Resistance Band vs Cable Machine: Comparing the Two

Resistance Band vs Cable Machine

Resistance band vs cable machine, are one of them better than the other? And what are their differences?

Other than that both are used for workouts – resistance bands and cable machines are different like men and women. But as with men and women – they both come with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Let me explain..:

What Are Resistance Bands And What Benefits Do They Offer?

Resistance bands have steadily grown in popularity over the last few years. Plus, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, countless people were forced to exercise at home, and many individuals chose to get resistance bands.

So what exactly are these bands? More importantly, are they any good?

Resistance bands are long elastic bands, which we can use for strength training, warming up, and mobility work. Bands generally come in two forms:

  • Looped
  • Open-ended with handles attached on both sides

Both types of bands offer their unique benefits, so you should consider having a few of each kind.

Resistance bands also come with different tension levels, typically determined by their thickness and color. Red and black bands typically offer greater resistance, where yellow and green ones are lighter and more suited for beginners.

Without further ado, let’s go over their most prominent benefits:

1. Versatility

The greatest resistance band benefit is the sheer versatility. First, you can use bands for a range of exercises. For example, you can do pulldowns, chest flyes, banded squats, and many other gym-based movements. 

Second, you can use resistance bands to make bodyweight exercises easier or more challenging. For instance, you can wrap a resistance band over your hands and behind your back to make push-ups more challenging. In contrast, you can loop a band over a bar and step inside it to make pull-ups easier.

Third, you can use resistance bands for mobility work and warming up. All you need is a bit of creativity, and the possibilities become endless.

2. Linear Variable Resistance

Linear variable resistance (LVR) refers to the increasingly greater tension a band provides the more you stretch it. For example, if you grab a band by both ends and begin to stretch it, doing so might be easy at first. But the longer it gets, the more challenging it becomes to lengthen it further (1).

Linear variable resistance offers direct benefits for training, mainly because it prevents us from using momentum. Think of it like this:

You can grab a dumbbell and thrust it up, which takes the tension away from your bicep and puts you at a higher risk of an injury. In contrast, you can grab a band and apply a lot of force to it initially. But since its tension grows rapidly, the initial force won’t be enough for you to complete the repetition. Meaning, resistance bands force you to train with proper technique and keep the correct muscles involved at all times.

3. Affordability

One of the greatest resistance band advantages – especially for those who want to train at home – is affordability. Instead of spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars on all sorts of weights, you can grab a fantastic set of bands for as little as $100.

4. Easy to Store And Take On The Road

Another great benefit of resistance bands is their compactness. You can easily store your bands in a drawer because they stack nicely and don’t take much space. Plus, you can take a few of them on the road and have fantastic workouts outdoors and in hotel rooms.

What Are Cable Machines And How Do They Differ?

Cable machines are large structures that include a long cable, weight stack, pulley system, and attachment points for handles, ropes, and similar. Unlike bands, cable machines offer a consistent resistance level from start to finish, often resulting in greater muscle activation (2).

Cable machines come in many different shapes and sizes. You have the traditional single-piece machines, consisting of a single structure equipped with all the necessary components. Then we have the twin set-ups that come with two separate systems equipped with pulleys, cables, independent weight stacks, and everything else you might need. 

A single-piece machine would typically allow you to train one side of your body, with some exceptions like rope cable tricep extensions and bicep curls. Twin set-up machines allow you to grab two independent attachments and train both sides of your body. Examples of exercises include crucifix curls and cable chest flyes.

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Resistance Bands vs Cable Machine: Where Do We Stand?

Cable machines and resistance bands offer their unique benefits. Nothing is to say that you have to pick one over the other. For example, resistance bands are great for specific exercises. They allow you to change the difficulty of some movements and are useful for warm-up and mobility. Cables are also great because of their sheer versatility, predictable resistance, and overloading potential.

For example, you can use a resistance band for face pulls, but nothing suggests that you can’t also use cable machines to train different muscles of your body. Also, cable machines are great, but getting one for your home gym isn’t cheap or easy. In that case, a set of resistance bands could serve as a good alternative. 

Final Words

Cable machines and resistance bands are both excellent. Instead of picking them apart and deciding which is superior, we should be happy that we can use each. 

Nothing is to say that we have to limit ourselves to a single piece of equipment. It’s good to change the equipment we use and vary the stress we cause to our muscles, joints, and connective tissues. This keeps our training fun, engaging, and safe.

Do you want to read more about other types of exercise equipment?

Visit my home strength training resource – TRUCK LOADED with honest reviews, actionable fitness hacks, and tons of science-based workout routines.

See you there!

Other Helpful Resources

References

  1. McMaster DT, Cronin J, McGuigan MR. Quantification of rubber and chain-based resistance modes. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Aug;24(8):2056-64. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181dc4200. PMID: 20613648.
  2. Signorile JF, Rendos NK, Heredia Vargas HH, Alipio TC, Regis RC, Eltoukhy MM, Nargund RS, Romero MA. Differences in Muscle Activation and Kinematics Between Cable-Based and Selectorized Weight Training. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Feb;31(2):313-322. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001493. PMID: 28129277.