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The impact of a six-week upper body resistance-training program using arm bands versus body weight on upper body strength.

Literature Review

In the world of fitness there are many specialists who have varying opinions on what type of exercises are needed in order for an individual to be considered healthy. Upper body strength is one component that is considered important in overall fitness, since many everyday activities are dependent on it. Upper body strength can be improved through various resistance training methods, such as body weight resistance and resistance bands. Studies have proven that these training methods can significantly help in increasing or maintaining upper body strength (Rupnow, 1985). This review was conducted to examine the impact of resistance bands and body weight resistance training programs on upper body strength.

Problem Begins in the Schools

Cutbacks in the nation's school systems have forced school districts to reduce the amount of physical education class time each student receives per week. As a result children lead more sedentary lives leading to the weakening of muscle fibers in the body. Additionally much of the modern technology eliminates many upper body strength tasks required at home or work (Rupnow, 1985). As a result of physical education cutbacks and increased technology Presidential Physical Fitness test scores are on a decline (English, 1989). To improve these scores it is recommended students perform 1 set of 6-15 repetitions of upper body exercises at least 2-3 times per week (Faigenbaum, et al., 2001). Through the plans of action the schools can provide a more inviting atmosphere to exercise, allowing the students to be more successful in attaining fitness goals (Rupnow, 1985). Physical educators are encouraged to not only teach primarily motor skill activities, but also include upper body strength exercises in daily lessons (Rupnow, 1985).

Upper Body Strength Gains

Upper body strength gains can be made in both females and males when resistance training methods are utilized (Johnson, 1974). One study reported resistance training can lead to an increase in muscular strength in children of both genders (Faigenbaum, et al., 2001). Strength gains in men and women may differ as a result of certain variables. Studies have shown that males, however, have more testosterone resulting in higher absolute gains in muscular strength than women (Heyward & McCreary, 1977). Heyward & McCreary (1977) stated that upper body strength of non-athletic females was 43% to 63% less than that of males. Johnson (1974) found the use of resistance training methods with young males and females improved upper body strength for both genders. Pushup scores for males increased by 18.6 repetitions, with pull-ups and dips also showing significant improvement. Females displayed improvement in pushups, pull-ups, and dips. The score improvements provide evidence that the fitness scores can be improved among both genders through the utilization of resistance training methods (Johnson, 1974).

Resistance Training Methods

Resistance training exercises have been proven to enhance upper body muscular strength and endurance (Anderson & Kearney., 1982). As a result many school districts have turned to resistance training techniques since it has been shown muscular endurance and strength can be enhanced through their use (Johnson, 1974). With exercise plans that include high resistance exercises strong and powerful muscles have been the result (Anderson and Kearney, 1982). Resistance band training demands more force at the end of the movement as the band is lengthened out. This results in an overload of the muscle, which allows it to gain strength in the fibers (Berry, 2004). Body weight resistance, an alternative training method, utilizes the use of static strength in order to overcome a heavy resistance (Rupnow, 1985). Certain types of these exercises such as pull-ups are widely used as fitness tests for upper body strength (Nelson, Yoon & Nelson, 1991). Both resistance bands and body weight exercises provide the body with a resistance that will help increase muscular strength (Berry, 2004) (Nelson et al., 1991).

Upper Body Resistance Exercises

Studies on Body Weight Resistance Exercises

Body weight resistance field tests have been conducted and have conclusively shown the importance of upper body strength to fitness tests scores (Rupnow, 1985). Due to the high percentage of students who are overweight many field tests involving body weight resistance are modified. One specific research study testing upper body strength utilized pull-ups, flexed arm hang, push-ups, Vermont modified pull-ups, and New York modified pull-ups. These modifications were utilized in order to reduce the number of zero scores received due to out of shape participants (Pate, 1993). Body weight resistance exercises possess negative aspects like these, but various research studies have concluded that it improves muscular strength.

Anderson and Kearney (1982) reported in a research study that resistance training using body weight resistance can enhance muscular performance. Other studies have proven that arm and upper body strength gains are prevalent when body weight resistance exercises are utilized (English, 1989). The downside to body weight resistance exercises is that high body weight can sometimes conflict with a person's ability to be successful (Pate et. al., 1993). By being creative and utilizing body weight resistance exercises and activities, teachers are able to guide students into reaching a level of exertion needed for maximum muscular development (Rupnow, 1985). As a result of the high number of zero scores on body weight resistance tests some teachers have tried various techniques to achieve improvement in these tests. Daily push-ups, pull-ups, and rope pulls have been utilized; however, no significant difference in strength gains have been reported. English (1989), stated innovative methods like "The Muscle Machine" allowed students the opportunity to make strength gains using body weight resistance. The Muscle Machine is composed of a ramp, two carts, and a bar at the top of the ramp. The ramp is adjusted to different levels to provide a higher resistance. The lower angle allows students with troubles doing pull-ups the opportunity to gain some upper body strength through this modified version (English, 1989). Research showed body weight resistance was used with this method allowing students who could not do one pull-up on the chinning bar the opportunity to succeed. The results of the research showed significant upper body strength gains from the muscle machine resulting in fewer zero scores by the participants (English, 1989).

By gaining increased amounts of strength through body weight resistance exercises Rupnow (1985) stated students were able to perform motor skills with greater ease. Research suggests the use of modified push-ups can help increase upper body strength and endurance for students of varying abilities and ages (Nelson et al., 1991). Modified push-ups are done by having the feet shoulder width apart in the regular push-up position, bending at the hip, keeping knees straight and placing the hands on the floor. This is considered the up position. The student bends his elbows and touches the forehead to the partners hand on the ground to achieve the down position. The push-ups are done through a cadence of up/down. The test stops when the student is unable to keep up with the cadence. The test is given over a two minute time period (Nelson et. al, 1991). The modified push up exercise was also found to be more easily administered than the regular fitness push-up test, because repetitions were more easily able to be counted (Nelson, et al., 1991). Other resistance exercises that help students achieve their fitness goals are modified pull-ups, such as the Vermont pull-up or the Muscle Machine (Nelson et al. 1991; English, 1989). As school's attempt to improve students upper body strength innovative methods using body weight resistance exercises are being utilized (Pate, et al., 1993).

Studies on Resistance Bands

Resistance bands in a workout have been proven to be effective in gaining muscular strength and endurance (Wallace, 2004). The Fire Cadet Strength and Conditioning Recruit training utilizes resistance bands to prepare cadets for the 18-week Firefighting Recruit training program. In many cases bands connected to free weights were used as attachments during free weight resistance exercises. The results of the exercises showed a significant increase in upper body strength of the cadets (Berry, 2004). In a study by Wallace, Winchester & McGuilgan (2004), at Cornell University, the impact of resistance bands during an eight week session was investigated. One group used bungee bands while the other used weight training techniques. During the eight week process both groups used identical exercise routines. Results of the study showed the group which used the resistance bands had a significant improvement in muscular strength. The other control group showed improvement, but was not able to exceed the efforts of the resistance bands (Wallace et al., 2004).

An 8-week study investigated the impact of a resistance band program designed to improve muscular strength of home bound, injured elderly women (Zion, Meersman, Diamond, and Bloomfield, 2003). The goals of the test were to safely and effectively increase the muscular strength of the patients. During the eight week period the participants were put through ten exercises using the resistance bands to increase dynamic strength. The results of the test showed the resistance bands made a safe and effective increase in dynamic strength of the participants (Zion et al., 2003) . Zion et al., (2003) stated the test showed this method of therapy could be used for elderly patients to increase their muscular strength, functional ability, and promote physical activity. Other studies have shown resistance bands provide less stress on the body's joints than traditional resistance training (Wallace et al., 2004) . The downside to resistance bands is the need for equipment, whereas other body weight resistance methods require no equipment (Wilson, 2000).

As described above. strength training involving youths have shown to have many positive results. Studies have illustrated that utilizing resistance and strength training at a young age helps in prevention of cardiovascular disease. Other health related topics that are affected are reduction in blood pressure, improvement of basic motor skills, early development of good posture, and improved flexibility (Roberts, 2002). Roberts (2002) stated previous studies have shown resistance training at a young age interfered with the development of the child's body. However, recent studies have shown resistance training at a young age is safe and effective in gaining strength and endurance. Roberts (2002) stated the results of the test showed the ability to develop peak strength occurs at puberty, so therefore it is safe and effective to utilize resistance training exercises at a young age.


Both body weight and band resistance training programs have been found to be successful in gaining upper body strength and endurance. Each program boasts results which show it can help increase upper body strength better than any other program available. Fitness experts around the world have their own idea of which exercise component is the most effective in gaining upper body strength. Finding out which resistance training method is the most beneficial is what this project will address.


Anderson, T, & Kearney, J. (1982). Effects of Three Resistance Training Programs on Muscular Strength and Absolute and Relative Endurance. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 53, 1-7.

Berry, M. (2004). Using Bands Five Tips to Success. Retrieved January 28, 2005 from

English, A. (1989). The Muscle Machine and Upper Body Strength. Strategies, 2, 18-21.

Faigenbaum, A, Loud, R, O'Connell, J, Glover, S, O'Connell, J, & Westcott, W. (2001). Effects of Different Resistance Training Protocols on Upper-Body Strength and Endurance Development in Children. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 15, 459-465.

Heyward, V, & McCreary, L. (1977). Analysis of the Static Strength and Relative Endurance of Women Athletes. Research Quarterly, 48, 703-710.

Johnson, R. (1974). Effects of Manual Negative Accentuated Resistance on Strength and/or Muscular Endurance.

Nelson, J, Yoon, S, & Nelson, K. (1991). A Field Test for Upper Body Strength and Endurance. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 62, 436-441.

Pate, R, Burgess, M, Woods, J, Ross, J, & Baumgartner, T. (1993). Validity of Field Tests of Upper Body Muscular Strength. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 64, 17-24.

Roberts, S. (2002). A Strong Start: Strength and Resistance Training Guidelines for Children and Adolescents. American Fitness, 22, 51--55.

Rupnow, A. (1985). Upper Body Strength Helping Kids Win the Battle. Journal of Physical Education Recreation and Dance, 56, 60-63.

Wallace, B., Winchester, J., & McGuilgan, M. (2004). Effects of Elastic Bands on Force and Power Characteristics During the Back Squat Exercise. Presented at the 2004 NSCA National Conference. Minneapolis, MN.

Wilson, M .A. (2000). Favorite Resistance Band Exercises. Retrieved January 29,2005 from resistance_band.htm .

Zion, A.S., Meersman, R., Diamond, B.E., & Bloomfield, D.M. (2003). A Home Based Resistance-Training Program Using Elastic Bands for Elderly Patients with Orthostatic Hypotension. Clinical Autonomic Research Journal. 13, 2.


Eric Brubaker, Instructor, Department of Health Sciences, Liberty University
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Author:Brubaker, Eric
Publication:VAHPERD Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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