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Resistance bands as effective as weight machines

Expensive weight machines may provide strength gains and increased muscle mass, but according to strength and conditioning expert Phil Page, strength bands are just as effective. “Research demonstrates that elastic resistance training provides as much benefit in strength gains as the use of more expensive and cumbersome weight-training equipment,” says Page, who has worked with the NFL's New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks. “Elastic resistance training also frees you from the limitations of gravity, allowing you to isolate muscles and perform the same movements in a totally different way.”

In his upcoming second edition of Strength Band Training (Human Kinetics, 2010), Page and coauthor Todd Ellenbecker offer the latest research and advances in band training while presenting more than 160 exercises targeting every major muscle group. According to Page, just one band can be used to strengthen all the major muscle groups with exercises, such as a bench press, seated row, leg press, or hamstring curl. Elastic bands may also be used to strengthen specific muscles that can't be activated with muscle-specific machines.

“Performing an exercise program for as little as 6 weeks with elastic resistance can increase strength 10 to 30 percent in both younger and older adults,” Page says. “The benefits of elastic resistance training include increasing muscle mass, lowering body fat, and increasing power and endurance.”

Strength bands also offer stabilization training by targeting the core muscles through whole-body exercises. “Elastic resistance allows you to exercise multiple joints and planes in a standing position (rather than seated on machines), thus bringing more core training into the same machine-based exercise,” Page says. He adds that it's much harder to cheat with an elastic resistance exercise because momentum can't be used to jerk a weight into position.

Unlike weight machines, strength bands are portable and inexpensive and offer a versatile workout. “By simply varying the level of resistance, the number of repetitions, and the speed of the exercise, you can tailor a program for weight loss, body toning, and general strength and conditioning, or you can improve speed, power, and agility for sports,” Page says.

For more information, see Strength Band Training.