While more popular in the rehabilitation setting, elastic bands and tubing have been criticized for not providing enough resistance for muscle hypertrophy. This misconception persists despite several studies finding that elastic resistance is as effective if not better than isotonic resistance machines (Colado & Triplett 2008, Sundstrup et al. 2012).
Dr. Saied Jalal Aboodarda and colleagues performed an experiment on 9 healthy male subjects comparing Thera-Band® elastic bands and Nautilus weight machines on muscle strength and muscle damage.
They had the subjects perform 5 sets of 10RM resistance during knee extension with both a Nautilus machine and Thera-Band elastic band. The subjects were tested for their maximum quadriceps strength (MVIC), DOMS, and indicators of muscle damage (plasma CK and T2 weighted MRI).
The researchers found that both the elastic and isotonic resistance exercises produced the same amount of muscle damage. The researchers concluded that both modes of training provide a similar training stress, despite lower force generation during the elastic-resisted exercise.
The authors concluded their paper with:
“Considering that an elastic resistance device has long been accepted as an affordable, portable, and versatile exercise training aid compared with other training equipment such as the Nautilus machine, the present data support the use of an elastic resistance device as a cost effective mode of training for achieving further muscle strength and hypertrophy in healthy individuals. This is contrary to many previous investigations that have rejected the potential of utilizing an elastic resistance device in athletic settings, because of a perception that an elastic resistance device does not provide adequate training stress.”
REFERENCE: Aboodarda SJ, et al. Muscle strength and damage following two modes of variable resistance training. J Sports Sci Med. 2011. 10:635-642.