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resistance bands effective as warm up tool for lower body

Researchers from the prestigious Collingwood Football Club and Victorian University are one of the pioneers leading the way in studying the numerous applications of the cost-effective and highly portable resistance bands. In their latest study, they sought to compare the relative effectiveness of resistance bands versus weighted barbell squats versus static stretching as a warm up tool for jumping.

Because previous research has shown static stretching leads to decreased strength they expected it not to have a positive impact. However, they were primarily concerned with how weighted barbell squats would compare with resistance bands (both performed 3 sets of 3RM per exercise) as a means of activating post-activation potentiation (PAP). For the unacquainted, PAP is when a strength conditioning exercise precedes a more dynamic exercise or activity with similar movement patterns, leading to an improved performance in the main activity. PAP is believed to confer enhanced power output during activities such as jumping and sprinting.

As one could guess, the subjects in the study were twelve semi-professional Australian Rules male footballers. To test the relative efficacy of each warm up method, the footballers performed three weighted jump tests: one pre-warm-up; one 5-min post-warm-up; and one 10-min post-warm-up. On three separate occasions, the jump test was preceded by either weighted barbell box squats, box squats with elastic resistance bands, or several 30-second static stretches of legs.

The major finding was that both the weighted barbell squats and resistance bands were equally effective in significantly enhancing vertical jump power. With the weighted jumps occurring 5-min and 10-min respectively after the squats, the study further proved that load used in both types of squats was effective at eliciting PAP 5- and 10-minutes following each exercise. This is an important additional finding of the study as there has been some debate about ideal rest interval for PAP.

As expected the warm-up protocol involving stretching produced a significant reduction in weighted jump squat power 5 and 10 minutes post-warm-up. This finding is in line with previous research. While 11 of the 12 subjects showed a reduction in mean power, one participant did show a slight increase (4%) in jump power post-stretch. This highlights the fact that not all athletes respond the same way to a given warm up regime and static stretching may not be detrimental to all athletes.

This study serves as yet another confirmation of the utility and practicality of resistance bands. In particular, their ease of transport and low cost means they can be used in situations and sporting competitions were it would never be practical (or possible!) to bring a set of barbells. With their elasticity and malleability, resistance bands can be rolled up compactly and fitted snugly inside a gym/sports bag or even one's pocket.

Buttifant D, et al. Effect of various practical warm-up protocols on acute lower-body power. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2015;29(3):656-660.

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