How to Sell: Rubber Resistance

Originally used in hospitals and rehabilitation, rubber resistance tubing -- like many physical therapy products -- started spreading to fitness programs and health clubs in the early 1980s. It wasn't long before fitness professionals saw the benefits of a lightweight, inexpensive and compact item that could be adapted to so many different goals, settings and abilities. Today, rubber resistance tubing is used in health clubs worldwide in group exercise classes, as well as in training studios, medical and rehab facilities and in sports and recreation programs. Plus, you'll likely find them in suitcases and living rooms around the globe.
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This Training Center article is written by the editors of SNEWS® :

Originally used in hospitals and rehabilitation, rubber resistance tubing -- like many physical therapy products -- started spreading to fitness programs and health clubs in the early 1980s. It wasn't long before fitness professionals saw the benefits of a lightweight, inexpensive and compact item that could be adapted to so many different goals, settings and abilities.

Today, rubber resistance tubing is used in health clubs worldwide in group exercise classes, as well as in training studios, medical and rehab facilities and in sports and recreation programs. Plus, you'll likely find them in suitcases and living rooms around the globe.

What makes rubber resistance tubing so beneficial?

The basic advantages are simple to spell out to customers. Tubing is:

  • Compact
  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight and packable
  • Various thickness (therefore, providing varying resistance)
  • Adaptable to all persons, goals, sizes, shapes, settings and abilities

When used properly, tubing can provide resistance in both directions of an

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exercise, i.e. when users lift their arms in a shoulder press as well as when they lower their arms, resulting in "positive and negative" constant resistance (in this sense, "positive" means when working against gravity and "negative" means when moving with gravity or lowering). That means users can exercise their muscles and joints through the entire range of motion required during a movement.

With these advantages, no customer should ever walk out of a fitness store without a tube of some sort to complement his or her program!

A tube is not a tube is not a tube

Tubes may look the same, but in reality there are three types of materials used:

  • natural rubber latex using a continuous dip process
  • dry natural latex
  • synthetic materials

A continuous dip process (think dipping candles over and over to create multiple layers) tends to be the most durable. They also tend to have brighter hues and can be longer-lasting than dry natural or those made from synthetic materials. Look for an inner ring, often white or a light color, which is the latex, over which the natural rubber is layered.

The opposite of a continuous dip is a so-called "extruded" tube. These are commonly not as long-lasting, and their durability can be more highly affected by rough surfaces and changes in temperature. These can be identified if you look at the end of the tube and see no inner ring but a solid piece of one color.

Also in the continuous dip tubes, drier rubber, i.e. what is called "less water extractable protein per gram," is key because proteins in natural rubber can cause severe allergic reactions in people with latex allergies. Non-latex tubing is sometimes available, albeit usually more expensive, but usually only as a special order. Ask your supplier if the company has this option if you need it for a customer.

IMPORTANT! Always ask a customer if they have or may have any kind of latex allergy or if they have any reactions when handling rubber!

Synthetic materials are usually less expensive, but may also be less durable and, like hollow tubes without the layers of a continuous dip, could lose their resistance at the stretched-out lengths. That means if someone is doing an exercise requiring a full range of motion, such as an overhead press, the tube may not offer resistance in the exercise once the user is moving above about shoulder height.

A handle is not just a handle

Then there are the handles used on different brands, with patents often in place for different ways they are attached to the tube itself. Most use a pellet or tiny ball in the end of the tube to create a sort of a stopper so the handle doesn't slide off. The difference comes in the way a manufacturer fastens the handle attachment to the opposite side of the "stopper." For example, you'll find:

  1. Grommets -- some with protective sleeves where the grommet meets the rubber to keep the metal from cutting into or tearing the rubber.
  2. Plastic encasements that secure onto the end of a tube and hold the handle.
  3. Heavy-duty clips between handle and tube that allow interchanging tubes, usually in higher-end, sports training-oriented professional models.
  4. Molded handles with longer plastic bases through which tubes extend, tying off with the ball on the inside of the handle.

Basically, it's all about making sure the handle's attachment has less of a chance of either cutting through the rubber or coming undone. A tube that is stretched out in an exercise and then pops free can be extremely dangerous.

Configurations, colors and types

Since its beginnings in fitness 25 years ago, rubber resistance tubing products have been developed with fitness in mind, not just rehab. The products -- still compact and inexpensive with all the other attributes -- come in a vast array of shapes, sizes, lengths and configurations, as well as with connectors, handles, cuffs, bands and pads in all kinds of places to add to the versatility.

The long, basic tubes with handles at each end are commonly used in health clubs because of their versatility. The thicker the wall -- and therefore the thicker the tube is in diameter -- the harder it will be to pull (i.e. the more resistance it will have). A resistance level is identified by color with different companies using different colors to identify more or less resistance. (Be sure to become familiar with the brand you carry to be able to properly recommend the right resistance/color to a customer.)

There are also flat rubber resistance bands that can be used more easily with some exercises because of the way they lay against the body. Because of their thin flexibility, they also tend to offer less resistance. These are still found frequently in physical therapy settings since less resistance is usually more advisable when someone has or is recovering from an injury. They are also sometimes used in mind-body classes, such as yoga or Pilates, because of their adaptability to those movements. 

One recent innovation that takes the basic rubber tube a step further is a style the braids together multiple tubes into one cord, similar to how a rope is braided. Just like with ropes, the combined tubes are then stronger than one piece. The concept also can make them a good training tool for well-conditioned athletes, adapt better to more explosive movements, or can hold up better for outdoor workouts where surfaces may not always be smooth. Even if one tube snaps, the others will keep the combined piece from injuring a user or onlooker.

Determining a customer's goals

For basic tubes in varying lengths and resistances, it usually comes down to how fit the person is and for what type of exercise the person plans to use the tube. Some movements will require less resistance because of using smaller muscles (arms) or will need higher resistance because of using larger muscles (legs). That may mean one person may need more than one resistance to properly workout every body part desired.

Upper-body exercises commonly use tubes with handles or flat bands, while the other configurations we will address in an upcoming SNEWS® Training Center piece are more commonly used for lower-body exercises.

Selling rubber resistance

For basics on setting up an accessory category in your story, refer to the SNEWS® Training Center piece on "How to set up a fitness/training accessory category" by clicking here. To set up a category, as a store, you need to analyze your customer, your demographics, your area and other retail needs, which will also help you sell singular items, such as rubber resistance. 

Of course, as sales staff you want to sell large (and more expensive) equipment such as home gyms or ellipticals. But, if in conversation with a customer, you determine a gym or weight set is not an option – either as a stand-alone sale or as a supplement to a cardio piece – then you can help a customer start to build a program or develop a more well-rounded fitness regimen by suggesting inexpensive tubing for strength exercises, perhaps recommending a door attachment for more variety. Be sure to demonstrate not only how the tube is used, but also how exercises look with the door attachment. It should be easy to convince somebody to purchase tubes if they can see how rows, pull-downs, tricep curls and other key exercises can be easily mimicked. They can become a virtual gym, especially if you don’t forget to point out the tubes designed for lower-body exercises.

If someone travels a lot (or belongs to a gym and can't get in as often as he or she says they would like), then a basic tube with handles can be an all-around toning and strengthening answer since it can address upper, lower and whole-body training so well and can fit in a corner of a room or suitcase.

  • The key is targeting the resistance level to the person's fitness level and goals. Consider having one of each level available out of the package so someone can try them in a couple of movements to see how the resistance of each feels. 
  • Consider hanging a few on various pieces of equipment around the store so a salesperson can easily move into discussing rubber resistance and demonstrate it as a part of any sale.

A retail salesperson selling fitness should never neglect addressing the ease, inexpensiveness and adaptability of rubber resistance into any sales discussion.

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