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Training with Rubber Tubing & Bands
Tubing made of
rubber or similar materials is often used by baseball and softball players
for strength work, usually for “smaller” muscles such as those that
are associated with the rotator cuff.
and bands are generally considered to be safe for use by players of any
age, they are not without potential problems. The thing people need to
remember is that these are tools for resistance training, just like free
weights (barbells/dumbbells). Tubing comes in different levels of
difficulty, usually denoted by their color, and develops muscles
like any other type of resistance training.
prefer free weights to tubing, or anything like tubing, primarily because
of the more consistent (but not perfect) force curve produced with
What this means
is that the resistance is more uniform throughout the range of motion
(start to finish). With tubing, depending on the movement performed, there
is little or no resistance at the start of the exercise and considerably
more at the end. So, with tubing, certain points in the range of motion
will receive more resistance than others.
The thing to
keep in mind when training with tubing is this: it is a strength training tool just like free weights. Depending
on how it’s used, it can stimulate muscle tissue and produce muscle
growth just like weights. It will not make a muscle “longer” or more
flexible in the process. So, tubing offers no advantage in terms of muscle
development, particularly for younger players, than using free weights.
I mention this
because I often hear coaches recommending tubing over free weights for
young players, as if it is somehow “safer” or better for youngsters. I
suppose if you were to drop a piece of rubber tubing on your foot, it will
hurt much less than if you were to drop a 5 lb dumbbell on it!
with tubing does requires caution. Among the hazards is that old,
improperly-cared-for tubing can snap and break during use. While this
usually results in a painful snap on some area of the body, there are
reports of serious eye injuries resulting from broken tubing. So, I
recommend doing what I do: wear a pair of safety goggles while training
with tubing. Eyes are hard to replace!
How Does Tubing Work?
Muscles do one
thing: they contract. They do not flex – this is what joints do, amongst
other actions. So, when a muscle is stimulated by tubing or weights, it
will grow. Training with tubing doesn’t somehow produce muscle growth
that is preferable over the growth produced by weights.
you want a muscle to be less “bulky” and “short,” other factors
must also come into play. Among these are how the resistance program is
designed, and especially, the presence (or lack of) flexibility work.
Otherwise, muscle growth stimulated by tubing or weights will be pretty
much the same.
Another consideration when using tubing is that it should be used in a manner that is actually beneficial to throwers. For example, a common method of training with tubing is to place the arm at the throwing release point and pulling forward (internal shoulder rotation), as illustrated:
training movement is exactly the opposite
of what an overhand thrower does, and has the potential of slowing down a
throwing arm, resulting in decreased
when a thrower’s arm moves forward in its throwing range of motion to
the release point, the only resistance is from the ball in the hand. After
ball release, the arm continues to move forward without
movement used in Figure 1 is similar to what swimmers do with the crawl
stroke, which I also do NOT
recommend for ball players. Among
my concerns is that most baseball coaches know little about swimming
stroke mechanics or about properly designing a swimming workout for ball
An even greater consideration is the potential
for throwers to develop an impingement
in their shoulders by swimming. Bottom line: ball players should not do any
type of serious swimming training. If you want to jump in the
water and cool off, great. Just do your conditioning on land!
A simple yet effective way to train the external rotator
muscles/decelerators used by overhead throwers is shown here, using a
small weight. Tubing could also be used in this manner:
training with tubing for ball players is but one part of an overall
strength and conditioning program. It is not required for players of a
particular age or ability level, but, properly performed, can be a helpful
part of a resistance training regimen.