Social distancing continues to be a fact of life for all of us. While things are slowly opening and gyms in many communities have been allowed to operate, in my county we are still completely shut down and I for one am grateful for it. As I battle my reduced level of activity, changes in eating habits and the slow decent into dad bod I am constantly brushing off the cobwebs and thinking about how to train at home more effectively. While I do not have a great home gym set up I do have a fairly solid collection of different types of elastic bands complimented by some light adjustable dumbbells, a TRX and a few other useful tools.
With this new emphasis on training outside of the traditional gym space I was pleased to come across a great new research study on the effectiveness of elastic resistance as compared to traditional resistance on the development of muscular strength. Many studies have previously shown the effectiveness of elastic resistance in building strength across a number of different populations. While this effect was not in debate there is a limited amount of quality studies that ask the specific question of how elastic resistance compares to traditional resistance methods. In this case traditional resistance methods are defined as weight machines and free weight exercise.
It only makes sense that if your objective is strength development you want to know what methods are the most effective in achieving that goal. You still may have specific reasons for picking other modalities but all things being equal, we need to know which method will produce the greatest results.
This study by Lopes et al. (2019) was a systematic review and meta-analysis. The authors found 7 studies that directly compared elastic resistance to traditional resistance published between 2003 and 2016. All of the studies used methods to assess strength that were considered reliable and valid. They all included training periods of 4 to 12 weeks with two to five workout sessions per week.
This big finding, elastic resistance works as well as traditional resistance for the development of strength. Yep, that’s right. Let’s say it again…elastic resistance works as well as traditional resistance when it comes to developing strength.
Now that does not mean that elastic resistance is always the equal to traditional weights under all circumstances. If you are training for maximal strength or power, you will eventually hit a point where hoisting some old-fashioned iron is the only way to achieve that ultimate goal. There will always be specific training goals that require tools other then elastic bands. However, for the average person working out, and yes this means you, elastic resistance used well can substitute for barbells and dumbbells as your primary strength tool. With their low cost, ease of storage and portability if you haven’t stocked yourself up with a few different bands now is the time.
Lopes, J., Machado, A., Micheletti, J., Almeida, A., Cavina, A., and Pastre, C. (2019) Effects of training with elastic resistance versus conventional resistance on muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis. SAGE Open Medicine, 7: 2050312119831116. Published online 2019 Feb 19. doi: 10.1177/2050312119831116