Suspension Training vs Resistance Bands – Which Delivers The Most Effective Workout?

Collage of woman in gym suspension trainers, resistance bands and dumbbell

Lifting weights has always been a staple for those who are into fitness and bodybuilding enthusiasts. Although, now that more exercising equipment has made its way to the playing field, actually choosing which one is the most efficient has become a thing. 

Two of those choices are suspension trainers and resistance bands. Both make excellent additions to a workout routine to target certain muscle groups.   

Weighing up between suspension training vs resistance bands shouldn’t be a challenge, right?

If you want to know which is more effective, read on. 

Suspension Training vs Resistance Bands – First What Are They? 

Although I see the odd ones lying around at gyms, suspension training and resistance bands are some of the best at-home tools used to gain momentum whatever fitness goals you have.

Focusing in on suspension vs resistance training, you might notice that suspension training offers more exercises, while resistance bands provide better practicality. 

Suspension Training

Suspension training originated from a Navy Seal training method using parachute straps. The training method uses adjusted straps to support your body in various positions. This allows you to work on a lot of muscle groups compared to other forms of exercise. 

Suspension training is a form of resistance training known as instability resistance.

Your suspension training gear would include two straps with handles at each end. To set it up, you’ll need to find a strong anchor point 7 to 9 feet high to hold your weight. 

The setup can also include some cuffs for your ankles, widening the opportunity of exercising more muscle areas in multiple areas. 

Resistance Bands

This form of training has been around longer than suspension training. They’ve mostly been a substitute for using free weights. As suspension trainers do, bands provide you the resistance. 

Because they don’t rely on your body weight, the instability resistance only comes from the particular muscle group that is being worked upon.

Most bands now are made of a latex and fabric blend to maintain their durability. The bands are color-coded based on the resistance level. Each resistance band provider has its color indications.

Pros and Cons of Suspension Training 

  • Optimal for building core strength. √
  • Instability resistance improves small and large muscle groups. √
  • Enhances balance and coordination. √
  • Diversity of over 50 exercises. √
  • Doesn’t need a large space. √
  • Need some core strength to start. X
  • Can cause injuries. X
  • Need a place to hook them up. X

Pros and Cons of Resistance Bands 

  • Highly portable. √
  • Cheap. √
  • Easy on the joints. √
  • Less “full-on” than suspension trainers. √
  • Not so effective on stabalizer muscles. X
  • May break off if poor in quality. X
  • Doesn’t effectively build muscle mass. X

Resistance Bands vs Traditional Weights  

Resistance training and using traditional weights differ slightly in the results you want to achieve for your body.

Traditional weights usually involve free weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, etc. 

Using weights allows you more control. You’ll know the amount you’re lifting. It’ll also give you a better workout for your stabilizer muscles, although not as good as with suspension trainers. 

Meanwhile, resistance training with bands will be more helpful in encouraging good form and posture. Weights give you more bang for your buck. In other words, weight training allows you to focus on specific muscle groups for effective building. 

Bands, on the other hand, don’t but they do activate the stabilizer muscles more.

Suspension Training vs Calisthenics 

While both techniques of training require your body weight, you should note some of the differences between them. 

Before getting into the contrasts, let’s define calisthenics. They are a form of exercising that involves no free weights or gym equipment. It purely relies on your body weight. 

You can do calisthenics anywhere, while suspension training requires a little equipment. 

When it comes to muscle group focus, suspension training works out your stabilizer muscles more than calisthenics would. For instance, if you do a regular pushup without being suspended, the muscles groups working are your shoulders, legs, abs, etc. 

for this suspension training vs resistance bands comparison a cropped woman doing a pushup whilst her feet are suspended in trx trainers

When using suspension training for a pushup, you’re pushing from two suspended handles, making it more challenging. More muscles are at work to keep you supported up there. 

Apart from those differences, both types of training have their unique exercises that can’t be done with the other. You can’t do chest flies in calisthenic training, since it will require some form of workout equipment. 

Which Is Better? Suspension Training or Resistance Bands?

After getting an idea of the pros and cons involving both training methods, you might be wondering which is the better option for your exercise regimen. Check out below some factors that differentiate each one. 

Portability and Storage

Resistance bands are easily portable. You won’t have any issues storing them.

Suspension training gear might face some challenges if you’re trying to move it around. You’ll need to find reliable anchoring support to hold your body weight, which might not be easily accessible around your home. 

Exercise Variety

Whenever you’re purchasing exercise equipment, finding one that would give you the most workout options would be your best bet. 

Suspension training has an insane amount of training exercises you can do. There are well over 50 workouts you can do. You can target any muscle group you like. 

Resistance bands might not give you as much variety of exercises. The exercises you can do with bands are a little limited to certain muscle groups. The workouts you can do with suspension trainers are able to activate much of the body. 

While the bands do offer resistance, it’s oftentimes not enough to build some serious muscle mass. If you do a rowing exercise with the bands, it won’t feel as challenging as it would with something like free weights

Suspension training has more potential to take your exercising regime to the next level. It’s sort of “Calisthenics Plus“.

Calories Burned 

I like checking my “burned calories” a lot. I know everyone says you shouldn’t as there is often a problem with accuracy, it depends on many variables and so on. But as long as you’re sensible about it and view the calorie count number in relation to or as a “percentage of” then it can be very encouraging.

Then I think it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting the most out of your workout and feel more fulfilled and motivated to continue. 

If you’re doing an hour’s worth of suspension training alone you can potentially burn about 240 to 350 calories.  As mentioned above, it depends on many factors, how rigorous the exercise, is it cardio-based or strength, how big are you, etc..

Finishing up a 30-minute workout using resistance bands can burn up to 100 calories. While there is a clear winner here, you also have to take several things into consideration.

Burning calories depends on specific factors such as your weight, height, and overall Body Mass Index (BMI). This means that each exercise will have varying results for each person. 

Effective Muscle Activation

Clearly, the use of suspension trainers activates a lot more areas of muscle, whether it’s the range of muscle or the size. Exercises with bands are less effective with the smaller stabilizing muscle groups.

Which One is Right For You? 

While it’s good to ask which is better, you should also think of which would be better for your situation. 

Suspension training provides you with a plethora of exercising options to choose from and will give you more goals to anticipate. 

Resistance bands are well-suited to develop your movement and form. They offer a versatile, portability and cheap option to get many muscles activated.

Make sure your training goals are clear to get a better idea of which tool you would use. You can always blend both, although I would be inclined to integrate weight training with suspension trainers.

Suspension Training vs Resistance Bands Q&A

Can you use resistance bands for suspension training?
No, suspension training depends on gravity, while resistance bands’ main focus is elasticity and muscle isolation. 

Is resistance training the same as weight training?
Yes and no. Resistance training is repetitively exerting your body’s energy antagonistically with a resisting force.

The energy can be expended by pushing or pulling. The force can be your own body weight, resistance bands, purpose-built gym equipment and yes, weights.

Strength training usually refers to lifting heavy weights at low repetitions to build muscles. 

Resistance training tends to refer to the use of more subtle resistance, lighter weights, bands and your own body.

How Often Should You Do Suspension Training?
You can train up to three to six times a week, depending on your workout goals and fitness level.  Personally, I don’t like to overlook other forms of fitness activity so for me, cardio, yoga-inspired workouts and HIIT need to be scheduled in. And, don’t forget, rest and recovery are important too.

My Own Experience of Resistance Training Using Bands & Suspension

On Resistance Bands

I must admit, my early play with resistance bands was not good. After about the third time using what I thought were good quality bands, they snapped – ouch.

I did manage to get back on the horse to finish the article I did on resistance bands for glutes which seems to be one of the most popular body parts (woman’s) to work on.

Woman 3 poses using resistance bands targeting glutes

For working consistently on an area like the glutes I found resistance bands to be very effective and is the best solution to getting a strong bum. Not somewhere you can target with free weights.

On Suspension Trainers

We have covered it if you would like more on the benefits of suspension trainers as a form of resistance training. We’ve included some typical exercises.

As I mentioned in the article, for me it was all about regaining my stomach definition after my two boys came along. The stomach gets a lot of attention with suspension trainers but it’s not just about the abs, it’s the whole core.

A strong core is so important for every day activities, for recovery, after childbirth, for looking good and maintaining high levels of functioning as we age.

Probably the most popular name in Suspension Trainers and the brand synonymous with the activity is TRX. It’s the original and the best in my opinion. We worked with 5 units to come up with the best suspension trainers. Spoiler Alert – The TRX won it quite impressively. I love it.

There have been many similar systems come on the market. One that caught our interest was even more portable suspension trainers. Monkii Bars Review.

The only slight drawback I found with this whole system of suspension training was that the exercises weren’t intuitive for me.

In other words, there were a lot of new positions and movements that I had to learn having been more used to traditional routines – you do need a guide of some sort. Or maybe it’s just me.

To Conclude 

Overall, suspension training offers more scope for developing overall strength especially and most importantly the core.

I would say it’s a more advanced level of training. And it adheres more to the ethos of functional training; that is, training that benefits everyday activities.

As for resistance bands, they are ideal to start with and get the various muscle groups awake. They’ll get you warmed up for more demanding exercising and you won’t need to already have decent muscle mass.

Doing both will give you a more balanced routine for your body. Resistance bands are always going to be a more accessible option for a quick workout.

If you’re not a fan of either, an easy at-home alternative is to use your bodyweight as the resistance and try these basic exercises without any equipment. 

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