Stretching isn’t the first thing most people associate with using bands as part of their fitness routine.
Typically bands are used to increase resistance in a workout or to assist, making things like pull ups easier.
However, their uses are endless and using them for stretching just adds another tool to your toolbox.
First, let me start by saying that there is no research to suggest that stretching with bands is more or less effective than active (unassisted) stretching or passive (assisted) stretching.
In fact, the research shows time and again that there is almost no difference between the three. The only time a measurable difference can be seen is with the introduction of Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) during a stretch session. You can learn more about the benefits of PNF in one of our previous blogs “PNF Stretching: A Better Way to Get Mobile and Flexible”.
So, why bother incorporating bands into your stretch routine?
Well, here’s why:
1. Bands allow people with mobility issues or limited flexibility to access stretches that are otherwise impossible.
For people who lack the mobility to reach back and grab their ankle, while also balancing on one leg, to achieve a quad (front of the thigh) stretch, a band can be a fantastic solution! With a band, almost any stretch is possible regardless of your limitations in mobility or flexibility. Bands add inches to your arms allowing you to reach those impossible places.
They also give you the opportunity to stretch at the right intensity. If pulling your leg back for a quad stretch is doable, but achieving it means you’re grinding your teeth because something feels like it’s going to snap, that stretch isn’t doing you any favours. Use a band. The added length will allow you the extra room you need to achieve a stretch that feels right, not one that feels like you’re tearing through muscle.
2. Bands offer better control when stretching.
Our bodies don’t love sudden jerky movements. Have you ever whipped your head around only to find you’ve pulled a muscle in your neck? Have you ever lunged forward to catch a glass falling off the counter and tweaked your back? Case and point.
As with all movements, the more control you have when moving into and out of stretches, the better. Sudden changes in muscle length cause muscles to contract (Prescott, 2017). Instead of jerking your leg back to grab your ankle, try using a band to gently lift your leg slowly in place for that quad stretch. You’ll find your muscles are much more amenable to relaxing when you’re not kicking and hauling them into place.
3. Bands provide support for muscles, allowing for a deeper, safer stretch.
“Nerve endings are dispersed throughout the muscle and tendon, and if a stretch doesn’t feel safe for the muscle, those nerves will fire, registering pain and resistance…” (Ghose, 2014). In order to achieve a lasting lengthening of the tissue, muscles need to feel safe. When we don’t feel safe we tense up. The same thing goes for our muscles.
When our muscles feel properly supported and safe they start to relax. They stop resisting and become more receptive to change. The slower we take a stretch and the more time we allow the muscles to adapt to the new space then the more successful we will be in our efforts.
With bands, you can physically support a limb while holding a stretch. The added length allows you to move slowly without jerking your body into position while gently exploring new areas for stretching.
4. Bands allow a person to PNF alone.
A quick bit on why we like PNF stretching, if you didn’t have a chance to check out the blog above. PNF stretching works because “that kind of stretching loads the muscle with more force at a greater level of extension, which then tells the nervous system that the muscle can be strong [AND] safe” in that space (Ghose, 2014).
PNF is considered by many resources as the superior form of stretching with the best return on investment; however, it is usual done with the assistance of a professional. Bands allow you the opportunity to PNF alone in a way that can be just as effective as with assisted stretching (Maddigan et al., 2012). And being able to apply this on your own can save you hundreds of dollars spent on therapists and/or stretch specialists. It’s a major win for anyone on a budget.
There is no right or wrong way to stretch. There are things to watch out for but, as long as you are working within your limits and consistent with your efforts, you will see positive changes in things like flexibility, mobility and coordination.
Stretching with bands is just one of many stretching techniques that can help you get where you want to go. If you are someone who suffers from severe restrictions in movement, chronic pain and poor balance then we suggest starting a stretch routine making liberal use of bands.
In particular, we recommend monster/pull up bands. Their length and durability will make stretching a dream.
If you need more tips on how to make stretching doable with your schedule or physical limitations, never hesitate to reach out! We can also help you find the right bands for you.
Ghose, T. (2014, November 13). Does stretching increase flexibility? LiveScience. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.livescience.com/48744-how-does-stretching-work.html
Maddigan, M. E., Peach, A. A., & Behm, D. G. (2012). A comparison of assisted and unassisted proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation techniques and static stretching. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(5), 1238–1244. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e3182510611
Prescott, A. (2017, August 10). The (basic) physiology of static stretching. ACRO Physical Therapy & Fitness. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from https://www.acropt.com/blog/2017/8/10/the-physiology-of-stretching