Resistance is not futile

JILL BARKER, The Gazette, September 29, 2008


Finally, there's an excuse to avoid the clanking of dumbbells and the preening of buff bodies at the local gym. The latest news confirms what many fitness experts have advocated for years; novice exercisers don't need a gym full of equipment to build muscle.

Genevieve Gregoire performs exercises
using tubing at the Sir Arthur Currie gym
in Montreal.
Tyrel Featherstone, The Gazette

A September 2008 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reported that rubberized resistance (elastic bands and tubing) provided the same strength benefits among novice female subjects as weight machines and free weights (dumbbells and barbells).

How do the bands work? Unlike traditional weights, which resist the pull of gravity, elasticized resistance relies on the tension created by lengthening the band or tube until it is taut.

Also different from dumbbells and barbells, bands and tubing don't come in recognized increments (pounds or kilograms), making it hard to quantify the amount of resistance. Instead, the bands denote resistance by colour with the darker colours (blue and purple) offering the most resistance and the lighter colours (yellow and green) the least amount of challenge.

The trick, as with any strength training program, is to challenge the muscles to work beyond their present capacity. So whether you choose your resistance by colour or by weight, building strength relies on working your muscles to fatigue every workout.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study, titled Effects of a Short-Term Resistance Program Using Elastic Bands vs. Weight Machines for Sedentary Middle-Aged Women, had the subjects perform a maximum of 20 repetitions per set. During the first four weeks the women performed two sets of the upper body exercises and one set of the lower body exercises (six exercises were performed in total). During the following four weeks, two sets of all exercises were performed, and in the last two weeks of the 10-week trial, the number of sets increased to three. Thirty seconds of recovery was allowed between sets.

Following the same training protocol as the women in the study is a great way to start your own program and test the results.

Geneviève Gregoire demonstrates some exercises here to get you started. All train more than one muscle at a time, giving maximum bang for your efforts. After 10 weeks give your muscles a flex and see if they look and feel stronger.

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