Are resistance bands really as effective as free weights at building muscle?

Are resistance bands really as effective as free weights at building muscle?

Here's a question we get asked often and one we thought needed to be addressed.

Can you build muscle with resistance bands? And can they be used as an effective replacement for traditional weights?

Before we dive into these heavily debated questions… Lets start with a hypothetical example.. we'll call it the muscle gain twin paradox.

Lets say you have two identical twins perform the exact same muscle building training program, they get the same amount of sleep each night, they eat the same quantities and types of food, the only difference being the training stimulus each twin uses. One twin opts to solely use resistance bands and the other traditional free weights. Which twin gains more muscle? Or do they end up on par with each other? That’s what we are here to answer today.

Firstly, whats the difference between the two?

Resistance bands vs free weights

One’s made of latex rubber or elastic tubing, and one’s made of metal or cast iron. Despite their appearance though, free weights and resistance bands share similar characteristics when it comes to the important principles that make up strength training.

Both provide:

  • Adequate resistance for muscle building
  • Range of motion, in both range & speed
  • The ability to train with progressive resistance*

(*Progressive resistance – Progressive resistance is a strength training method in which the overload is constantly increased over time to facilitate adaptation. This principle is critical to building muscle, losing weight, and getting stronger.

So anecdotally, they provide the same necessary attributes needed to build muscle, so lets look at some relevant scientific examples which can back this up..

Squats: strength increases are equal

In this research study at Marquette University using Division-1 athletes, the strength gains from a squat dominant workout program using resistance bands equalled those of traditional barbells.

Body Fat: decreases are equal

On the other side of the coin, when we look at fat loss in relation to resistance bands or traditional weights, we can see that both land on par with each other here too. In this 12-week study published in the journal of the National Strength & Conditioning Association, the resistance bands workout program produced the same reduction in body fat percentage as the free weight program in their female subjects.

Not only that, the participants using the resistance bands also matched the strength gains of the free weight trainees.

Muscle building results were the same

Strength training with weights provides so many benefits for us as we age which has been proven to improve quality of life and increase age expectancy.

In these two studies here & here, older people who strength trained on resistance bands gained the same muscle building & mood lifting benefits as those participants in the free weight studies.

The verdict:

To conclude, resistance bands are as effective as free weights in such areas as increased muscle strength, muscle size, decreased body fat, and the ability to provide progressively greater levels of resistance.

In fact, there are a number of advantages that resistance bands have over free weights which we will cover in another blog post. Workouts with resistance bands can build muscle, increase strength, and reduce body fat as well as free weight routines can. Shop our resistance bands here


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