We all know working out is good for us. But choosing HOW to work out can be a more difficult decision. This post aims to give you a balanced perspective on the “gym vs resistance bands; which is better” debate. I’ll also help you decide if one can replace the other.
Gym membership is better for people who need to use heavy free weights and weight machines. Resistance bands are better for people who need a cheap, convenient, and effective way to work out. A decision should be made according to personal needs and goals.
Below, I’ll share the main reasons why I think the gym or resistance bands are better.
Why can you trust this article?
I’ve been a gym junkie for the last 10 years. I’ve also spent 5 years on and off training with resistance bands at home.
I may not be a Pro.
But I know a bit about the advantages and disadvantages of using each!
Gym Vs Resistance Bands: Differences To Consider
The “gym vs resistance bands; which is better?” question is commonly asked.
But as with most fitness-related debates, the answer is not clear cut or black and white.
The opposite is true in fact.
The best answer is that it truly depends on YOU; your personal requirements and your current goals.
Both are effective ways to work out.
And both have their pros and cons as shown in the table below:
|Free weights||Much cheaper|
|Weight machines||Saves a lot of time|
|Cardio machines||Unique linear variable resistance|
|More motivating||Can replace an entire gym|
|No equipment durability issues||Extremely portable|
My recommendation is to weigh out the pros and cons to decide on the method that suits you best!
Below, I’ll dive deeper into the above points to help you decide which is better for you.
5 Reasons Why The Gym Is Better Than Resistance Bands
Here are 5 reasons why the gym wins in the gym vs resistance bands debate:
1) Free weights are readily available.
Whilst resistance bands CAN build muscle and strength, there’s also no denying that barbells and dumbbells reign supreme when it comes to outright muscle and strength gains.
If you’re looking to get jacked then the gym may be better than resistance bands.
If you’re interested, you can check out my other post which compares bands vs free weights.
2) Gyms have weight machines.
Why is this a benefit? After all, bands can replicate all the movements offered by a gym weight machine.
Well, machines can be better for beginners.
They usually have tutorial labels teaching you how to use them.
Additionally, machines allow you to lift a precise amount of weight, unlike bands which only offer an unprecise range of weight that varies depending on how much they’re stretched.
Knowing exactly what you’re lifting can help with progression and motivation.
3) Cardio machines can be found in gyms.
Bands can be used for cardio too.
But cardio machines offer a more functional type of workout. Not sure what that means? If you’re training for a marathon then you’d use a treadmill. Aspiring rower? Then go for the rowing machine.
You get the point.
Resistance band cardio workouts simply can’t replicate real-life movements in the same way a cardio machine can.
4) Most people find gyms more motivating.
Why? A gym is a dedicated training space without (as many) distractions.
It’s also much easier to quantifiably track progression using weights than it is using bands (see point #2). And this 2022 study concluded that seeing measurable improvements is the biggest motivator to stick to something.
Consequently, most people find it easier to stick to a gym routine than sticking with a home band routine.
5) No need to worry about broken equipment in gyms.
Look: Equipment breaks. And resistance bands can have a notoriously short lifespan.
Granted yes, equipment also breaks in the gym.
But a good gym will get this promptly fixed for you.
Additionally, broken gym equipment shouldn’t affect your workout like a set of broken bands at home would!
There’s nothing worse than getting pumped for a home band workout and then having your band break on you.
It’s the same feeling you get as a kid getting a pair of socks for Christmas, pure disappointment…
5 Reasons Why Resistance Bands Are Better Than Gym
Here are 5 reasons why bands win in the gym vs resistance bands debate:
1) Bands are much cheaper than a gym membership.
This is a no-brainer.
Resistance bands are much better than going to the gym if you’re training on a budget.
A set of good-quality bands like these Undersun Fitness bands can be bought for less than 100 bucks. And these will last you for years if they’re looked after properly.
In comparison, a gym membership costs up to 100 bucks or more for 1 month alone.
2) Home workouts with bands save time.
Here’s another solid point for resistance bands.
You can’t question the sheer convenience of home workouts.
It takes most people at least 30-60 minutes to get to and from the gym. Then there’s waiting for equipment during peak hours.
You save A LOT of time working out at home.
Whether you’re a busy parent or simply work crazy long hours, a quick 15-minute resistance band workout can be fitted into most people’s daily schedules.
And it doesn’t take long to see results with resistance bands either if you’re following a good program.
3) Bands offer unique linear variable resistance.
Linear variable resistance (LVR) is a unique property with bands.
It describes how resistance increases as the band stretch when you go through the range of motion.
In comparison, weights are said to provide constant resistance (CR) which doesn’t change as you go through the range of motion.
Interestingly, studies have found that resistance band LVR can be better than free weight CR for increasing muscle strength.
If you’re interested, you can check out my other post on how resistance bands actually work for more details!
4) A set of bands can replace an entire gym.
Why spend money on a gym membership when a set of bands CAN replace a gym for a fraction of the price?
Theoretically, a good set of bands like the Undersuns with different increments can be used to train the whole body. You can find my full Undersun review here.
Indeed, all free-weight movements can be replicated with bands.
Additionally, bands can be used for a variety of goals including; building muscle, losing fat, getting ripped, and cardio.
I say “theoretically” though.
Some people may disagree with me on this, so I decided to dedicate a section to this debate later in this article.
5) Resistance bands are very portable.
Are you a frequent traveler? Always on business trips? Maybe you just enjoy working out in the sun?
Resistance bands are King when it comes to sheer portability.
Use them whenever and wherever you like.
They’re great for adding resistance to bodyweight exercises like push-ups and squats.
The same can’t be said about portability with a gym (if you’re able to take a bench press setup down to the beach please send me pictures!).
If convenience and ease of use are something you need, then resistance bands are better than the gym!
Can Bands Completely Replace The Gym?
Resistance bands can replicate and replace all movements performed at the gym. Beginners can also use bands to build muscle, increase strength, lose fat, and do cardio. However, they cannot replace the gym for maximum muscle and strength-building potential.
As I mentioned previously, this question is open to debate.
One camp agrees that resistance bands can replace the gym, with the following arguments:
- Bands can build and maintain muscle and strength when used properly.
- They are effective for losing fat and cardio.
- All free weight movements can be replicated using bands.
- Everything you would do at the gym can be done with bands.
Then you have the other camp that says resistance bands cannot replace the gym, with the following arguments:
- Bands are incomparable to weights for maximum muscle and strength gains.
- Free weights allow you to lift heavier loads.
- It is much easier to progressive overload (increase weight) with machines and free weights.
- Cardio machines are better than bands for functional training (running, rowing, cycling, etc).
Hopefully, this has helped you decide whether resistance bands or the gym is better for you!
Are Bands Or Gym Membership Better?
I’ve given you my 5 reasons why you would choose the gym over bands and vice versa.
I’ve also shared why you can and can’t use resistance bands to replace the gym.
Now it’s time for you to decide for yourself!
Here’s my take on it:
“Use the gym if you are an advanced athlete, aspiring to be one, or are training for a specific goal and you can afford membership.
Use bands if you are beginenr or even an intemrediate, are working out for general fitness, and looking for something affordable, cheap, and convenient.”Kalam Tang, Kalibre Fitness
At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong answer!
I’ve tried to give you a balanced answer on the gym vs resistance bands debate.
In my opinion, a decision should be made according to your personal fitness level, training goals, requirements, and financial resources.
Ultimately, both types of training are ideal for different types of people and each method has its own pros and cons.
For those who can afford membership, gyms are great for aspiring bodybuilders, powerlifters, general muscle-building, and functional cardio activities like cycling.
For people looking to train on a budget, bands are effective for moderate muscle-building, fat loss, and general cardio.
Will you be going to the gym or using bands?
Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions! You can find my details on the “contact us” page.
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printable worksheets) I used to go from skinny to ripped!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)