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Weights Vs. Bands- Which Should I Use?

If you’re taking a run at P90X or Insanity’s sequel “Asylum“, you know you’re going to need some resistance equipment for maximum muscle sculpting action. You have a few choices if you’re not going Caveman style with rocks and tree branches: dumbbell-style weights or resistance bands. And just because they’re so awesomely inclusive, both programs devote screen time to both options, with Insanity going so far as to giving you a dedicated band demonstration workout.

So the question’s going to come up– which should I use? Both pieces of equipment will offer up resistance to leave you feeling the burn and enjoying some “pump” but they’re a bit different. Personally, I recommend dumbbells for a few reasons but depending on your goals and what you might need in a crunch, either can help get you to your goal of making P90X (or Asylum) work for you.

Bands

See that pic up there? That’s Carl Daikeler, CEO of Beachbody and P90X grad. He used bands. Did they work? Obviously. Bands come in a variety of color-coded “weights”- usually based on length and thickness of the band tubing. Like “all-in-one” dumbbells like Select-Tech or Power Blocks, band resistance can be switched on the fly– instead of switching to a new weight, you can simply shorten the band.

Pros
  • Portable: There’s a few advantages to bands but first and foremost, they rule on portability, which means you can throw them in your suitcase or bag when you hit the road on vacation or a business trip. They’re lightweight and flexible. I’ve also used them in place of a pullup bar (thanks to a door attachment kit).
  • Cheap: For a full range of resistance bands, the price makes dumbbells look like they’re made out of gold. Bands range from $15-25, with additional price based on increased resistance.  I purchased my bands individually (you can get them virtually anywhere) and Beachbody offers a complete band kit as well.
  • Versatile: You can use and modify bands for almost any move– core, legs, back, arms, chest… you name it. They’re available in as wide a range as dumbbells (the equivalent of 5 lbs up to 50 lbs), allowing both the dudes and the ladies to get the burn on.
Cons
  • Resistance: Bands can lose elasticity over time. After repeated use, some may not be the same resistance as when you started. In addition, many times the resistance loosens on the “release” action of the exercise and doesn’t apply equal resistance through the range motion in some moves. While this tones, it’s not optimal for building mass or truly “heavy-ing up” if that’s your goal.
  • Awkward: Some moves will have bands rubbing against your side or back or bumping the back of your head. This bugged me– I like free range of motion across the board.
  • Snappy: This is rare but it should still be a consideration, no matter how remote. Bands can break or slip loose, which can cause some serious stinging action as you take the elastic snap of a big rubber band. I’m nervously cautious when using the band in a door as handles have been known to snap free or the door isn’t secured tight enough, leaving the band to slip.

Dumbbells

Dumbbells have a legendary track record when it comes to strength and fitness. Heck, it’s in my logo so you know I might be a little biased toward using them. Still, I’m an honest guy and while I prefer dumbbells for a couple reasons, there’s also a few cons that go along with them.

Pros
  • Full Resistance: While the idea is the same as bands (resistance), weights –when used properly– allow resistance through a full range of motion. You’re always lifting the same weight as you’re lowering and this requires you to not only concentrate but also work on form.
  • Good For Mass: In my experience, dumbbells allow more weight and weight variation (2.5 -10 lb. increments), which is what you need to increase mass and “grow” muscle as you add additional resistance.
  • They’re Not Bands: For some reason bands tend to be associated with sissy stuff. Self-respecting dudes have it in their head it’s dumbbells or nothing. If your ego can’t handle using bands, dumbbells are your only option.
Cons
  • Expensive: Dumbbells are PRICEY. Still, you can get some pretty decent prices as you go lower end. The higher end, adjustable dumbbells (Power Blocks, SelectTechs) can get up to $400. I’d say it’s worth it and you can usually find sales that knock 40-50% off the price every quarter or so.
  • Heavy: Where bands snap, weights crush. Improper form and “swinging” weight to add another rep causes all kinds of injury.

While this breakdown isn’t inclusive, your choice is probably going to simply boil down to what you like best. I find bands work when I want to do some fine tuning but I prefer dumbbells for their equal resistance across the board. You may  feel differently but if you’re starting out and on a limited budget, you could do worse than bands. In many cases, you’ll have to work up to dumbbells as you seek to add muscle but having both in your resistance arsenal is a good idea. Since bands tend to be cheaper, I have both and appreciate the convenience bands offer when I travel. But when I’m at home,my personal preference says it’s dumbbells all the way.

No matter what you chose, I’m here to help you through your program either way. Email me at coachdan74@gmail.com or make me your free coach right here

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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. Jim says:

    I’m with the weights 100% My wife is with the bands, I guess for me it’s a guy thing.

    • Danv says:

      Totally. You know how hard it was to find a decent pic of a dude using bands? 95.8% are of women using them. I think I know the reason dudes pick weights… but still, the bands can do some fine tuning damage!

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