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Resistance Bands verses Dumbbells

What are the benefits of resistance bands over dumbbells?

Why Choose Bands Over Dumbbells

The limits of using dumbbells

  • In an outdoor class, you can only carry so much equipment.  Expecting clients, or trainers, to bring numerous  sets of dumbbells to class everyday would be inconvenient and frustrating.  Therefore, since you have to limit the number of dumbbells, you’ll also be limiting the amount of resistance being used.
    • Different color bands offer different resistance levels (see below) and just three bands can cover a wide range of levels for multiple athletic abilities.
  • With dumbbells, there is limited ability to vary the resistance during a particular exercise (making it harder or easier).
    • Bands make it easier to vary the resistance by stretching the handles further away from the anchor point.  The anchor point can be under the foot, or around a pole/fence and by simply stepping forward the client can increase the resistance.  This can even be done during an exercise.
  • Dumbbells work because gravity pulls downward.  Therefore, a client is limited in exercises/movements that pushes the weight upwards, and controls it back down.
    • Bands can be attached to numerous objects like fences, parking meters, trees, railings and even wrapped around another band held by another client.  This significantly increase the number of exercise and options the trainer has to simulate the muscle.

Hidden benefit of using resistance bands

Many people do not realize how much their core is engaged when using resistance bands.  In this picture below, as they pull the band back towards them, their body tends to want to lean forward.  However, by engaging the core muscles of the lower back, the client will remain upright with a straight back.  So, this rowing exercise (ignoring the lunge part for this example) is designed to target the back muscles as well as the biceps, but the added benefit is that it also strengthens the core! (yes, the guy on the left should keep his head held up!!)

Understanding Color Coding

Sarge Fitness bands increase in resistance in the following order: yellow, red, blue, green and grey, being the hardest band we have and simulates 70lbs of resistance (holding both handles in one hand).  However, some of the stronger people in class may end up doubling up on bands increasing the tension even more!

What’s Better: More Reps or Better Form?

This is a question that’s asked a lot, and the answer is not so simple.

Let’s make this very crystal clear: proper form is an absolute must, no matter what kind of training you’re doing, free weight or resistance band. 

No matter how you’re trying to train, with fewer reps or more reps, you should absolutely ensure proper form with each and every exercise, each and every time.  If not, you will be setting yourself up for a real chance of injury.

With that said, here are a few points to consider:

  • Good form means you use the full, correct range of motion and therefore target the muscle(s) your trainer wants you to target
  • Obviously, doing more reps means you are taxing the muscle more and increasing the endurance of that muscle.  You are increasing your ability to push through the lactic acid build up (feeling the burn).
  • Typically, if your form gets too bad, then you should switch to an easier version of the exercise or switch to an easier band.
  • However, there are times when your trainer may want you to stay at a higher resistance even if your form suffers somewhat.  Sometimes, ‘good enough’ form is the goal, even though bad form should never be the goal.

As a trainer, there are times when we want our clients to do an exercise for 2 minutes.  We don’t expect perfect form the entire time, but we may specify clients be off their knees (for a pushup) for the entire time, knowing they are going to stick their butts up into the air.  But, as the trainer, we know keeping body weight on their arms the whole time will help develop those triceps and make them overall better at pushups.

Other times, we might say, something like: ‘Last set folks, let’s do 15 GOOD pushups!’  Then we’re trying to tell them we want their best form and want them to push really hard to use their best form as possible.

A few final words of advice: You should communicate with your trainer to make sure you understand the goals your trainer has in mind for you.  Choosing a red or blue band can make a huge difference in walking away from your workout feeling good, or walking away feeling like your arms are going to fall off (and this isn’t a bad thing).  So make sure you ask your trainer what you should be focusing on!