equipment such as dumbbells and barbells selling out. Resistance bands have been much more readily available at a fraction of the cost. AND it’s possible you could achieve all your strength training objectives with bands alone.

How resistance bands can replace dumbbells

                                                  Kentaroo Tryman/Getty Images

While resistance bands can be used to warm up your muscles prior to weightlifting, they can also replace your need for dumbbells entirely. Not only are dumbbells bulky and difficult to transport but they take up a lot of space in your home.

Resistance bands are the polar opposite: They’re lightweight, travel-friendly, and barely require much storage space. And when it comes time to work out, resistance bands can do everything dumbbells can, while also offering their own unique variety and benefit.

For example, like dumbbells, resistance bands provide a level of resistance to help your muscles tear and become stronger. However, unlike dumbbells, resistance bands maintain constant tension on the muscles throughout the entire movement of an exercise and therefore create greater muscle growth, Zocchi said. And because resistance bands naturally limit your range of motion, overextension of the joints is also less likely.

From a budget perspective, resistance bands are also far more affordable than a set of dumbbells and have proven to be more widely available, too.


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