Resistance Bands for Rehab: The Essential Guide

Rehabilitation from an injury can be a long, painful and frustrating process. Performing corrective exercises as soon as you are safely able to after your injury is a key to easing the process and getting you back to full fitness sooner. However, many people lack access to a professional therapist with the equipment needed to perform the corrective exercise. The good news is that resistance bands are an ideal tool to meet this need.

Resistance bands are, in fact, often the preferred equipment choice of professional rehabilitation specialists. That’s because they are light, easy to adjust and they add resistance in an infinite number of different directions. They are also adaptable and versatile enough to be used by a range of users with different needs. In addition, resistance bands are inexpensive and they are portable enough that they can be used anywhere at any time.

The first resistance bands used surgical tubing and these were also used in the 1960’s and ’70’s for professional rehab purposes. These would be borrowed from the medical supplies shed and tied to a bedpost to provide resistance to patients who were not strong enough to lift so much as a two-pound weight plate. Band training allows you to do more exercises from a larger variety of angles than when you use cables or free weights.

When you rehab with resistance bands you are less likely to re-injure yourself. You can also make minute intensity progressions simply by changing your grip on the band.

Medical science has made great advancement in terms of surgical and psychiatric treatment. Still, the simple tools remain to be the most effective for rehab. Bands are great for training proper body mechanics and corrective exercise. They can also help to alleviate the incidence and severity of arthritis and orthopedic injuries.

A key goal of the rehabilitative exercise is functional fitness. The ideal outcome is to maximize the potential for full return of pre-injury status and minimize the possibility of re-injury. Regardless of what your condition is, it can benefit from using resistance bands. That’s why physical therapists can often be seen using resistance bands in their practices.

Choosing the Right Band For Rehab

Most modern resistance bands are constructed of latex and come in a range of color-coded resistance levels. They are available as one continuous loop band or as a tubular band with handles on each end. These bands often have ankle attachments and also come with a range of accessories to extend their use. Getting the right resistance band is critical to making sure that your progress as your rehab is consistent.

In terms of the color resistance coding system, there is some variation between manufacturers. However, you will generally find that light colors such as pink and yellow denote are lighter resistance. Green and red are moderate while dark gray and black denote the heaviest resistance levels. However, you should select your resistance based on how it feels rather than the color. If you are buying your bands online, make sure that you are aware of the equivalent free weight resistance levels.

These are the resistance levels of the Fit Simplify resistance bands:

resistance bands

Color Level Estimated Poundage
Green Extra Light 2-4 lbs
Blue Light 4-6 lbs
Yellow Medium 10-12 lbs
Red Heavy 15-20 lbs
Black Extra Heavy 25-30 lbs

Resistance bands are either flat or tubular.

Flat bands are the most common type used for exercise and rehab. They usually come in lengths between three and six feet. These bands are often of the loop variety. Many exercises done with loop bands need to be anchored over a secure upright.

Tubular resistance bands are generally more durable than flat bands and usually come with padded handles. Some tubular bands allow you to adjust the length of the band. Generally, flat loop resistance bands are the most ideal for rehab training.

The Rehab Process

Before you begin any rehab exercise, it is a good idea to have a physical therapist perform a complete evaluation of your condition. The therapist will compare your active and passive movement, along with your strength deficits and a comparison between the affected and the unaffected sides. Once the evaluation has been completed, the therapist will determine what stage you are at and would provide corrective exercises based on what he has observed.

Your therapist will guide you through the steps to recovery, with your pain level and range of motion being the main gauge of progress. However, you should know that absence of pain is not a sign that normal activity is returned. It is also quite common for people to develop compensatory adjustments to make up for functional deficits. This can result in further problems.

There are three stages of rehabilitation goals:

Phase One – The Acute Phase

The focus here is on preventing further harm while decreasing the signs and symptoms of injury and also speeding up the healing process. This phase of rehab should be overseen by a trained therapist. They will make use of a combination of NSAIDs, rest, ice and heat treatment.

Phase Two – The Recovery Phase

The key goal of Phase Two is to prevent further injury and pain. A corrective exercise program will be put in place with a focus on regaining body strength, muscular balance, and joint stability. Functional range of motion along with improved neuromuscular control and coordination are emphasized.

Phase 3 – Functional Phase

The functional phase of rehab can be done under the guidance of a certified personal fitness trainer, or it can be done on your own. However, you need to make sure that you stay within the scope of the guidelines that your therapist will provide for you. After a period of functional rehab, you will have regained your original level of strength and mobility. You should evaluate the circumstances that led to the injury and then set about adjusting your lifestyle and behaviors.

You will now want to put your focus on exercises that bring about improved joint stabilization, encourage proper posture, improve multi-plane range of motion and correct any strength irregularities. If you play a sport, you should include sports specific drills and functional activities.

In future articles, we will provide specific rehab training programs with resistance loop bands that you can use for rehab to different areas of your body.

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