Regular exercise is one of the key components of physical fitness along with a healthy diet. With so many demands on our time, we’re usually trying to fit our exercise into minutes in between other tasks, so it’s important to make sure that what we do is as efficient as possible. One inexpensive tool to help increase the output of your workouts is a good set of physical therapy bands.
What Are Physical Therapy Bands?
Put simply, physical therapy resistance bands are elastic bands with some form of handhold designed to apply low-impact resistance for muscle-toning exercises.
What makes them more than just being large rubber bands is the specific level of tension each band is designed to represent, often in color coded sets. Each level of tension represents the rough equivalent of lifting, pulling, or pushing an amount of weight depending on the exercise. In a set of resistance bands, users can usually work with individual bands at ranges of resistance, or combine bands to represent even greater resistance depending on the exercise. This can be used to not only replace a certain amount of free weight lifting exercises but also to add light or moderate resistance to other exercises and increase their efficiency in building tone and burning fat.
There are two standard forms of physical therapy resistance bands. One is a simple loop of elastic material with a set tension rating; the other is an elastic cable with a form of handle on each end. Each type has its own distinct advantages depending on the workout action desired.
As an exercise tool, physical therapy bands have a wide variety of uses. Their versatility in either use for exercises designed for resistance bands or as a supplement for other fitness routines is one of their main advantages.
Here are just a few common uses for physical therapy stretch bands.
Physical Therapy Exercises
As the name implies, one of the main uses for physical therapy bands is to aid in physical therapy exercises. After an illness, injury, or even corrective surgery has caused muscles to be damaged or to atrophy from any length of time remaining immobilized, muscles and mobility have to be rebuilt with care to avoid further damage or irreparable harm.
Even chronic conditions and pain unrelated to specific injury can benefit from physical therapy, and good resistance bands are a useful tool in moderating the amount of strain from early to advanced levels of therapy in order to properly regain mobility.
Replacing Dumbbells or Free Weights
Resistance bands can be used in place of traditional free weights and perform many of the same tasks. By selecting the proper tension level and the right exercise, you can simulate a variety of lifts and bodybuilding exercises. It’s all about making the muscles work that right amount to help them build and tone while helping to burn fat. There are a few reasons we’ll go into a little later on why physical therapy elastic bands can be a good replacement for standard weights.
Adding Extra Resistance to Other Exercise Routines
There are so many potential exercise forms out there such as yoga, CrossFit, martial arts, P90x, and so on. One of the major uses of physical therapy stretch bands is to add extra resistance to enhance the efficiency of the workout by fitting easily into some of the standard motions and exercises in such programs.
By applying the right amounts of tension, especially when reaching advanced levels of these exercise routines, people can use physical therapy rubber bands to help maintain a sense of challenge or to overcome a plateau in their workout by changing that level of effort just the right amount.
Benefits of Physical Therapy Bands Replacing Free Weights
Using physical therapy rubber bands for strength training can have several advantages over free weights and dumbbells. While standard weights have their place in a fitness routine, there are some factors that can make stretch bands a better choice for many people.
Easier on Joints
First, let’s be clear. There is no inherent danger to joints with using traditional weights; proper usage will avoid joint pain, flare-ups, and deterioration of cartilage. That being said, resistance bands have a lower chance of accidents or incorrect usage, and for those that are already experiencing joint pain due to injury or chronic conditions, physical therapy bands provide excellent resistance to strengthen muscles around joints and actually start to rebuild damaged areas when used in the correct alternative workouts.
As mentioned before, they are often used for just this purpose, but they can also be used to avoid developing or exacerbating chronic conditions and keeping joints in good condition.
Depending on the features, to get a decent set of free weights or quality adjustable dumbbells can run upwards of a couple of hundred dollars. Even the simplest dumbbell sets are usually over sixty, whereas a good full set of physical therapy bands will usually only set someone back about thirty to fifty dollars, or even less, depending on features.
Easier to Store
Any set of weights is going to take up a certain chunk of space in the home. A lot of us have limited space for one reason or another and simply can’t afford to devote a part of the home to storing even a moderate weight set. Resistance bands have the benefit of being able to fold up and store just about anywhere and be brought out when it’s time to exercise.
This is even more of a benefit than it sounds. If it’s a nice sunny day and you want to do your strength training in the park, possibly along with an extra walk or jog, you can take a set of physical therapy bands with you in a pouch or pocket. One of the things that a lot of people find derails a workout plan is the sense of monotony, and it can be amazing what a little thing like changing the setting at times does for that. This also makes for a tool that can be easily taken to a workout class or just an exercise group that helps keep each other on track in different places.
Limitations of Physical Therapy Bands
While physical therapy resistance bands do come with a host of advantages and uses, no exercise tool is completely perfect. It’s important to remember a few key limitations.
Weight Level Is Not Exact
When working with free weights or dumbbells, your muscles are working and moving a very specific, measured amount of weight. Physical therapy stretch bands are simulating the resistance of a rough range of weight that is measured but not completely exact. This means that while you’re still getting a good workout, it can be tough to gauge increases in strength by any set numbers.
Only So Much Tension Available
For intense bodybuilding, one of the limitations of resistance bands is that only so much tension is available. Even with combining bands to increase tension and simulate extra weight, there is an upper limit that is lower than some of the larger weight sets provide. For the average person trying to work out and improve their general fitness, this is not a major problem, but it does provide a limit to some that are specifically looking to keep going higher.
Varying Resistance During Exercise
Just by their nature, resistance bands will increase tension the more they are extended. That means that at the height of extension, the tension will be at its greatest, putting more pressure on your muscles vs. the start of extension. This isn’t inherently bad for fitness, but it is a factor to keep in mind when working with them and adjusting your range of motion.
Wear and Tear
Physical therapy bands are more susceptible to light damage over time than heavier, metal equipment. Just the way it is based on how the material is used. Each time beginning exercises, especially after a while of regular use, it’s a good idea to briefly examine your bands and make sure there aren’t tears or frays in the material before putting them through their paces so that you’re exercising safely.
With the versatility and cost of physical therapy bands, they are an excellent addition to just about anyone’s workout equipment. It doesn’t matter if they’re being used as part of a physical therapy exercise plan to steadily reduce chronic pain and increase mobility, used as the main component of a new workout to tone and burn fat, or kept as an occasional supplement to an established exercise routine.
Used properly, physical therapy stretch bands confer enough advantage to fitness goals that it’s a good idea to keep them as part of your regular workout equipment.