The use of exercise resistance bands for prehab
Lucy Hilton : Lucy has participated in running as an elite athlete. Her particular focus is ultras and stage races. She is a PT, running coach and gait analysis practitioner and is a Business Development Manager for Enertor.
Whilst warm up exercises and dynamic and static stretching are often part of a runner’s arsenal, prehab and rehab exercises are less frequently discussed. If you have been injured, you will probably have been given a rehab programme by a clinician to address the particular problem you are facing. Prehab exercises however (also known as prehabilitiation or preventative rehab) are often overlooked.
What are they and why are they important?
Prehab exercises are those designed to proactively prevent overuse injuries associated with increasing volume or intensity of an activity such as running. More nuanced than simply warming up, they are preparing the body for the activities and stresses imposed by the activity in question. If done properly, prehab can also help enforce good movement patterns which reduces the chance of getting injured.
A prehab programme is designed to build strength, mobility, balance and joint function in a proactive manner with the goal of improving overall physical capacity and form thus decreasing the likelihood of injury.
Components will include stretches that increase range of motion, muscle activation and strength and conditioning to build strength and stability in specific areas. These are often isolation exercises, as opposed to compound movements, which work multiple muscle groups (e.g., squats and lunges).
Resistance bands are ideal for these prehab exercises as the different band strengths enable a slow and steady increase in resistance to the targeted muscle groups.
The specific exercises for an individual will depend on the sport they participate in and the kind of injuries most common in the associated movement patterns. For example, runners will be at greater risk of injuries such as IT band pain, knee pain, tendon problems, shin splints and plantar fasciitis. Runners are renowned for having weak hips because of the sagittal plane of running and the fact that strength exercises such as squats and lunges do not address these areas. Outer hip strength (gluteus medius and minimus and hip rotators) is vital for maintaining good running form; hip weakness can lead to hip, knee, feet and lower back pain.
Lateral hip strength exercises using resistance bands enable a single leg strength focus which improves strength, stability and balance and enables an individual to notice any strength discrepancies between each side of the body. Exercises might include banded monster walks, banded clamshells and banded side lying leg raises.
Ideally performed 2-3 times a week, some kind of prehab every day is best, but it depends on what your problem is and what component of prehab you’re using. If mobility is the issue, related exercises may be prescribed for several times a day; if you’re working on strength then leaving a day or two between prehab sessions will give your muscles time to recover.
The underlying message is that prehab exercises are an essential component of remaining injury free. Resistance bands serve as an invaluable tool to help you work on isolated muscle groups, to increase strength and identify any imbalances and weaknesses specific to your body and in muscle groups put under stress in your sport.
If you have never used resistance bands before, always begin any exercise slowly to ensure the right band strength is correct for you and be careful not to release while under tension. Never stretch a resistance band over 2.5 times their length.