Barbells, Bands, Or Both?

Goals & Experience Level

The first aspects to consider when determining whether you should be using free weights, resistance bands, or a combination of both, are goals and experience.

Goals

  • Are you looking to gain flexibility?
  • Do you want to build muscle mass?
  • Are you trying to tone your muscles?
  • Are you rehabilitating from an injury?

Experience

  • Are you new to exercising?
  • What is your overall fitness level, regardless of how often you exercise?
  • Have you ever used either barbells or resistance bands before?

Advantages

Free Weights

  • Great for strength training, which is vital to keeping joints moving and free of pain, especially as one ages.
  • Resistance weight stays the same during full range of motion; conversely, with bands, resistance weight increases during full range of motion.
  • There is a finite level of resistance with using bands, but not with using free weights.
  • Experienced athletes may prefer the level of results free weights can provide.

Resistance Bands

  • Little to no pressure on tendons, which is ideal for those who have a lot of joint pain and need a tool that is low-stress with respect to the body.
  • Highly effective for rehabbing specific areas that may be difficult to target with free weights.
  • Lightweight, and therefore, extremely portable.
  • Easy to use for beginners.

Proper Technique & Common Mistakes

Even seasoned athletes make missteps when working out, so it is important to understand common mistakes and how to avoid them. When it comes to weight training, you want to be cognizant of:

  • Too little weight; too many repetitions: Sometimes you need more weight and less reps.
  • Improper footwear: Think flat with a strong grip.
  • Lack of plan: Structure and consistency are essential for results.
  • Allowing distaste to affect technique: Avoidance creates imbalance, and imbalance leads to injury.

Sample Exercises

The American Council On Exercise (ACE) has a wealth of resources to help you develop a plan that is right for you. The ACE exercise library allows you to search and sort by target body area, experience level, and type of equipment including dumbbells and resistance bands. The organization also provides a full-body exercise band workout guide.

The bottom line is that the use of one or the other or both is subjective and unique to each individual. As Livestrong.com states, “Cross-training with both bands and weights is an effective approach to a well-rounded strength training program.”

Athletic Recovery

Regardless of whether you are working with exercise bands, free weights, or a combination of both, there will be times when your body needs to recover.

NOTE: Content included here is not medical advice, and only is intended as information for adults. Always consult with your health care professional before making changes to diet, exercise, medication, or before use of any product or device.

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