Elastic resistance training is a method of strength training that utilizes stretchy bands of rubber to provide tension against muscles. Similar to free weight training, elastic resistance training stresses muscles and activates muscle fibers as a means of increases muscle strength and mass. Many people believe that elastic resistance bands offer workouts that are more practical and more taxing than free weights because they are able to work in the horizontal as well as vertical planes. Exercise bands for elastic resistance training are available in a wide variety of resistance levels ranging from very light resistance bands used for rehabilitation to very heavy resistance bands for intense strength training.
The bands that are utilized in elastic resistance training are not measured by their mass, like free weights. Instead, they are measured by how many pounds of resistance must be overcome to stretch the elastic to its full capacity. For example, the lightest levels of resistance bands might require only 2–3 lbs (or about 0.9–1.4 kilograms) of force to fully stretch the elastic. Higher level resistance bands can require much more force to stretch them, with some ranging up to 30 pounds (about 13.6 kilograms). Rubber exercise bands often have handles at each end for ease of grip and are color coded to help distinguish between weights.
Many exercises that can be performed with free weights can also be performed in elastic resistance training. The rubber band can be held in place in a variety of ways depending on the exercise, such as standing on it, wrapping it around a pole or pillar, or holding it down with a weight machine or bench. Familiar exercises such as bicep curls, lateral raises, and rows can all be performed with elastic resistance training instead of free weights.
The most commonly extolled benefit of using elastic resistance training instead of free weights or weight machines is that the rubber tubes do not depend on gravity for resistance. Resistance from free weights comes from gravity pulling down on the mass of the weight, which means that exercises are only effective in vertical motions. Since the resistance from rubber bands does not depend on gravity, exercises can be completed effectively in horizontal as well as vertical motions. Proponents of elastic resistance training claim that this freedom of motion helps strengthen muscles and prepare them for more practical, real-life scenarios than free weights can. For example, training with elastic bands is likely to better prepare a body for the stresses of walking and maneuvering with a heavy burden because this task depends on opposing resistance in multiple ranges of motion.
For this reason, elastic resistance training is thought to be particularly advantageous for athletes. Competitors in sports such as golf, tennis, and baseball that require strength in horizontal motions may benefit from using elastic bands. Similarly, light elastic resistance training can be used to help rehabilitate muscles and restore full motion after injury.