Elastic Resistance Training in a Strength Program

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Written by Master Coach, Kimberley Leggett

Have you ever watched someone squat with resistance bands around the barbell or witnessed a banded leg press and wondered what they’re doing and why?

More than just a fancy training tool, the use of Elastic Resistance Training (ERT) has shown to improve functional capacity, increase strength and endurance and increase muscle activation.
So, how can you implement this into your client’s strength program?

Elastic Resistance Training (ERT) has become increasingly popular in recent years as a tool amongst fitness professionals since the 80s, in which it was first popularised. There are many modes of resistance training and countless variables which can be manipulated to create a beneficial stimulus on the body, but knowing how to effectively integrate this into your program will come down to understanding the science behind how it works.

The science behind ERT is very simple! As the resistance band is stretched, resistance increases and provides a progressive stimulus on the muscles. This will mean an increased amount of force is needed by the body to move agains the resistance in order to develop power, strength and/or endurance.

There are 3 primary modes of resistance:

  1. Variable Resistance
    External resistive load through the range of motion is changed (i.e. the use of chains, cam or lever systems).
  2. Accommodating Resistance
    Exert speed controlled or isokinetic resistance applied through full range of motion.
  3. Constant External Resistance
    Resistance applied remains constant throughout full range of motion and is the most popular form of ERT.

ERT differs to isotonic exercises, such as free weights and machines which rely on gravity and are often limited to one exercise or movement, as it offers more directions of motion and can exercise multiple joints. ERT also requires more coordination, stabilization and mobility than isotonic exercises. This is because banded exercises require more neuromuscular control than machines to keep a steady and smooth range of motion.

ERT doesn’t necessarily mean that we are applying resistance to make lifts harder! ERT is also commonly used to overcome ‘sticking points’ in a lift or to increase the force production at the end ranges of motion of an exercise. A ‘sticking point’ is essentially the portion of the exercise where the joint levers are at their weakest position. By using ERT, we can alter the mechanical disadvantage of the sticking point (by applying bands to act as an ‘assistive’ rather than resistive force) and thus train and improve our client’s ability to overcome it. In this case, we are using bands to make the concentric portion of the lift EASIER, not harder! Depending on the placement of the band, ie. above rather than below the barbell, the band will assist in the acceleration of the barbell and therefore aid in moving the load through the lift.

Still not convinced about ERT?
Studies have shown that long-term ERT is effective in improving maximal strength, overcoming sticking points and improving functional performance when compared to other interventions.
ERT is not the be all and end all of strength gains but knowing how the appropriately apply it to your client’s training can help accelerate performance and break training plateaus!

Want to learn systems and methods that are proven to get results with a wide range of clientele, taking into account the different backgrounds, limitations and goals of each individual?
Sign up for Sebastian Oreb’s Strength System International Certification Bundle, which includes the Level 1&2 online courses!

Anderson, C.E., Sforzo, G.A., and Sigg, J.A. (2008). The effects of combining elastic and free weight resistance on strength and power in athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 22, 567–574.
McMaster, D.T., Cronin, J., and McGuigan, M. (2009). Forms of variable resistance training. Strength Conditioning Journal. 31, 50–64.
Oliveira P. Et al. (2016). Effects of Elastic Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Functional Performance in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of physical activity & health. 14. 1-27. 10.1123/jpah.2016-0415.
Soria-Gila, M.A., Chirosa, I.J., Bautista, I.J., Baena, S., and Chirosa, L.J.(2015). Effects of variable resistance training on maximal strength: A meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 29(11), 3260–3270.
Walker, O. (2016). Elastic-Resistance Training. Science for sport. Retrieved from: https://www.scienceforsport.com/elastic-resistance-training/

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