Elastic tubing has been proven as effective as free weights again; this time, in teenagers. Several studies have shown that Thera-Band® elastic resistance has similar effects on muscle activation and strength as isotonic resistance (Andersen et al. 2010; Colado & Triplett 2008). Current physical activity guidelines recommend resistance training to improve muscular fitness in youths. A randomized, controlled study in Preventive Medicine by Australian researchers was performed to compare the effects of a resistance exercise program in 15 year old boys and girls using either elastic or isotonic free weight resistance compared to a control group. During the 8-week program, both groups trained twice a week with a PE teacher with a 1:15 instructor-to-participant ratio. They began each session with 5 minutes of aerobic activity and dynamic stretching. Resistance exercises were performed for 2 sets of 8 to 12 reps (Weeks 1-4 = 10-12 reps; Weeks 5-8 = 8-10 reps) with 60 second rests between sets. The 10 strengthening exercises were performed in 40-50 minutes in the same order. Both groups used the Borg scale at 15-18 with an 8-12RM; in other words, participants used a resistance with each exercise that caused fatigue with the last repetition with an exertion level of 15-18 for 8 to 12 repetitions. Participants were tested for body composition and upper and lower body strength (1 RM test) before and after the 8-week study. After 8 weeks, both resistance training groups significantly increased their upper and lower body strength, and improved their body composition compared to the control group. There was no significant difference between the elastic and isotonic groups.

  Elastic Training Isotonic training
  Males Females Males Females
Upper Body 12% 13% 24% 17%
Lower Body 32% 19% 35% 32%

Percent increase in strength after training program

While the isotonic group had slightly higher gains than the elastic group, the adherence rate and dropout rates were lower in the elastic tubing group. This finding is very important as exercise adherence is vital to the success of any program. One limitation of this study was that subjects were tested for their 1RM strength using isotonic resistance; this may have added bias to the isotonic training group results. The authors suggested further research to investigate the “long-term adherence and effects of school-based physical activity interventions incorporating elastic tubing resistance training with goal-setting principles and strategies to enhance social support.” This was the first study to compare free weights to elastic tubing resistance in adolescents. Thera-Band resistance tubing provides a feasible and effective way to promote physical activity in secondary schools and encourage compliance of resistance training exercise programs.

Reference: Lubans et al. 2010. Exercise adherence and intervention effects of two school-based resistance training programs for adolescents. Prev Med. 50:56-62.

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