Sunday, April 4, 2021

Scoff Not At Elastic Resistance Bands

Tan Howe Liang(pictured below) is still the strongest man I know. Yes, the same Tan Howe Liang that won Singapore's first ever medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He was a senior gym instructor at the gym at the old National Stadium and we often bumped into each other when I was still working there. I was always amazed when he told stories about his training days. Mind you, he could still squat with very heavy weights whenever I saw him train then. 

Silver at the Rome Olympics, SNOC picture

But don't fret if you don't have easy access to a gym or other fancy, expensive gym equipment. Other than your bodyweight, elastic resistance bands can be great for strengthening muscles too.

Not many of you may believe me if I said that training with elastic bands can be just as effective as training with weights for strengthening muscles.

The following systematic review and meta-analysis is possibly the first to compare the effects of strength training for strength gains with elastic tubes and bands versus conventional devices (dumbbells and weight machines).

The search identified 365 articles, of which eight studies were within the inclusion criteria comprising of 224 individuals between 15 to 88 years old. All subjects were performing regular strength training. In these groups were physically active individuals, athletes, individuals with coronary heart disease and moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.

Results of the meta-analysis showed that there is no superiority for both upper and lower limbs between training performed with elastic bands and training with free weights on strength gains. This was consistent across groups mentioned above and also when compared with a control group in the elderly, individuals with osteoarthritis and even fibromyalgia. 

The authors conclude that training with elastic bands is just as good as conventional resistance for promoting strength gains in different populations using diverse protocols. 

Having elastic bands at home to train with eliminates the need to travel to the gym and this may be more practical and a lot cheaper for certain people who may find it difficult to go to a gym. patients will have greater adherence to strengthening programs too. 

Personally I feel elastic bands are great for strengthening and correcting muscular imbalances. I still use them on a very regular basis. Especially after my accident.

Exercising with bands in my back brace in 2013

Do not let anyone tell you that you are wasting time if you are not using heavy weights and expensive equipment. Effective strength training can be achieved with body weight, free weights and especially elastic bands too.

We have managed to rehabilitate many national athletes back from injury and even avoid surgery in many cases using elastic bands to strengthen the injured areas. Especially in cases when a weight plate/ bar is initially too heavy and risk further injury and load to the person's joints.


Lopes JSS, Machado AF, Micheletti JK et al (2019). Effects Of Training With Elastic Resistance Versus Conventional Resistance On Muscular Strength: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sage Open Med. DOI: 10.1177/2050312119831116.

Don't neglect the legs

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