The Pros and Cons of Resistance Bands vs. Free Weights

Comparing Tug of Bands and The Lift of Weights!💪🔥

UPDATED: JUNE 15, 2023

free weights vs. resistance bands

Table of Contents
Pros of Resistance Bands
Cons of Resistance Bands
Pros of Free Weights
Cons of Free Weights
Key Takeaways

Resistance bands and free weights are two popular options in the fitness world for strength training. Each comes with its own set of advantages and considerations. In this article, we will dig into the pros and cons of both resistance bands and free weights, and ultimately make a recommendation based on your fitness goals and preferences.

“The main difference between resistance bands and dumbbells or other free weights is their resistance type. While resistance bands challenge your muscles using variable resistance, free weights use non-variable, or constant resistance” explains Ava Fagin, CSCS. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and personal trainer.

“We can take exercises that you're already doing right now, utilize bands and improve the ability of that exercise to stimulate muscle growth because we're introducing new stress at different points in the range of motion as we manipulate the strength curves." says Jeff Cavaliere, CSCS. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and founder of Athlean-X

“Ultimately, whether you should buy resistance bands or weights will depend on your goal, your budget, your environment, and your current level of strength and fitness. For most people, starting with resistance bands is a great idea.” says Will McAuley, a London-based Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach. He has a Master's degree in Strength & Conditioning from Middlesex University in London.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are elastic bands made of latex or rubber that provide varying levels of resistance that are used for strength training, physical therapy, and rehabilitation exercises. They are also known as exercise bands, fitness bands, or workout bands.

Pros of Resistance Bands

Convenience and Portability

Resistance bands are incredibly convenient and portable. They are lightweight and compact, making them the ideal choice for a travel workout. Whether you're traveling, on vacation, or simply want to fit in a quick workout at home, resistance bands allow you to exercise without the need for bulky equipment or a dedicated workout space.

Versatility in Exercises

Resistance bands offer a wide range of exercises that target various muscle groups. They can be used for both upper body and lower body exercises, as well as for core strengthening and flexibility training. With different band strengths and variations in grips and positions, you can adapt the intensity and resistance levels to suit your fitness level and goals.

Joint-Friendly and Reduced Risk of Injury

Resistance bands provide a lower impact workout compared to free weights. The controlled tension of the bands reduces the stress on your joints and connective tissues, making them suitable for individuals with joint issues or those recovering from injuries. They offer a safer option for individuals who need to be cautious with their joint health.

Variable Resistance and Muscle Engagement

One of the key advantages of resistance bands is their ability to provide variable resistance throughout the entire range of motion. As you stretch the bands, the resistance increases, challenging your muscles at different points in the exercise. This leads to better muscle engagement and activation throughout the movement, promoting strength gains and muscle development.

Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy

Resistance bands are widely used in rehabilitation and physical therapy settings. They offer a gentle and controlled form of resistance that helps rebuild strength and improve mobility without putting excessive stress on the body. They can be beneficial for individuals recovering from injuries or those undergoing rehabilitation programs.

Cons of Resistance Bands

Limited Maximum Resistance

While resistance bands provide varying levels of resistance, they may not offer enough resistance for advanced strength training or individuals seeking to lift heavier weights. If you reach a point where the bands no longer provide sufficient challenge, you may need to supplement your workouts with other forms of resistance, such as free weights or weight machines.

Absence of Physical Sensation

The absence of physical sensation in resistance bands sets them apart from free weights, as they do not provide the same tactile feedback. Certain individuals may favor the traditional experience of lifting weights or the sensation of working against gravity. Without this tactile feedback, it can be more difficult for some individuals to assess their progress accurately or make precise adjustments to their technique.

Durability and Longevity

Over time, resistance bands can wear out or lose their elasticity, especially with regular use. Factors such as exposure to sunlight, excessive stretching, or improper storage can contribute to their degradation. It's important to regularly inspect your bands and replace them when signs of wear and tear, such as fraying or loss of elasticity, become evident.

Limited Exercise Variation

While resistance bands offer versatility in exercises, they may have limitations in terms of exercise variation compared to free weights. Certain movements, such as compound barbell exercises like squats and deadlifts, may be challenging to replicate with resistance bands alone. While you can find creative ways to simulate these movements with bands, the experience may not be identical to using free weights.

Band Positioning and Potential Slippage

Resistance bands require proper positioning and anchoring to ensure stability and prevent slippage during exercises. It may take some time and practice to find the optimal setup and placement for each exercise. If not properly secured or positioned, resistance bands may slip or move, compromising your form and potentially leading to ineffective or unsafe workouts.

Free Weights

Free weights refer to exercise equipment that consists of individual weights that are not attached to a machine or apparatus. These weights are typically standalone objects that can be held, lifted, or moved by the user. Examples of free weights include dumbbells, barbells, weight plates, and kettlebells.

Woman doing bicep curl using dumbbell

Pros of Free Weights

Progressive Overload and Strength Development

Free weights provide the opportunity for progressive overload, allowing you to increase resistance incrementally as your strength improves. This promotes muscle growth, strength development, and improved performance.

Muscle Activation and Coordination

Free weights require greater stabilization and coordination, as they engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This can lead to improved muscle activation and coordination in functional movements.

Range of Motion and Functional Training

Free weights allow for a greater range of motion compared to resistance bands, enabling you to perform exercises that mimic real-life movements more closely. This can be particularly beneficial for athletes or individuals seeking functional strength and mobility.

Muscle Hypertrophy

Free weights, especially when used with heavy loads, have been associated with greater muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth) compared to resistance bands. They provide the stimulus needed to induce significant muscle development.

Variety and Exercise Selection

Free weights offer a wide variety of exercises and movement patterns that can target specific muscle groups and provide a more comprehensive workout experience. This versatility allows for greater customization and specificity in training programs.

Cons of Free Weights

Learning Curve and Technique

Free weights require learning proper form and technique to perform exercises safely and effectively. Without proper instruction or guidance, there is a higher risk of injury. It's crucial to seek guidance from a qualified trainer or coach to ensure correct form and technique.

Space and Equipment Requirements

Free weights typically require more space and specific equipment, such as dumbbells, barbells, and weight plates. This can be a limitation for individuals with limited space or those who prefer working out at home. Additionally, acquiring a complete set of free weights can be costly.

Joint Stress and Injury Risk

The use of heavy free weights can place significant stress on joints, tendons, and ligaments. Improper form, overloading, or neglecting to warm up adequately can increase the risk of injuries such as strains, sprains, or joint-related issues.

Lack of Portability

Unlike resistance bands, free weights are not easily portable. They are typically heavy and require specific equipment and setup. This lack of portability makes it more challenging to incorporate free weights into workouts while traveling or in situations where access to a gym or dedicated weightlifting space is not available.

Intimidation Factor

For beginners or individuals unfamiliar with weightlifting, free weights can be intimidating. The presence of heavy weights, barbells, and weightlifting culture in gyms may create a perceived barrier to entry or feelings of self-consciousness. This can deter some individuals from incorporating free weights into their fitness routine.


Resistance bands come in various price ranges, depending on factors such as brand, quality, and included accessories. Prices can start as low as $10 for a basic set and go up to $50 or more for premium bands with added features and higher resistance levels. One of the significant advantages of resistance bands is their cost-effectiveness as a long-term investment. Aside from the initial investment, resistance bands offer additional cost savings. You don't need a dedicated workout space or expensive gym membership, saving you money in the long run. If a band wears out or loses elasticity over time, replacing individual bands is typically more affordable than purchasing an entirely new set of weights.

free weights vs. resistance bands

Free weights, such as dumbbells and barbells, come in a wide range of prices based on factors like weight type, material, and brand. Prices can vary significantly, with basic sets starting around $50 and more advanced sets reaching several hundred dollars or more. Setting up a home gym with free weights may involve additional costs. You may need to purchase weight racks, benches, and other equipment to accommodate your free weight exercises properly. These costs can add up, especially if you require multiple weights and a dedicated workout area. With free weights, there are potential ongoing expenses. As your strength improves, you may need to purchase additional weights to continue challenging yourself. This can result in ongoing costs as you progress in your fitness journey. Additionally, maintenance costs should be considered, as damaged plates or bars may need replacing over time.

Key Takeaways

Based on the considerations above, the decision between resistance bands and free weights depends on various factors such as fitness goals, preferences, budget, environment, and current level of strength and fitness.

If you're looking for convenience, portability, and low-impact exercises, resistance bands are an excellent option. They offer versatility, controlled tension, and are suitable for various fitness levels.

On the other hand, free weights provide progressive overload, muscle activation and coordination, a greater range of motion, potential for muscle hypertrophy, a wide variety of exercises, and specificity in training programs.

Resistance bands have limitations in terms of maximum resistance, absence of physical sensation, durability and longevity, and limited exercise variation. Free weights require learning proper technique, space and equipment requirements, can stress joints and increase injury risk, lack portability, and may be intimidating for beginners.

When it comes to cost, resistance bands are generally more affordable, with the option to replace individual bands as needed. Free weights can have a higher initial cost and potential ongoing expenses for additional weights and equipment maintenance.

Ultimately, the best approach may involve a combination of resistance bands and free weights. This allows for a diverse and well-rounded training regimen that can maximize results and keep your workouts engaging. You can access our FREE Draper's Strength Resistance Band Workout Guide, which provides a variety of exercises that combine resistance bands and free weights.

Draper's Strength Resistance Band Free Workout Guide

If you prefer exercise resistance bands, check out our selection of top-notch resistance bands. We also provide resistance band sets and bundles for a comprehensive fitness solution. Attain a total body workout, enhance your strength, and accomplish your fitness objectives. Whether you're looking for a resistance band workout, want to incorporate pull-up resistance bands or pull-up assist bands, resistance band arm workout or resistance bands for legs, we'll provide insights to help you make an informed choice. Get in shape and sculpt your body with Draper's Strength Resistance Bands!

Draper's Strength Resistance 6-Band Set