Acute Effects of Combined Elastic and Free-weight Tension on Power in the Bench Press Lift

### Abstract

The present study investigated the acute effects on power following the bench press exercise with a combination of elastic band and free-weights vs. free weight only. Eight college-aged males and females participated in this study. All 8 subjects were college track and field athletes that participated in throwing events. The participants performed two bench press training sessions that consisted of three sets of five repetitions. One session used a combination of elastic band (15% of total resistance) and free-weight exercise (85% of total resistance), while the other session consisted only of a free-weight exercise (100%). Power was measured twice at 50% of their one repetition maximum (1 RM) at the conclusion of each lifting session. Analysis via repeated measures Ancova (Treatment by Time covaried for gender) revealed a significant effect for Time (F= 5.951, p=0.05) and a significant two way interaction for Treatment*Time (F=54.093, p<0.001). The present investigation demonstrated an initial power measurement that was greater for the combined group rather than the free-weight only group. This information is potentially beneficial for many different groups of trainee’s.

**Key Words:** Elastic tension, Strength Training, Acute Training Effect

### Introduction

Recently, there have been a number of investigations that have assessed the impact of combined elastic band and free-weight exercise. These bands have been shown to provide predictable variable resistance when applied to free weight exercises such as the back squat and bench press (5,7). Exercise professionals are continually trying to discover novel ways to increase strength and power gains. Wallace et al. (12) demonstrated that power was acutely increased in the back squat exercise with the addition of elastic tension. It was suggested from this research that an 80% free-weight/20% elastic tension ratio might be optimal. Stevenson et al. (10) also found that the combination of elastic band and free-weight exercise during the back squat can significantly increase rate of force development. Experienced power lifters and strength and conditioning professionals have claimed elastic band resistance combined with traditional training produces strength gains for several years (4,8,9). Anderson et al. (1) demonstrated an increase in the bench press and squat exercise strength after training with the addition of elastic tension for an athletic population. In this study, the back squat 1-RM improvement was nearly three times higher for the combined group. In addition, the bench press increase was doubled for the combined group. Furthermore, the combined group’s lower body average power increase was nearly three times better than the free-weight only group. Anderson et al. (2008) used the 80/20 ratio that was suggested by earlier studies. Anderson’s study demonstrated that combined elastic band and free-weight exercise was a viable option to use to train experienced lifters. That study also demonstrated that the group using the combination exercise experienced slightly less resistance at the bottom of the movement when the joints may be under maximal stress in free-weight training. Thus, band training may also provide reduced risk in back squat and bench press exercises.

Triber et al. (11) concluded that the combination of elastic and free-weight exercise provided beneficial effects on strength and functional performance in college-level tennis players. The experimental group experienced significant gains in both internal and external rotation torque. That same study concluded that an elastic band training program strengthened the rotator cuff muscles of collegiate baseball pitchers (11). Band training has the unique ability to target specific muscles, which can be beneficial for numerous sports teams. Using a combination of elastic band and free-weight exercise can also mimic the strength curve of most muscles better. A muscle’s strength curve denotes the alteration in strength of that muscle during the entire range of motion in a certain movement (13). Along these lines, it has been reported that combined elastic and free-weight exercises provided greater force during the first 25 percent of the eccentric phase and last ten percent of the concentric phase of a lift as compared to free-weights alone (3).

Elastic tension has also been reported to impact the neuromuscular performance. Page and Ellenbecker (6) claim that elastic band exercise imparts a higher neuromuscular control resulting in improved balance, gait and mobility. As stated, the gains resulting from the combination of elastic band and free-weight exercise are abundant and the use of this treatment is growing among professionals; though the acute effects on power have yet to be documented. Therefore, the purpose of the present investigation was to determine how if at all, combined elastic tension applied to a normal bench press training session affects power.

### Methods

The present investigation was approved by the local institutional review board and employed a within subjects design, with random assignment. The participants gave informed consent prior to participating and included: four male (age: 20.5±2.1yrs, height:1.82±0.07m, weight: 112.68±15.03kg) and four female (age: 19.9±1.7yrs, height: 1.76±0.05m, weight: 100.78±28.47kg) college track and field athletes involved in the throwing events (shot put, discus, hammer). The participants performed in a counterbalanced within-subjects design, two bench press training sessions that consisted of 3 sets of 5 repetitions at 85% of their 1-RM. The athletes had recently undergone a 1-RM assessment as part of practice; which was supervised by the research team and the weight selected for the treatment was based on this assessment.

One session consisted solely of resistance provided by a standard Olympic barbell with plates, which equated to 85% of the athletes previously determined one repetition maximum, the second session consisted of combined resistance where 85% of 1 RM was derived from 85% tension provided by an Olympic barbell with plates and 15% provided by Elastic Bands (Jump Stretch Inc., Youngstown, OH.). The 85% free weight and 15% elastic tension treatment was based upon previous research performed in our laboratory that suggested that this was an appropriate split for effective training between the isotonic tension provided via free weight and variable resistance by the elastic bands (2).

Immediately after the training sessions, the participants were asked to bench press 50% of 1RM at maximum velocity, in order to generate the greatest amount of watts possible. The participants performed two lifts at 50% of 1RM after each treatment, separated by a rest period of 90 seconds. The two sessions were separated by a 72 hour wash out period as to avoid undo fatigue affecting the results. The order of treatment was randomized so that half the participants lifting under the combined elastic band and free weight condition went first, with the other half lifting in the free weight only condition went first. During the second visit the participants lifted under the other treatment.

Instruments

Power was measured twice, with a minimum of 90 sec rest between measurements at 50% of 1-RM, following the conclusion of both lifting sessions, using a Max Factor tether type potentiometer (Max Rack Inc, Columbus, OH.). This instrument demonstrated reliability in pilot testing with Intraclass correlations of greater than 0.99 on repeated measures testing.

Statistical Analysis

Results of the present investigation were analyzed via a treatment (Combined free-weight and elastic tension vs. free weight only) by time (attempts 1,2) repeated measures Ancova (covaried for gender). The inclusion of the covariate was necessary based upon the natural differences in strength that existed between the male and female athletes in the present investigation. All statistical tests were performed with the use of a modern statistical software package (SPSS ver 17.0 for Macintosh). The criteria for statistical significance was set a priori at alpha <0.05.

### Results

Intraclass correlation analysis suggested good reliability on all measures for the present investigation (>0.99). Analysis performed via repeated measures Ancova (Treatment by Time covaried for gender) revealed a significant main effect for Time (F= 5.951, p=0.05) and a significant two way interaction for Treatment*Time (F=54.093, p<0.001).

The subjects initial measurements of power immediately following the training session was higher in the combined elastic treatment (437.5+34.89 watts) as compared to the free-weight only condition (391.88+41.01 watts). (see Table 2)

### Discussion

The current study extended previous studies by using both male and female participants that were college track and field athletes. All 8 subjects were involved in throwing events and therefore trained regularly with resistance exercises such as a bench press with the involvement of both elastic and free-weight training. The present investigation revealed a differential response in power following training sessions that utilized combined elastic and free weight tension as compared to free weight only.

Affects have been seen with a combination of elastic band and free-weight tension in the past. Bellar et al. (2011) reported around a 5lbs increase in 1RM bench strength after only 3wks of training with a combination of elastic bands and free weights. Anderson et al. (2008) reported changes in power production with athletes who utilized a combination of elastic and free-weight tension. The current study builds upon these findings and notions by experts in the field (Mannie 2005, Simmons, 2007) who suggest adding elastic tension can have acute effects. Based upon these data, during the course of an upper body lifting session it appears that athletes are able to maintain more power when training with a combination of elastic tension and free-weights.

The recorded power was notably different between the sessions that used a combination of an Olympic barbell and an elastic band and those that only used an Olympic barbell. The difference between the two separate 50% 1-RM power assessments for the combination group was only 1 watt, while the difference between the free-weight only group was close to 46 watts. This finding is notable as the attempts post combined training were essentially identical, whereas the first attempt under the free weight only treatment was lower than the second by 46 watts. This suggests that the free weight only treatment may have acutely resulted in a reduction in power production capability that was washed out by the second attempt. The first power output between the two treatments differed by almost 35 watts. After the 90 second rest, the second power output of each group was extremely close, differing by 10 watts. The initial measurement of power following the training was higher for the group that performed the bench press with the combination of the elastic band and the free-weight, but the two different groups seemed to retain the same amount of power at the end. The overall results of the study suggest that in the immediate period following bench press training, athletes who use combined elastic and free weight tension will be better suited to activities that rely on greater power production, such as throwing a shot put. This finding is important as coaches often pair activities in complex training schemes.

### Conclusions

The present investigation has shed light onto the acute affects of combining elastic tension with free-weight exercise on power production in athletes. Further research should continue to explore the effects of power, strength, rate of force development, velocity, eccentric activity and neuromuscular stimuli when performing combination activities with both elastic band and free-weight exercises. It is plausible that given the data from the present investigation, chronic adaptations to training with elastic resistance in combination with free-weights may have been caused by lesser reductions in power during acute training sessions. If this acute effect does manifest in this fashion, then it would have ramifications as to the training volumes athletes utilize with this modality to gain maximum adaptations. The current research on the topic of combining elastic and free weight training is very limited and mostly focused on the back squat and bench press. Hence, investigations and applications on diverse exercises should be considered in forthcoming research.

### Applications In Sport

Based upon the present investigation, it would immediately appear at the conclusion of a training session that athletes retain more power production post combined elastic and free-weight training as compared to free-weight training alone. This information is potentially beneficial to professionals who work with athletes, as complex training is often incorporated into the program design. This form of training often involves the performance of a skill related activity post-resistance training bout.

### Tables

#### Table 1
Participant characteristics given in Means ± SD.

Gender Age (yrs) Height (m) Weight (kg)
Male (n=4) 20.5 ± 2.1 1.82 ± 0.07 112.68 ± 15.03
Female (n=4) 19.9 ± 1.7 1.76 ± 0.05 100.78 ± 28.47

#### Table 2
Watts Produced by Treatment and Attempt given in Means ± SD.

Treatment Attempt 1 (Watts) Attempt 2 (Watts)
Combined Elastic and Free-weight 426.5 ± 257.0 427.5 ± 229.2
Free-weight Only 391.9 ± 206.3 437.5 ± 242.6

### References

1. Anderson, C.E., Sforza, G.A., Sigg, J.A. (2008) The effects of combining elastic and free weight resistance on strength and power in athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(2), 567-574.
2. Bellar, D., Muller, M., Ryan, E.J., Bliss, M.V., Kim, C-H, Ida, K Barkley, J.E., Glickman, E.L. (2011) The Effects of Combined Elastic and Free Weight Tension vs Free Weight Tension on 1 RM Strength in the Bench Press. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(2), 459-463.
3. Israetel, M.A., McBride, J.M., Nuzzo, J.L., Skinner, J.W., Dayne, A.M. (2010) Kinetic and kinematic differences between squats performed with and without elastic bands. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1): 190-194.
4. Mannie K. Strike up the band training, the benefits of variable resistance. (2005) Coach Athletic Director, 75, 8-13.
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6. Page, P., & Ellenbecker, T. S. (2005). Strength Band Training. In Strength Training with Elastic Resistance [Excerpt]. Retrieved from Farnsworth Group website: <http://www.champaign411.com/sports_fitness/excerpts/strength_training_with_elastic_resistance>
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9. Simmons, L. (2009, July 15). Training athletes vs. full meet powerlifters [Web log post]. Retrieved from <http://www.wannabebig.com/training/powerlifting-and-functional-strength-for-athletics/q-a-with-westside-barbells-louie-simmons/>
10. Stevenson, M. W., Warpeha, J. M., Dietz, C. C., Giveans, R. M., & Erdman, A. G. (2010). Acute effects of elastic bands during the free-weight barbell squat exercise on velocity, power, and force production. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(11), 2944-54.
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### Corresponding Author

David Bellar
225 Cajundome Blvd
Department of Kinesiology
University of Louisiana Lafayette
<dmb1527@louisiana.edu>

### Author Bios

#### Sara Prejean

Sarah Prejean is an undergraduate student studying exercise science in the department of kinesiology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

#### Lawrence Judge

Lawrence Judge is an associate professor and coordinator of the graduate coaching program at Ball State University. Dr. Judge has a long-established background in coaching track and field athletes and an extensive research background in coaching behavior, moral issues, and competitiveness versus participation in athletics, specifically in youth sports.

#### Tiffany Patrick

Tiffany Patrick is an undergraduate student studying exercise science in the department of kinesiology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

#### David Bellar

David Bellar is an assistant professor and director of the human performance lab in the department of kinesiology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Bellar has a background in coaching track and field athletes, and researching performance attributes within this population.