The Truth About Banded Mobilizations

In Rehab by Michael Mash

Banded mobilizations have become an integral part of many lifters’ routines, and rightly so. They do a great job at instantly reducing tightness and increasing mobility, but is there more to it than meets the eye?

Add a Band…It Will Solve Everything!
Whether its a tight shoulder, hip, or ankle, many people see success with incorporating banded mobilizations; however, is it REALLY doing what you think it is?

Take the banded ankle dorsiflexion mobilization for example. The rationale goes like this: Use a band to create a posterior glide of the talus to allow the tibia to move anteriorly more efficiently, thus increasing ankle dorsiflexion. The band essentially has the capability (supposedly) to “stabilize” the talus.

Here’s the problem. Do you REALLY think the tension of the band is enough to cause joint stability or motion? That would be pretty scary to think that all it takes is the force from a band to change joint structure! But it has to right?…because dorsiflexion rapidly increases after this maneuver. Something had to happen!

Here’s a Better Explanation
Any maneuver, whether it’s a mobility drill, banded mobilization, or hands on technique, that causes a rapid change in mobility is NOT do to any change in tissue or joint structure. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…you’re body is more resilient than that!

It takes a lot more force, over a sustained period of time, for multiple sessions, to cause actual physiological tissue adaptation. So if you’re not actually making a change in the structure, why does it work?

It’s All in the Brain

Banded mobilizations rapidly increase mobility because the sensation of the band on the structure essentially releases a “neural lock” promoting an instant increase in mobility.
The tissues and joints had the capability to go through that range of motion the entire time, but for some reason, the nervous system just didn’t allow it…until you added the band!

Don’t Forget to Load It
Banded mobilizations are great at temporarily and rapidly increasing mobility…the only problem is, if this is all you do, it won’t stick. This is where the mobility-only crowd fails. Mobility work doesn’t cause structural change…the key is IMMEDIATELY performing a loaded exercise in your new range of motion, otherwise you’re wasting your time!

Here’s an example. Do you have limited ankle dorsiflexion that negatively affects your squat? Perform the banded ankle mobilization above, rapidly increase your dorsiflexion, then perform a loaded squat immediately after to groove the pattern!

Banded mobilizations work. There’s no doubt about it. But if you’re still spewing the idea that it’s causing true joint changes you might want to reconsider.

This can portray the notion that it doesn’t take much to change structure, leading many to believe that they are not resilient. Something you don’t want! You’re simply releasing the neural lock, that will allow you to strength train more effectively!

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