Ed McNeely- Peak Centre for Human Performance
Strength training can have a tremendous impact on running performance. Using barbells and dumbbells is the fastest and most effective way of increasing strength to improve your performance but there are times when you are on the road for work or just can’t make it to the gym. When this happens consider having some rubber tubing on hand.
For many people training with tubing offers all the benefits of strength training with machines and weights with several advantages over the more traditional training modalities.
The most obvious advantage of using rubber tubing for your strength program is the portability of the tubing. Tubing takes up very little space and a complete program can be designed using two or three different resistances and household items like broom handles, stools, and chairs, making it an ideal training tool for those who want to train at home and have limited space. Tubing can easily fit into an overnight bag or suitcase when you are traveling, allowing busy professionals to get in their workout on the road.
Tubing is one of the most cost effective strengthening tools available, starting at under $5 for a single tube a complete home tubing gym can be developed for under $75. The low price makes tubing the ideal equipment for settings like physical education classes and group fitness.
Tubing offers nearly complete freedom of motion. It can be adjusted to any size and shape body and can be used in an unlimited number of positions. The freedom of motion that you get from tubing means that not only are the major muscles exercised during a movement but the smaller stabilizing muscles that are important for preventing injury are also strengthened.
Tubing provides the opportunity to more closely simulate sports movements than free weights or machines. One of the main principals in sport conditioning training is transfer of training. Transfer of training refers to the amount of sport performance improvement that comes from a certain exercise or training method. For instance if you increase the amount you can bench press by 100% and your basketball free throw improves by 1% because of it you have a 1% transfer of training. We know that it is impossible to completely simulate a sport activity with any type of resistance training but the closer you can come to the movement the greater the rate of transfer. In some instance the tubing can actually be attached to the sport implement to ensure a closer simulation.
Many strength training machines lock you into a fixed movement pattern that is dictated by the pulley, cam and track arrangement of the machine, making them very effective for training the primary muscles but less effective at working the stabilizer muscles. The latest pulley devices from companies like Free Motion and Life Fitness come close to replicating the variety and freedom of motion that you get from tubing but even they are limited to a certain number of preset positions.
Speed of movement is an important factor in developing sport specific strength and power. Sport movements like swinging a golf club or tennis racquet, hitting a baseball, and kicking a soccer ball are all done at high speed with relatively low resistance, the weight of the club, racquet or ball. Low tension tubing not only allows you to use the rotational movement patterns needed to excel at these sports but it allows you to perform the movements at close to game speed, further increasing the transfer of training.
In a normal free weight exercise you are limited by the amount of weight you can lift at the weakest point in the exercise. For instance if you are doing a full squat you will find the weak point occurs when your knees are bent at about 140 degrees and you are much stronger as you get closer to the top of the movement. When you are using a weight that you can lift at the bottom you are getting little training effect in the top part of the movement. Tubing and other elastic resistance devices increase their resistance as stretched; adding elastic resistance to a free weight bar in addition to the weights allows you to increase strength throughout the whole range of motion by loading the muscle at the end of the range of motion where it is strongest. This type of training has become popular with strength and power athletes.
While tubing is a valuable tool for developing strength and muscular fitness it does have limitations.
Even though there are a variety of tensions of rubber tubing very strong people and athletes in strength and power sports often require greater resistances than can be developed using tubing alone. Many competitive athletes attach tubing or large elastic bands to the weights they are lifting to add more resistance at the top of multijoint movements like squats or bench presses.
It is difficult to quantify your performance when using tubing. There are no resistance numbers when you are using tubing so you do not know how much weight you are lifting. You know you are getting stronger if you are using a thicker tube but only as long as you are buying your tubing from the same manufacturer. There are no standards for tubing tension or resistance so a ½ inch tube from one company may have more or less tension than a ½ inch tube from a different company.
Despite these few limitations tubing is an economical, portable training tool that will help you meet your strength, power and fitness goals.
PEAK Centre staff have the highest certifications available in Canada for Sport Science. With their combined experience and education, PEAK Centre is at the forefront of practical Sport Science application.