Saturday, February 8, 2014

Power Up With Bands: Inexpensive "Rubber Gear" Doubles Explosiveness of Professional Athletes and Will Have Similar Effects on the Bench Press of Regular Gymrats

Is "bench from the trench" all bro-science and you better bench with bands - additional bands, of course?
It's been a while since we've had a "simple" workout study here. With all the hypoxia or hyberbaric oxygen training shenanigan, it really seems as if there wouldn't be any simple and practicable ways to improve your training outcomes. Luckily, not all researchers focus on elite athletes who train in high-tech facilities with all sorts of performance enhancing gear.

David García-López, Sonsoles Hernández-Sánchez, Esperanza Martín, Pedro J. Marín, Fernando Zarzosa and Azael J. Herrero belong to this group of "low tech researchers" and their gear is a simple elastic band.

You're kiddin' me, right? Elastic bands?

I know rubber is not exactly what many of the bros consider "gear", but if you look at the astonishing results the researchers from the Laboratory of Physiology at the European University Miguel de Cervantes observed in their study, you may realize that "coolness" is a miserable guide, when it comes to exercise selection - in bros, pros, and noobs, by the way!
Figure 1: Acute changes in velocity and acceleration, when bench press is performed with / without additional bands; data expressed relative to inter-group means (García-López. 2014)
You want to know how I know that? Well, many of the bros are noobs when it comes to their actual training performance. So, if we are dealing with a study with 8 rugby players and 8 recreationally-trained subjects, we covered them all: Athletes, bros + noobs. And if the said study assigned the participants to two different experimental conditions in a cross-over design with
  • regular training
  • training with additional bands
says that the addition of elastic bands "significantly increased the range of concentric movement in which the barbell is accelerated and that this increase was significantly in higher in the "pros" (35%) compared to the "noobs" (13%), this tells you that using exercise bands may be especially beneficial for advanced trainees - exactly those people who usually laugh, when someone only mentions the green, red and blue bands.
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Bottom line: If we take into consideration that one of the major downfalls of the regular bench press is that it involves a certain amount of momentum, even if it is performed with picture perfect form. It is certain that adding a pair of elastic bands to your gym-tools will increase the time under tension. It is likely that this will help to increase your overall power and it is not impossible that it is going to to support your gains.

To make definitive statements about any of these "likely" and "possible" consequences of the regular use of additional bands during the bench press, we would yet need a 6-12 week trial the Spanish scientists would first have to finance - and let's be honest: Do you think the elastic band industry has the funds to do that ;-)
  • García-López, D. et al. "Free-weight augmentation with elastic bands improves bench-press kinematics in professional rugby players". Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Jan 2014 [publish ahead of print]