Free weight isotonic resistance using barbells continues to be the ‘gold standard’ for strength training for power lifting. Recently, strength and conditioning professionals have added elastic resistance to free-weight exercises such as the bench press and squat to increase strength, power and speed. The additional downward force of the band during the early phases of the lift provides increased eccentric loading which may provide greater stimulus for gains in strength and power. In theory, the greater eccentric velocities may shorten deceleration time, which may increase the rate of force development with training.
Adding ‘variable resistance training’ using elastic bands is also thought to provide increased resistance where the joints have more leverage in earlier phases of the lift, with decreasing loads during periods of less leverage near later phases of the movement such as the bottom of the squat. When reviewing the literature on the benefits of adding elastic resistance bands to free weight exercises, some studies suggest it improves strength and power, while others do not.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared traditional bench press training with and without the addition of external variable resistance loads (elastic bands and heavy chains). 36 Division-I AA football players were randomly assigned to one of the 3 training groups. After the 7 week study, the 2 variable resistance groups had significant gains in strength and non-significant gains in power compared to the traditional free weight-only group.
The researchers concluded that variable resistance training, including adding elastic bands to traditional free-weight barbell exercises may increase maximal strength levels and increase power input. Adding Thera-Band® elastic resistance to isotonic exercises such as a squat or bench press may provide additional benefits for muscular power.
Reference: Ghigiarelli JJ, et al. The effects of a 7-week heavy elastic band and weight chain program on upper-body strength and upper-body power in a sample of division 1-AA football players. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 May;23(3):756-64