Addicted to Mobility Bands?

Addicted to Mobility Bands?

The use of banded joint mobilizations to improve mobility has become commonplace in CrossFit boxes, gyms, and into physical therapy clinics. People are putting a band around anything they can and pulling tension in any vector that feels nasty, for the sake of having complete mobility in any and all directions. But maybe banded joint mobilizations aren’t as good as we all think…

OK, It’s time I come clean. My name is Mitch and I’m a recovering band addict.

Now, before I go further, let me state banded joint mobilizations are a great tool for pretty rapid improvements in mobility. While the underlying mechanism for their effectiveness is not well understood, it’s likely it provides a novel stretch stimulus to the system that allows for decreased tone and quick improvements in range of motion.

I use them, will continue to use them, and will recommend their use for clients WHEN INDICATED. But it’s important to understand when they’re needed, and when they’re not, and when they’ve overstayed their welcome in your program.

Many athletes, myself included, begin to become reliant on the mobility bands. I couldn’t begin a training session without first attaching a band to a rig and doing a couple banded distractions to improve my mobility. Squatting or deadlifting? I was attacking my hips for 5-10 minutes. Pressing or pulling? Two to three shoulder mobilizations before my warm up sets.

Fast forward six months. My pre-training routine looked exactly the same. I started to believe it was impossible for me to squat without first doing a banded distraction technique on my hips. This was a problem.

You cannot have stability without full mobility” if I can steal a line from Gray Cook. Bands are a great tool for improving mobility in the short term. However, movement competency extends further than just improving your mobility. Without advancing past mobility work to stability and active control, you will be left in an endless loop of mobilizing for short term gains.

Corrective exercises should be a short-term thing. If you are doing the same movement for months on end, then you’ve chosen the wrong solution to your problem.

That is where I was, and it’s where I see many other athletes are as well. If you’ve identified a true mobility restriction (hopefully from a clinician), bands are an excellent tool for mobility improvement if used correctly. However, if you’re feeling like you need to continue using bands day after day to maintain your full expression of mobility, you may have other areas of your movement practice to address.

Have you been using bands to improve your hip mobility before squats? Consider using these movements instead to open up your hips and actively prepare for the squat.

Deep Squat Active Hip External Rotation

 

Spiderman Lunges

 

Getting ready to press overhead? Let go of the band and give these a try.

Downward Dog Plus

Foam Roller Shoulder Flexion Overhead

 

 

Like everyone else, our state of movement fluency is always changing. There will be days, due to training loads, environmental and lifestyle demands, that I utilize a banded distraction technique to improve my movement abilities that day. However, the big picture should look to move past these tools to a more permanent state of mobility through a complete and consistent movement practice. Strive to move beyond your mobility restrictions to improved movement capacities.

 

Mitch Babcock is completing his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at the University of Michigan-Flint. With a passion for all things training, he aims to give people better information to improve their fitness, health, movement, and performance.

www.unchainedphysio.com

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