Variable Resistance Training

By Jack Rosser

Variable Resistance Training


What is variable resistance training(VRT)?

How does VRT work?

What can VRT be used for?

How to add VRT to your workout.

Final Thoughts.

What is Variable Resistance Training and should you be using it? 

Variable resistance training, or VRT for short, is a simple and effective form of resistance training. It has been around for quite some time and is a great addition to any training plan. It has become even more popular in recent years as a result of some pretty major global challenges. 

With distressing statistics emerging on climate change and a major global pandemic, many of us have begun to reassess our lifestyle and make some much-needed changes to improve our health, and the health of our planet. People have started to look at ways to reduce travel, spend more time outdoors and improve the sustainability of their lifestyle.

So, where does variable resistance training come in? Read on to find out…

Firstly, let’s understand how it works.

Variable resistance training does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides a varied resistance throughout an exercise, unlike traditional methods of resistance training which provide constant resistance. Now don’t get me wrong, both forms of training are great to include in your program but let’s discuss why VRT plays an important role. 

As you go through an exercise, you will find that some parts of the movement are easier, and some parts of the movement are harder. Let’s take the humble squat as an example…

You lower yourself down into the squatting position, and then comes the hardest part, transitioning from the squatting position and pushing yourself back up. Once you are halfway up, it becomes a lot easier, and you can finish the movement without much difficulty. 

With traditional resistance training, a barbell would provide the same constant weight throughout the movement. This can make it difficult to increase the resistance and progress your training. 

By using Variable Resistance, you increase the resistance at easier parts of the movement, without adding too much to the hardest part of the movement. A great way of progressing and getting past that well known sticking point, without compromising on form!  

What can Variable Resistance Training be used for?

  • As a progressions for body weight training
  • Adding resistance with minimal equipment
  • Strength training progression
  • Power training
  • Rehabilitation and training around injury
So, How do you add Variable Resistance to your training?

There are a few different ways of incorporating variable resistance into your training program. Which one you chose will depend on your individual preferences, your training plan, and your lifestyle. The most common forms are:

  • Chains
  • Resistance bands 

Chains are often used in a gym setting to add variable resistance to compound lifts like bench press and squats. They come in a variety of different weights and lengths.

Chains add maximum resistance at the easier parts of the lift when there is less of the chain resting on the floor, and minimal resistance at the harder parts of the lift when more of the chain is resting on the floor. They are less commonly used than resistance bands for the obvious reason of practicality.

I’m not sure about you but I’m not about to start carrying chains around in my bag or dragging them in and out of the cupboard when working out at home. 

Resistance bands, like the ones offered by Onterra, are a much more practical and versatile way to incorporate variable resistance into your training, especially outside of the traditional gym setting. There are two main types:

  • Looped 
  • Open ended which normally have handles at each end

Resistance bands can be found with different tension or resistance levels so you can choose which one suits your training plan. They work in a similar way to an elastic band. When in a relaxed unstretched position they don’t provide any resistance, but as the band stretches the resistance increases.

So, if you think back to our squat, when we are in the hardest phase of the squat at the lowest part of the squatting position, there is very little resistance on the band. This allows us to start the movement of pushing up without too much resistance. Once we get to the upper easier phase of the squat, the resistance increases to make it harder. 

Bands can also be used to support mobility and stretching as part of the warmup and cool down. 

Additional benefits of resistance bands include: 

  • Affordability: Traditional resistance training equipment such as dumbbells, barbells, and cable machines can be extremely pricey, and in today’s environment resistance bands are a great option that don’t break the bank. 
  • Practicality: They are light and easy to carry for outdoor workouts in the park or the garden.
  • Easy to store: No more finding space for a growing amount of training equipment. Resistance bands are neat and compact and easy to store in small spaces at home.  
Final Thoughts…

So, if you’re looking for a practical way to progress your training that suits your lifestyle, start incorporating variable resistance training in your routine. What are you waiting for? I’ve already got mine. Versatile, affordable, practical, good for the earth, good for you. Don’t walk, run!

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