Research Summary

Academy Title:Melchiorri G, Rainoldi A.
Research Article: Muscle fatigue induced by two different resistances: Elastic tubing versus weight machines.
The question, “Which is better?” between elastic resistance and weight machines continues in clinics, gyms, and research labs. Thera-Band® elastic resistance is as effective at improving strength as expensive and bulky weight machines (Colado et al. 2008). Researchers in Denmark have shown that physical therapy exercises using isotonic and elastic resistance have similar biomechanical and EMG properties (Andersen et al. 2010). However, no researchers have compared the difference between elastic and isotonic resistance on muscle fatigue.

Researchers in Italy examined the surface EMG activity of the biceps muscle in 14 healthy males performing a biceps curl with both isotonic weight and Thera-Band® elastic tubing. Their aim was to compare different manifestations of fatigue between elastic and isotonic resistance. They speculated that elastic resistance may cause more fatigue because of higher levels of recruitment due to a more symmetrical strength curve compared to isotonic resistance (Page & Labbe 2000).

EMG and mechanical properties were measured and compared before, during, and after a fatiguing 1RM contraction (the maximum resistance moved only one time) with either Thera-Band elastic tubing or isotonic weights on an arm curl device to ensure similar movements and resistance levels between conditions.  A maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVC) was performed before and after each 1RM resistance modality. The researchers compared neuromuscular characteristics between the 2 exhaustion tests to assess if different adaptation was necessary during elastic or isotonic resistance to perform the fatiguing isometric task.

The researchers found no significant mechanical difference between elastic or isotonic resistance; they both resulted in the same level of strength output during the MVCs. However, the researchers did find that the elastic resistance exercise resulted in faster conduction velocity compared to the isotonic weight machine.

Melchiorri and Rainoldi suggested that elastic resistance “seems to require a constant adaptation of the neuromuscular modulation of force in a more fine way with respect to the use of weights” particularly during eccentric contractions. Even though this study was performed on healthy individuals, the authors concluded that elastic resistance may be better than isotonic resistance “to increase the neuromuscular activation, for instance in specific rehabilitation settings where slow movements with minimal risk of injury are requested (post surgery, physical activity with elderly people, or children).”

Compared to isotonic weight machines, Thera-Band elastic resistance may be preferred in a clinical setting to enhance the neuromuscular outcomes of rehabilitation.


REFERENCE : Melchiorri G, Rainoldi A. 2011. Muscle fatigue induced by two different resistances: Elastic tubing versus weight machines. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. Dec;21(6):954-9.

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