Cables vs resistance bands? Are bands cheap alternatives?
In the world of fitness, the battle between cables vs. resistance bands rages on. Resistance bands, those trusty elastic strips used for exercise, present a compelling alternative to traditional free weights and machines, offering a path to building strength and muscle tone.
On the opposing side, we have cables, renowned for their ability to provide precise tension and adaptability, catering to a diverse spectrum of users with varying strength levels.
This showdown isn’t just about strength; it’s also a clash of cost, versatility, and portability.
So, which side will emerge victorious in your fitness journey? Let’s explore the cables vs. resistance bands face-off.
What are the differences between cables and resistance bands?
|Aspect||Cable Machines||Resistance Bands|
|Muscle Isolation||Effective at targeting specific muscle groups.||Can be adapted to isolate specific muscles with the right exercises.|
|Muscle Groups Targeted||Targets both large and small muscle groups||More suitable for specific muscle group targeting|
|Exercise Variety||Offers a wide range of upper and lower body exercises.||Provides a variety of exercise options in both vertical and horizontal planes.|
|Range of Motion||Allows movements in various directions, including diagonal and horizontal motions.||Offers a full range of motion during exercises.|
|Tension Adjustment||Offers precise tension adjustment for various exercises||Offers variable resistance based on band stretching|
|Safety||Safe for all fitness levels when used correctly. Follow safety guidelines to avoid injuries.||Safe for all fitness levels when used with proper technique.|
|Portability||Less portable and typically designed for gym use.||Highly portable and suitable for home workouts and travel.|
|Cost||Generally more expensive and takes up more space.||Cost-effective, lightweight, and inexpensive.|
|Muscle and Strength Gain||Effective for muscle and strength gain with proper training.||Provides similar strength gains and puts more tension on muscles.|
|Weight Loss||Effective for weight loss when incorporated into a workout routine.||Can be used for weight loss, especially in overweight individuals.|
|Expert Recommendations||Recommended exercises provided by various fitness experts.||Recommended exercises provided by experts for muscle and strength gains.|
|Size and Portability||Bulky and less portable; suitable for the gym||Lightweight, highly portable, suitable for home use|
|Versatility||Suitable for a wide range of exercises||Limited in terms of exercise variety|
|Resistance Type||Provides adjustable directional resistance||Provides elastic resistance with consistent force|
|Comfort||Comfortable handles for a diverse workout||Comfort depends on user preference|
|Attachments||Offers various attachments for versatile workouts||Limited in terms of attachments and diversity|
|Anchoring Options||Generally limited anchoring options||Various anchoring options for different exercises|
- Resistance bands provide an alternative to free weights and machines, offering a path to building strength and muscle tone.
- Cables are renowned for their precise tension and adaptability, catering to users with varying strength levels.
- The showdown between cables and resistance bands is a clash of cost, versatility, portability, and effectiveness.
- The choice between cable machines and resistance bands depends on individual needs, with cable machines offering versatility, while resistance bands are suitable for specific exercises, warm-up, and mobilit
The main difference between cables and resistance bands is that cables offer way more tension than a resistance band. This means that the tension when using a cable is more adjustable and can be changed to suit the individual’s strengths and preferences. Additionally, cables are more reliable and durable than resistance bands, which can break or become stretched over time.
Amount of resistance band tension is puny if you compare with a cable machine.
And for that reason building muscle with cable machine is more efficient. However if you do not have the budget then using a set of bands is okay.
In fact, a 2019 study found that training with resistance bands can provide similar strength gains to using conventional gym equipment.
According to exercise physiologist Christopher Travers, resistance bands can strengthen your muscles as effectively as more traditional weights and put more tension on your muscles and work them longer during movements
2. Degree of Difficulty
Using a cable versus using a resistance band can be quite different. Cables offer a greater variety of weight and the ability to perform heavy, unobstructed movements, but are usually limited to being found in gyms and can be large, expensive machines.
On the other hand, bands are much cheaper, more portable, and offer linear variable resistance, but can’t quite offer as great a variety of movements and weight as cables can. Ultimately, the decision between a cable or a band depends on the user’s needs and preferences.
3. Muscle Worked
Resistance training and cable work both involve using mechanical tension to stimulate muscle growth. However, they differ in the way they produce tension.
Resistance training involves using weights to create active tension, while cable work involves using elastic bands to create passive tension.
The combination of active and passive tension from cable work results in more overall mechanical tension than resistance training, which can lead to greater gains in muscle mass.
Ultimately, both resistance training and cable work can be effective for building muscle, and the best approach for any individual will depend on their goals and preferences.
According to Jacque Crockford, a certified personal trainer, resistance bands are a great alternative to a home gym. They offer most of the same benefits as other types of resistance training, such as strength training, suspension training, and bodyweight training 2.
Crockford mentions that resistance bands provide dynamic, elastic resistance, which becomes more challenging the more the band is stretched. This can be beneficial for muscle and strength gains.
4. Size of Band
When comparing cable pulley machine and resistance bands, one of the most prominent differences is in their size. Resistance bands are portable and can be easily transported and stored, making them ideal for home workouts and travel.
And their portability is a limiting factor which is not quite useful for a home gym. Unless you are carrying it and travelling.
On the other hand, the pulley machines are generally bulky in size, making them taking a lot of space in any gym.
This size difference between the two makes an important distinction as it affects their practicality for certain exercises and their overall accessibility.
5. Type of Exercises
Cable machines primarily focus on larger muscles such as the chest and arms, and are used for exercises such as chest presses, lat pull-downs, and bicep curls.
Cable crossovers are a pretty popular exercise in any gym.
You can probably do hip hinges for your glutes with a pulley machine as long as leg workouts go.
Resistance bands, on the other hand, can be used to target smaller muscles and are great for exercises such as shoulder presses, leg extensions, and bicep curls.
Tube bands with handles are best suited for conditioning and exercises that use dumbbells, such as bicep curls, shoulder extensions and shoulder presses.
Figure 8 bands also come with handle grips which make them ideal for exercises like lateral raises and tricep kickbacks.
Ankle resistance bands are designed to loop around each ankle and are perfect for exercises such as side steps and leg lifts.
Finally, thick oversized sized loops that are great for exercises such as pull-ups, bear crawls and box jumps, as well as for adding resistance to exercises like rows.
And finally let me say, nothing will replace a barbell and weight plates.
Cables stack machines provide stability and consistent resistance throughout the exercise, making them reliable and safe. However, they can put pressure on joints, increasing the risk.
I have seen many broken resistance bands but broken cable machines, not many.
So cable pulley machines are way safer than any bands.
Resistance band sets hardly cost around 1200 rupees. Whereas a full-fledged cable machine can cost around 1.2 lakh rupees easily.
There are single-station cable machines as well which can cost around 30000 INR.
You can easily do tricep work, pulldowns etc with the single pulley station.
The convenience factor for cables and resistance bands is quite different. Cables tend to be expensive and take up a lot of physical space, making them a less attractive option for budget-conscious buyer.
But these machines mean business and you can surely train your body for strength or hypertrophy easily.
On the other hand, resistance bands are more affordable, take up no physical space, and can easily be stored in a drawer.
They also can be taken on the road and are great for workouts outdoors and in hotel rooms.
Both offer great benefits for strength training and bulking up, but resistance bands offer more convenience for those who want to train at home.
When Are Cables Better Than Resistance Bands?
1. Cables Offer More Tension
Cables and resistance bands both offer continuous tension, but the tension offered by cables can be adjusted more precisely than that of resistance bands. With an adjustable cable station, you can set up the cables to mimic any movement in sport.
In contrast, resistance bands offer variable resistance as the more they stretch, the more force is created.
While both types of equipment have handles that you can hold onto, cables provide a more comfortable and free range of motion than resistance bands, which can cause discomfort due to their rubber material and a single pivot point behind the user.
Ultimately, cables offer the most flexibility and range of motion for any sport, making them the preferred choice for most athletes.
Akash Vaghela, a Strength and Bodybuilding Coach, suggests incorporating the face-pull exercise using a cable machine to offset pressing exercises, work rear delts, rhomboids, and external rotators, and promote shoulder health!
2. Difference in Resistance
Cables and resistance bands both offer resistance training, however they differ in the type of resistance they offer. Cables offer adjustable directional resistance, which means that you can pull from different angles and directions, allowing for a full body workout.
On the other hand, latex bands offer elastic resistance, providing a consistent force that increases as the band is stretched further. This provides a constant, smooth resistance throughout the entire range of motion.
Therefore, both pieces of equipment offer different types of resistance, and it’s important to consider both when determining the best resistance training tool for you.
Chris Shugart, T Nation’s CCO, suggests the 3-way biceps curl using cables to target different parts of the biceps at different points in the range of motion 1. Paul Carter, a Strength and Bodybuilding Coach, recommends the Gironda 45-degree row using cables for working the lats and upper back while maintaining proper form
3. Cables Have Tons of Attachments
Cables generally have handles or a cushion surrounding the handles for a comfortable workout. On the other hand, resistance bands don’t have handles and can fold and put a lot of pressure on your hands.
This makes cables a better choice than resistance bands since not only do you get the comfort of a handle but also the continuous tension that can be adjusted to copy any sport movement if you have an adjustable cable station.
Further, with a twin set-up cable machine you can train both sides of your body simultaneously. Thus, cables can provide a full body workout with greater control and comfort than resistance bands.
When Resistance Bands are better than Cables?
Resistance Bands Are Lightweight and Portable
Resistance bands are a great alternative to traditional weights and cables for people looking to get a good workout without needing bulky equipment.
Unlike cables, resistance bands are lightweight and compact, making them easy to store away and take on the go.
They also offer greater versatility than most traditional weights, allowing you to mix up your exercise routine and challenge your muscles in different ways with increased intensity.
Resistance bands are also safer to use than cable machines, as they don’t require balancing the weight of the cable or the risk of it slipping out of your hands.
Resistance Bands Are Cheaper Than Cable Machines
Resistance bands are far cheaper than cable machines, with a set of decent resistance bands costing only around 1200 INR, whereas the very minimum a cable machine is going to cost 100,000 rupees.
You Can Anchor Them to Many Places
How many places can resistance bands be anchored? [Expanded list]: Resistance bands can be anchored to a power rack, an adjustable height anchor (such as the Performance Station or Spine), a Spine Strap, a Door Anchor, Textured Grip Handles, and a pair of Foot Straps.
Which tool should you use? Cables or resistance bands?
When it comes to deciding between cable machines and resistance bands, there are several factors to consider.
On the one hand, cable machines are great because of their versatility, predictable resistance, and overloading potential. They also have handles with cushions for a comfortable workout. On the other hand, resistance bands are useful for specific exercises, they allow you to change the difficulty of some movements, and they are great for warm-up and mobility. So, which tool should you use?
It depends on your specific needs. If you need something versatile, predictable, and with an overloading potential, then cable machines are the way to go.
However, if you are looking for something for specific exercises, warm-up, bodyweight exercises, mobility workouts, train yoru stabilizer muscles then resistance bands are the better option. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which tool best suits your needs.
The Last Rep!
In the showdown between cables and resistance bands, both of these fitness tools reveal their unique strengths. Cable machines emerge as champions of precision, allowing effective targeting of specific muscle groups with a vast array of upper and lower body exercises, complete with versatile movements.
Their ability to maintain consistent resistance and offer precise tension adjustments, backed by expert recommendations, creates a satisfying fitness experience. On the other side of the ring, resistance bands flex their muscle in the realm of strength training.
They excel in muscle and strength gains and prove to be cost-effective, lightweight, and remarkably portable, making them an excellent choice for home workouts and travel. With their dynamic, elastic resistance, they also reduce the risk of injuries, ensuring a safe and effective workout experience.
However, like any contest, there are cons to weigh in this matchup. Cable machines, while potent, come with a higher price tag and are relatively immobile, primarily designed for gym settings, which may not align with those seeking home fitness solutions.
In contrast, resistance bands, while cost-effective and portable, exhibit limitations in exercise variety and anchoring options.
They might not replicate the comfort and control provided by cable machines’ handles and attachments, potentially affecting the overall workout experience.
When deciding between these two contenders, it’s crucial to carefully assess these pros and cons to select the fitness tool that best fits your specific needs and preferences for your home gym.