When it comes to resistance training, dumbbells have a certain macho appeal that resistance bands lack. While this may be a reason for men to pick up dumbbells, for women it's not such a strong argument. And the good news for you if you prefer resistance bands is that they'll give you just as good a workout as dumbbells -- sometimes even better.
How Resistance Bands and Dumbbells Work
Although dumbbells and resistance bands use different types of force, both rely on resistance against force to strengthen your body. Dumbbells are a simple piece of exercise equipment that rely on gravity to create resistance. As you lift dumbbells, you're pulling against the gravitational pull of the earth, while when you pull on a resistance band, you're pulling against the band's elastic force.
Weights and resistance bands both allow for a free range of motion and can be used at varying speeds. Both types of equipment can also be used with progressive resistance. In the case of dumbbells, you can increase resistance with additional weight, and with resistance bands you can increase resistance by using a band that has less elasticity. Resistance bands and dumbbells have a virtually identical effect on muscles; a study published in the "Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association" in 2010 found that the difference in the effect of dumbbells versus resistance bands on muscles was not statistically significant.
While you can use resistance bands for the same exercises as dumbbells, you can't use dumbbells for all the same exercises as resistance bands. This is because dumbbells only create downward resistance, while resistance bands can be used to create resistance in any direction. For this reason, resistance bands are better for duplicating real-life motions, such as a tennis or golf swing. Also, because resistance bands provide a smooth, continuous resistance, they encourage better form than dumbbells.
Resistance bands also offer advantages over dumbbells in terms of convenience. Dumbbells are bulky, inconvenient to take with you and hard to store if you have limited workout space. Resistance bands, in contrast, are lightweight and compact. You can simply toss resistance bands in your gym bag to take them wherever you want or pack them in your suitcase when you're traveling.
- Bodylastics: Resistance Bands Vs. Free Weights
- Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association: Muscle Activation and Perceived Loading During Rehabilitation Exercises -- Comparison of Dumbbells and Elastic Resistance
- The Strength Training Anatomy Workout; Frédéric Delavier and Michael Gundill
- Strength Band Training; Phil Page and Todd Ellenbecker
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images