Resistance bands vs. Kettlebells – Which One To Choose | Must Read

The kettlebells and resistance bands are an essential part of strength conditioning. Both provide resistance, which is the primary ingredient to be fed to the muscles.

So, getting confusion while choosing between the resistance bands and kettlebells is obvious.

Here, I will begin with the most common differences between the two, which many of you shall be familiar with.

By the middle of this article, I would start explaining some of the key technical differences, which may become the basis of your final decision between the resistance bands and kettlebells.

I will conclude my findings by way of final opinion in the end, which is worth reading.

So how do you differentiate between the resistance bands and kettlebells? At first sight, the resistance bands and kettlebells are made differently and provide different kinds of resistances. Further, the resistance bands are an extremely versatile piece of equipment. They are incredibly affordable as well as fit for all ages of athletes. In contrast, the kettle bands are an unstable piece of equipment, which is more than a dumbbell. Kettlebells are famous for advanced levels of training with a focus on mobility and explosivity.

Here is the most elaborate battle between the resistance bands and kettlebells to unravel the logic behind the answer I just gave in the above paragraph.

❝ Hi, I am Ravi, your companion and a passionate fitness athlete, cyclist, runner, gym enthusiast who just loves the concept of resistance bands for their extreme flexibility. I have been using resistance bands as one of my primary fitness equipment for the last many years ❞

Let’s begin-

Nature of resistance –

The kettlebells are similar to the barbells and dumbbells, in terms of the nature of the resistance. They all provide fixed resistance value throughout the range of motion of the exercise, whereas the resistance bands provide variable resistance due to the stretching of rubber.

In the first instance, the fixed resistance seems to be a better option as compared to a variable resistance. However, variable resistance of bands has been found to provide proven benefits in specific exercises where the strength curve is ascending or parabolic. The common trait among such exercises is the involvement of pushing force.

Examples of such exercises where resistance curve of resistance bands matches with the strength curve of muscles are squats, chest press, lateral raise, overhead press, etc.

📑 Here is an article where I have explained the benefits of variable resistance bands by taking an example of banded squats in complete details –Why Should I Use Resistance Bands In Squats – Instead Of Fixed Weights. Curious folks can read this fantastic resource in free time.

Portability of fitness accessory-

You already know the winner on this account. The kettlebells provide resistance due to gravity. The actual weight of kettlebells, when measured on a weighing scale, is precisely the same as the resistance offered during the workout.

The resistance bands, on the other hand, provides resistance independent of gravity. Due to this fact, the weight of resistance bands providing resistance in the range of 100 pounds may only be a few hundred grams.

That means, if you are a frequent traveler, resistance bands are the perfect accessory to look out without compromising the intensity of the workout, you follow.

🤔 WINNER Resistance bands for their lightest weight in comparison to the resistance they offer.

Costing of resistance bands vs. kettlebells –

The resistance bands start from as low as 2 USD and may go up to the 100 USD for the bulky power loop resistance bands offering resistance over 200 pounds.

However, if we purchase a kettlebell of 200 pounds, that will cost you a fortune. The shipping cost may even surpass the original price of the kettlebell. Further, buying a new kettlebell of larger sizes every time you break your fitness milestones, adds to their expenses.   

🤔 WINNER – There is no brainer in guessing the king here, the resistance bands.

Durability –

The kettlebells are made from hard iron/steel, whereas the resistance bands are made from a soft rubber material extracted from natural rubber plants.

As such, the kettlebells can survive for decades if kept away from moisture. The resistance bands, on the other hand, are extremely prone to damage from the stress of exercises as well as handling. They need comparatively much higher care while handling during workouts as well as during storage.

The resistance bands can typically last from 6 months and up to a maximum of 3 to 4 years. One thing is sure about exercise bands that they are not going to last for 8,9, or 10 years no matter how much you care. Natural rubber disintegrates with time due to the reaction with the environment even if we don’t use them for a long time.

🤔 WINNER – The kettlebells which can sustain for decades due to the use of hard metal.

📑 Here is a relevant article where I have explained a primary concern of people regarding the shelf life of the resistance bands and tips for improving it – How Long Do Resistance Bands Last – Practical Tips For Longevity

Monitoring of progress of workout plans–

The monitoring of the strength and cardio workouts is equally important as doing the exercise. Tracking the amount of weights you could use in the previous week/month is crucial for encouragement as well as preventing injuries due to overtraining.

As already explained in previous paragraphs, the resistance bands do not provide any fixed-resistance, while kettlebells can easily be identified by their weights.

In the case of workout bands, the only way to monitor your fitness sessions is to keep a count of the color of resistance bands or make use of a weighing scale/luggage scale for exact measurements.

📑 Luckily, I have made a valuable resource to address the above concern of users regarding tracking fitness progress while using resistance bands – Why do resistance bands have a range of resistance | How to Deal

🤔 WINNER Kettlebells

Progressive resistance –

Everybody who has been the training with any kind of weights and machines is familiar with the term ‘progressive resistance.’

The progressive resistance refers to the appreciation in the load-carrying capacity of the muscles over a defined period.

That means any equipment that we buy for our fitness goals must be able to provide you the progressive resistance as our body and its muscles adapt to the current resistance levels.

In the case of kettlebells, it cannot provide the varying resistance as you may need over some weeks of training. You may have to purchase additional kettlebells of higher resistance to stress the ever-adapting body.

The resistance bands, in contrast, provides a range of resistance from 0 to a particular value as determined by the supplier. As such, by increasing the amount of stretching of the rubber exercise bands, we can meet the higher resistance demands of muscles from the same resistance bands for some months, at least.

Further, there is not enough variety in sizes of kettlebells, as is the case with dumbbells. While training with kettlebells, it is painful to find the next appropriate resistance level kettlebells. We may have to compromise with the relatively higher resistance kettlebell, which may be dangerous to the health of bones and muscles.

In contrast, the resistance bands come in varying sizes and designs. They further come in the form of a kit of different color power bands/tube resistance bands/mini loop bands.

🤔 WINNER — When it comes to the ability to provide progressive resistance, the resistance bands are unmatchable, especially for home workouts.

Versatility of usage –

The kettlebells like the dumbbells can be used as free weights. Similar to dumbbells and barbells, the kettlebells can be used for lower body exercises such as kettlebell swings, squat, deadlift, lunges and upper body exercises such as shoulder front raise, lateral raise, overhead press, etc.

In the case of resistance bands, they are just a piece of soft rubber molded in different designs and shapes. Due to their extreme flexibility and adaptability to the various movements of body parts in infinite planes, they are incredibly versatile in usage.

The resistance bands can be used both as a primary piece of fitness gadget and as a rehabilitation accessory. They are also famous for improving balance and coordination by incorporating them in the stretching and flexibility routines.

In contrast, the kettlebells are only limited to the weight training that, too, in the vertical plane of motion as gravity only acts in the vertical direction.

🤔 WINNER – The resistance bands are the clear winner by virtue of their material, which is extremely flexible and stretchable.

The risk for injuries-

For any athlete or a casual enthusiast, the injuries can bring nightmares and halt their fitness journey. Further, the physical injury dramatically affects the emotional well-being of any person who is passionate about his/her sports.

The kettlebells have been designed to provide uncertainty. That means, while holding kettlebells in hand, you shall feel the kind of instability due to the shifting of the center of gravity, a few centimeters away from the hands.

It happens due to the asymmetrical placement of its handle ( on the side of weight instead of the center). Just look at the dumbbells and compare them with kettlebells for my above opinion.

Further, the kettlebells are extremely popular for their explosive movements through various exercises such as kettlebell swings, kettlebell clean, snatch exercises. Such a rapid flow of weights over the shoulder and legs may cause the muscles to stretch and squeeze beyond limits.

Switching over to the kettlebell workout directly without initial experience with dumbbells or resistance bands can be fatal for your fitness journey.

On the other hand, the resistance bands provide subtle resistance, which increases in steps throughout the range of motion of the exercise. The activated muscles do not have to face the sudden jerk of the resistance, but a small resistance which continuously increases with the stretching.

That is the reason, the exercise/therapy style bands have been used for decades in rehabilitation centers by the coaches and athletes.

🤔 WINNER – The resistance bands are the safest option, which are easy on joints and provide the time to the muscles to recover before the resistance increases to the maximum value by the end of the range of motion of an exercise.

Mobility and explosiveness-

When it comes to mobility & explosiveness, we mean the dynamic movement of muscles through a much more comprehensive range of motion.

Higher mobility means that targeted muscles get flexed and extended completely during any exercise. That is the reason; it is always advised to keep the weight of dumbbells/resistance bands at such a value that we can efficiently complete the full range of motion of the exercise.

The explosiveness means that we need to move our body part at a much faster pace to complete the concentric and eccentric phase of the exercise. For quicker/explosive movements, the body has to deploy a higher number of faster muscle fibers. It is the same reason; sprinters look bulkier and more muscular than the marathoners.

Kettlebell workouts such as swings, clean, snatch, and overhead press not only targets multiple muscle groups but also raises the heart rate for cardiovascular endurance.

The resistance bands also provide high-intensity training through squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc. However, the kettlebells are adaptable to the explosive routines due to thicker handles and better grip.

🤔 WINNERKettlebells are the winner here due to their free nature of resistance (without need for anchoring as in case of resistance bands) and broader grip.

Coordination and stability-

As said earlier, the kettlebells have been designed as an unstable piece of fixed weight whose weight is not symmetrically distributed around the handle.

Its misaligned handle engages additional stabilizing muscles of arms, thereby improving grip. The bottoms-up series of workout with a kettlebell (where kettlebells are held in an inverted position, i.e., handles are at the bottom) are known for improving stability and coordination.

The resistance bands are also a free weight with no restrictions whatsoever. Here, we are the developer of our exercises with no supported trajectory as provided by the gym machines.

In that sense, workout bands also induce a feeling of instability. It is a reason that resistance band training does take some time to get used to even for trained athletes.

🤔 WINNER – Though the competition is quite close between the two, the kettlebells have a slight upper hand due to the inherent instability found in its design.

Suitability for different fitness level athletes-

Though kettlebells can be used for all the dumbbell exercises such as rowing, triceps curl, biceps curl, chest press, etc., however, they are exclusively designed for explosive movements and compound exercises where more than one joints are involved.

Many people, whose body is unprepared for experiences of twisting and swirling forces exerted by the kettlebells can easily earn them an injury.

Kettlebells are exclusively beneficial for advanced athletes whose sport demands explosive reactions such as football, basketball, baseball, etc.   For the average person, resistance bands, and even dumbbells, barbells should be more than enough for most of their fitness demands.

🤔 WINNER – The resistance bands due to their availability in extensive resistance levels along with variable resistance feature. The exercise bands are equally liked by the beginners as well as advanced athletes.

Advanced players, including the Olympians, combine resistance bands with dumbbells to improve their maximum power.

📑 Here is an article where I explained the significant benefits that you can gain by combining resistance bands with free weights along with the methods of combining both – Benefits Of Combining Resistance Bands With Free Weights -Pro And Cons

Final Opinion –

The resistance bands are simply a piece of rubber providing variable resistance, whereas kettlebells are the fixed resistances that are a bit more than a dumbbell.

The kettlebells take the difficulty level of exercises one notch higher than the dumbbells. That means if you have not exhausted the options of resistance bands or dumbbells properly and directly jump over to the kettlebells. They shall do more harm than benefit.

The resistance bands, on the other hand, are not restricted to a class of athletes. They come in a wide variety of sizes and types in the market. Everybody can find their favorite resistance bands easily.

📑 Just look at the types of resistance bands that are sold commercially in the market through this article, published at Unique Addict – Types of resistance bands and their uses – An Exhaustive Guide.

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that the kettlebells require some additional skills to use them to your benefit without hurting. However, there are some other safe options for gaining a somewhat similar benefit. The resistance bands are one such option.

So, if you are a beginner or intermediate, choosing between resistance bands and kettlebells shall not be a problem. The resistance bands are an ideal choice for you.

If you are an advanced athlete, the kettlebells may be enough to boost your energy levels and take you out of the boredom of the same traditional training with dumbbells and bands.

Check the wide variety of resistance bands here at the Unique Addict store.



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