Resistance band vs dumbbell | what’s best for muscle gain?

resistance bands vs dumbbells


Most of the people have misconceptions about the effectiveness of resistance bands – people think that bands are for old people or someone who is trying to recover after an injury. But bands are not limited to the lightweight workouts, these days different types of bands are available in the market that can provide resistance up to 200 pounds.  

This article is not about the benefits of resistance bands over dumbells or free weights, this article is intended to clear your misconceptions about resistance bands. 

Resistance bands should never be underestimated and they are just another way to provide resistance training to certain muscle groups. 

I am a big fan of working out with free weights but at the same time, I appreciate some benefits of resistance bands over dumbells. 

Let’s get directly to the legitimate difference between bands and free weights.  

Resistance band vs dumbbell

1. Strength gains: 

Although resistance bands can assist in the development of strength and muscle mass, but it is restricted in certain areas. You need to be a resistance band expert to hit every muscle group with just a band. 

On the other hand, dumbells have been tried and trusted by millions of bodybuilders. 

Who is the winner? 

Of course your beloved dumbells.  

2. Progressive resistance: 

Progressive resistance is a key factor to develop serious muscular strength and endurance. It also plays an essential role in achieving better hypertrophy.

Dumbbells allow you to increase the resistance by switching between different weights. 

On the other hand, resistance bands allow you with the same ability of progressive resistance. These bands are available with different resistance values, and you can also combine 2 or 3 bands for increased resistance. 

The problem with resistance bands is, they are confined with limited motions. For example, you can’t really do heavy compound movements (deadlifts, squats, bench press) with the bands only. 

Who is the winner? 

It’s dumbbells again. They have proven to be the most effective partner in progressive overload. 

3. Range of motion: 

Unlike machines, you are not locked into a particular range of motion. Dumbells and resistance bands allow you to enjoy the free range of motion as per your requirements and demands. 

Who is the winner? 

I would call it a tie; since you can perform the same range of motion with both. 

4. Linear variable resistance

Now, this is my favorite point. 

Linear variable resistance can dramatically change the way you workout and it has the potential to improve muscle contraction, muscle pump, and hypertrophy. 

What is the linear variable resistance? It means that the load progressively increases as the range of motion increases.

While doing an exercise, suppose you move a dumbbell from point-A to point-B. A 20-pounds dumbell feels like 20-pounds at the point-A and Point-B.

Linear variable resistance (LVR) is applicable to the band’s workout, that’s what makes them special. A resistance band will feel lighter at point-A but can produce the highest resistance at the peak contraction. 

Most of the people have a weak starting point, that’s why we need a supporter. Resistance bands can help you achieve maximum contraction with LVR. 

Who is the winner? 

LVR doesn’t work with the free weights and resistance bands are the clear winner here. 

If you are someone who has been struggling to achieve your bicep peak or roundness in shoulders then you should incorporate resistance bands in your training regime. 

5. Portability

What is the best option to workout while on vacation or a business trip?  Its resistance bands. 

Resistance bands require almost no space and can be your perfect workout partner while on vacation. 

Resistance bands are also great for people who have limited space at home and can’t afford to workout equipment at home.

Obviously, you can’t carry a dumbbell while being on vacation. 

Who is the winner? 

When it comes to portability, nothing can beat a resistance-band.

6. Investment cost

Cost is an important aspect of building a home gym

4 different variety of resistance bands can provide you different amounts of resistance, according to how much you stretch them. 

On the other hand, you will be required to invest in a large variety of weights. You cant do a chest press and bicep curl with the same dumbbell. 

Additionally, you will be required to invest in floor mats, benches, racks before you buy a dumbbell.  

Who is the winner? 

Resistance bands are dirt cheap when compared with the investment required for the dumbells. 

7. Muscle activation and mobility

We have been using free-weights for warmup and muscle activation but resistance bands work in a different way. 

Resistance bands can give you un-parallel muscle activation that can never be achieved by free weights. 

Linear variable resistance (LVR) of resistance bands allows you to have different resistance at different levels of exercise. You get the minimum load in the relaxed position but experience the highest resistance while flexing for a peak contraction. 

Mobility workouts with resistance bands can help in improved performance and injury prevention. 

Who is the winner? 

I personally use a low-resistance band to get the blood flowing towards my target muscle group before I prepare for my heavy free-weight lifts. 

8. Versatility

Before making an investment, versatility is something many people are concerned about. Let’s have a short comparison table about versatility. 

Resistance bandDumbell
VacationCan be carried in a backpackNo one would like to have a 20-pound dumbbell set in luggage. 
PortabilityPerfect for an outdoor workoutConfined to the home gym only
Mobility workoutWorks great for mobility and stretchingNot the best choice.
RehabilitationCan be used for injury rehabilitationNot the best choice. 

Who is the winner? 

I will leave that decision up to you. 

9. Multi-plane resistance

Multi-plane resistance refers to the resistance in multiple directions. 

While free weights and dumbells work on the notion of gravity and you need to adjust your body to target a particular muscle group. 

Example: suppose you are doing a bench press, now to target the lower part of the pectoralis major you will be required to set your bench on the decline and to hit the upper part of the chest you will be required to set your bench on an incline.

In simple words, you position your body according to gravity.

Resistance bands can be worked in any direction. These bands give you the freedom to hit any muscle tissue while being in any position. 

The Multi-plane resistance of resistance bands allows astronomers to exercise in zero gravity of space as well. 

Who is the winner? 

If you are concerned about the Multi-plane resistance then resistance band can be more suitable for you. 

Let’s talk about some of the frequently asked questions-

Can resistance bands replace weights?

No, they can’t. 

Resistance bands work well in many scenarios but they can’t replace the muscle building capacity of dumbells or free weights. 

I would always suggest my clients to use a combination of both. Start a training session with some warm-up and muscle activation by bands and then do the heavy lifting. 

Resistance bands before or after running?

I am assuming that you are an outdoor runner and does not have access to weights. 

Resistance bands can do wonders for muscle toning after a good running session. 

Doing any kind of resistance training before running can get the stiffness that might downgrade your running performance. 

Can resistance bands build mass?

Resistance bands are good for muscle activation and to enjoy a great pump. They are also proven good to achieve muscle toning but they are not my first choice for the development of serious muscle mass. 

Mass development requires heavy lifting and compound movements that are best performed with free weights. 

How to choose the best resistance band?

Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always. This site contains affiliate links as well as general health and fitness information. Please read my Medical Disclaimer and Writing Disclaimer for more information.    

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