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Elastic Resistance Training for Strength Gains


If I told you that you that you can significantly improve your strength simply by using what essentially are elastic bands would you believe me?Sports scientists, personal trainers, physiotherapists and athletes will tell you that it’s true. The basic principle behind training with elastic resistance is simple, as a person stretches the band, the resistance increases.

What is elastic resistance training (ERT)?
As the name suggests ERT is resistance training performed against the natural resistive property of elastic. The elastic band is attached to a fixed object with the opposite end attached to the person. If you work out at a gym this could mean attaching one end to the upright of any machine, if at home you can improvise with door handles and table legs. The resistance depends on the type of band, there are at least 7 varieties, and how far the band is stretched. A band that is stretched to twice its resting state is considered to be at 100% elongation. The force difference between the two weakest bands at 2x their length is 20%. For the two bands with greatest resistance this force difference becomes 59%. The weakest band provides a force equivalent to 2.3 kg (5 lbs) and the strongest band 16 kg (35 lbs) at 2x their length. This scope ensures that a band is available for all people who wish to train this way.

Why use ERT?
This is simple. A single band can be used to train the whole body. All the major muscle groups can be trained with compound exercises and single muscles can be targeted with isolation exercises. Aside to this, the bands can be used to mimic sport specific movements that take place in many planes a clear advantage over machines and free weights or should I say a clear reason to add them to your machine and free weights workout.

The versatility of ERT training also shines through. Traditional forms of resistance training often rely on gravity to create the resistance due to this factor many of the movements are restricted to the vertical plane. Because of this it is difficult to replicate movements that are specific to life and sport that occur in 3 planes. ERT utilizes the tension in the band therefore negating the need to resist gravity and allow actions that are specific and take place in all 3 planes (frontal, sagittal, and transverse).

All ERT exercises are performed using multiple joint actions and a functional posture. A functional posture is deemed to be one that requires activation of the core muscles to stabilize the torso, in comparison, machines where many actions are performed in a neutral posture like sitting.

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When training with free weights it is possible to “cheat” by allowing momentum to contribute to the forceful effort. For example, when people curling a dumb bell that is too heavy for the first half of the exercise the biceps are stimulated, but, the second half only represents the momentum of the weight. ERT exercises eliminate this temptation because momentum has no input.

The most notable advantage of ERT exercise is attributed to the smooth eccentric phase of the actions. The eccentric part, the return to start phase of an exercise, stimulates the muscles in a particular way that enables them to resist gravity. This in turn improves the ability of the body to stand with good posture and not succumb to the downward force of gravity.

Disadvantages of ERT
The elastic bands can become worn and less durable. This can mean that the resistance is diminished therefore compromising he workout. To overcome this predicament the bands can be bought at a cheaper price when purchased in bulk. This way you can cut off the length that you require and store the rest.

It can be difficult to quantify the exact force of resistance. There are charts that aim to provide the force for each of the bands at different lengths but these are estimates only. In my opinion this does not really matter, do I need to know exactly what force I have to overcome? So long as the bands are providing sufficient resistance to stimulate the intended muscles, and I have a general idea of the resistance, I’m happy.

GoFit Brand for Less than $30
The GoFit brand has a low cost set they call the Ultimate ProGYM. It comes with a set of elastic bands and a DVD, perfect for traveling. It comes highly recommended by a doctor/personal training certified online friend.

*Daniel is the author of Home Calisthenics, a blog that aims to help people to train their body using bodyweight and alternative strategies without the need for gym membership.

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About the Author

My name is Israel Lagares. I used to be the kind of guy that was always in shape, but over the last few years I've fallen off tremendously. This site is my final attempt to get back into shape. So far I've lost 70.4 lbs. Check out my weight loss chart, weight loss videos and progress pics. Follow my journey, those of others, and read our thoughts on various health topics. Share your thoughts, experience, and journey here on FMU.

Community Thoughts (12)

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  1. Data BabbleNo Gravatar says:

    Yeah, I’ve always been afraid of these things breaking. What’s been your experience with these breaking on you?

    • DanielNo Gravatar says:

      @Data Babble
      In my experience a band has never snapped on me. You can tell when they are on their last legs as they start to lose their colour and lose their elasticity, with slight tears at the end that is attached regularly. I know that the bands of an unnamed company are tested for 10,000 reps so they are highly durable.

      Keep the bands out of direct sunlight, in a cold location, and out of the swimming pool as chlorine will devastate them.

      Hope this helps.

  2. IsraelNo Gravatar says:

    I have never had one break on me, but I can imagine that after a lot of use they will eventually lose their elasticity. I was first introduced to elastic bands in college when I hurt my ankle on the football field. The training staff had me use the elastic bands on my ankle. I felt as if I wasn’t doing much, but it did help.

  3. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    How did you do in week 1?

  4. Yeah, I confirm those bands are not that durable, but the bulk solution is cool! ;)

  5. John WalczakNo Gravatar says:

    Elastic band or tubing training is a great way to work your muscles through a wide range of motion without the risk of injury that so commonly happens while using free weights. While most people consider using free weights cumbersome, daunting, intimadating and time consuming, Band/tubing training is the opposite. They are easy to use, lightweight, extremely portal and provide fantastic resistance for your muscles. Remember, your muscles are ‘blind’, so to speak, and they react to resistive force, whether that force is free weights, bodyweight exercises (push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, etc.) or elastic tubing/bands. Your muscles do not prefer one type of resistance over another. That being said, you are probably unlikely to build a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno just using elastic resistance – they extremely heavy stress load needed to do so just is not there for the most part with bands and tubing – however you can certainly build a muscular, chisled and rock hard physique using elastic resistance. Think of the Bowflex machine – a great piece of home equipment. The principle of resistance for the Bowflex is the same as the resistance for elastic resistance which is the more the bows are bent, the more resistance is added to the movement. Elastic resistance is the same: the further they are stretched, the more resistance is added to the movement. The good thing is that you don’t need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for a fancy home gym machine when you can get the exact same results from a set of resistance bands/tubing for under $100. Many companies have sets that allow multiple tubing to be clipped on to the same handles at once to add extra resistance to the movements. I have used several different brands of tubing (I prefer tubing over bands but thats just a personal preference) and I have found that Lifeline USA manufactures the best and most durable bands and tubing available. They come in 10 different levels of resistance (most companies only make three to five levels) and have a huge variety of aids to use them. They are widely recommended by personal trainers, Physical therapists and gyms around the world. check them out online.
    In the end, don’t let some die hard weight enthusist tell you that you MUST train with free weights to get real results. This is simply not true. That being said, you DO need to work out and work out just as hard with Tubing/bands as you would with free weights to get the same type of results.

  6. shaunjudyNo Gravatar says:

    I am currently using resistance bands for my P90X training and they seem very sturdy to me. I don’t think that they are elastic though they seem to be a form of rubber to me.

  7. VinceNo Gravatar says:

    Get good ones, and they are very durable. I use Lifeline USA’s. I have had them for years, and I use them regularly. The difference between them and cheap ones is night and day. After I blew out both my shoulders lifting heavy weights, I went from all metal to all elastic. After I recovered, I upgraded my Lifeline collection. With six bands and triple handles, I can go from twenty to 250 with plenty of options in between. If I bought two more heavy bands I could reach 300. Where else can you find an effective home gym for that kind of money? I haven’t seen the others: Ripcords, Bodylsatics, etc., but I presume that if they are well-made, they will be just as good. Work out hard like ShaunJudy says, and you can get good reaults, especially in terms of flexibility and functional and sport-speific strength.

  8. VinceNo Gravatar says:

    Sorry I meant John.

  9. GailNo Gravatar says:

    I got my first set of elastic tubing bands as a set distribute under the Reebok name almost 20 years ago. Since then I have also bought some other tubing and pieces to go with the original set which I still use today. The instructions with my original set was to wash them regularly and coat with a very thin layer of petroleum jelly. This may be what has helped them stay good for so many years. It could also be that I am a 60 year old 5 foot tall female who weighs around 100 lbs. so my use and resistance levels are a lot different.

  10. daPPerNo Gravatar says:

    Bodylastics has a good set of elastic bands. Product is made with great quality. I own the T.O. edition and noticed visible results in two weeks. Different weight resistant bands come with it to increase overall workout resistant. They offer a REAL workout Go to bodylastics.com for more info.

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