Variable resistance training (VRT) methods improve the rate of force development, coordination between antagonist and synergist muscles, the recruitment of motor units, and reduce the drop in force produced in the sticking region. However, the beneficial effects of long-term VRT on maximal strength both in athletes and untrained individuals have been much disputed. The purpose of this study was to compare in a meta-analysis the effects of a long-term (≥7 weeks) VRT program using chains or elastic bands and a similar constant resistance program in both trained adults practicing different sports and untrained individuals. Intervention effect sizes were compared among investigations meeting our selection and inclusion criteria using a random-effects model. The published studies considered were those addressing VRT effects on the 1 repetition maximum. Seven studies involving 235 subjects fulfilled the selection and inclusion criteria. Variable resistance training led to a significantly greater mean strength gain (weighted mean difference: 5.03 kg; 95% confidence interval: 2.26-7.80 kg; Z = 3.55; p < 0.001) than the gain recorded in response to conventional weight training. Long-term VRT training using chains or elastic bands attached to the barbell emerged as an effective evidence-based method of improving maximal strength both in athletes with different sports backgrounds and untrained subjects.