So many choices: Finding the right strength training tool for you

May 07, 2021
8 min read


There are many ways to work resistance (muscles) in a gym setting. Free weights, resistance bands, kettlebells, exercise machines, and TRX® Suspension Trainer are among the most popular methods in most gyms today. What’s the difference? Let’s compare the pros and cons of each option to determine the best one for you.

Free weights are the most basic workout tools. They have many sizes, shapes, and materials but they all work the same way. Dumbbells are easy to use –  you lift them up and put them down. You can vary the way you lift and lower and change the weight for each muscle group. Whether you’re new to working out or it’s your first time, dumbbells are a good place to start.


  • Easy to use                                                                 
  • Easy to change weight                                                            
  • Can be used standing, sitting or laying on bench
  • Can vary pace (slow, quick, combo)                          
  • Only one way to use them


  • Can drop them
  • Form is important       
  • May become boring to use

Resistance bands are also readily available at the gym and come in different thicknesses, which change the intensity of the exercise. Depending on your goal, bands can target muscles at different angles that would be hard to do with weights. They are also an effective way to workout at home, inside or outside; easy to travel with, since they take up no space; and are not heavy to lug around.


  • Light and portable
  • Variety of uses           
  • Easy to adjust resistance
  • Challenges core stability
  • Uses both ascending and descending resistance


  • Can tear easily
  • May need a stable post to vary
  • Resistance lessens as band wears
  • Tones more than building muscles
  • Can become boring       

Kettlebells may be new to you, but are an old school workout tool that has become popular again. The odd looking gizmo has a round body (the bell) with a flat bottom and a handle. You may need a quick lesson on how to use them, but a very effective workout can be achieved in a short time. Kettlebells are a good way to combine a cardio workout along with resistance since the movements required to use them also increase your aerobic capacity


  • Challenges core stability
  • Adds an aerobic component
  • Targets many muscle groups at once
  • Mostly standing exercises


  • Can drop easily
  • Injury risk if not used properly
  • Does not isolate one muscle group
  • Need to be stable lifting from floor

Exercise machines are another way to target a muscular workout. Not hard to change resistance, keep you in proper form and effective. Another great way to target muscles and get it accomplished quickly and safely


  • Effective in isolating muscle group
  • Can progress weight easily
  • Helps keep form when working out
  • Does not need to be put away when finished


  • Works only one muscle
  • Gives false resistance readings
  • Does not provide a functional workout
  • Limits stability and core work                                                                                                 

TRX Suspension Trainer is another new apparatus in the gym. Developed by Navy Seals to get a workout while “out to sea,” it uses body weight to work your muscles. It’s portable, but you need a sturdy place to connect it . It is a great tool but you may need a quick lesson on how to use it since the straps adjust for different exercises.


  • Uses body weight for resistance
  • Can target both upper and lower body
  • Great for endurance and conditioning
  • Increases stability demand


  • Form is important
  • Need to know how to adjust straps
  • Can be uncomfortable or unnatural movements
  • Increases stability demand

The bottom line is that any of these strength training tools give you a great workout. You can change your program to target your muscles differently each time you go to the gym. The best workout is the one you do! If you need some help creating the best routine for your desired results, consider investing in a personal trainer. Our personal trainers can help you increase the efficiency of your exercise program and make the most of your workout time. To schedule an appointment, call us at 814.861.8122.

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