What Are Resistance Bands Used for in Physical Therapy?

Resistance Band Buying Guide

Resistance bands are elastic bands used in physical therapy and regular workouts for strength training and muscle building. They're usually 10 to 15 in. long and have handles at both ends. These exercise tools are available in different tensions and colors. Unlike most physical therapy exercise equipment, workout bands are lightweight and compact and can be used anywhere. Use them at home, physical therapy sessions, the office or gym and take them with you while traveling.

Benefits of resistance bands in physical therapy

The best exercise bands are suitable for a wide range of exercises and physical therapy workouts. They offer varying resistances and allow users to challenge themselves as needed according to their fitness levels. Overall, these pieces of inexpensive exercise and rehabilitation equipment offer great value especially for those recovering from muscle injuries and slowly rebuilding their strengths.

Some major reasons to add exercise band workouts to physical therapy sessions are below.

Strengthening core, leg and arm muscles

Workout bands are suitable for whole-body exercises and for exercising specific parts of the body. They make the muscles work by stretching them. Using them repeatedly relaxes cramped muscles and provides relief for muscle pain. The best resistance bands build and tone different muscles of the body.

Resistance bands are suitable for both arm and leg exercises. When used in this way, they strengthen parts of the upper (elbows, shoulders, arms and wrists) and lower limbs (thighs, ankles, feet and knees). Using physical therapy resistance bands for exercises, such as squats, also engages and activates core muscles.

The best resistance bands can replace free weights and provide comparable physical workouts for recovering individuals who cannot yet take on weights. Unlike weights, resistance bands not only challenge muscles when pulling them but also when relaxing them. Strengthening muscles while they’re fully extended or shortened conditions them faster and reduces recovery time.

Assisting with difficult exercises

While workout bands are known for providing the resistance needed to build muscles, they can also assist muscles during difficult exercises. This benefit is useful when using a resistance band with other exercise routines. For example, it can take the user’s weight during pull-ups. Making difficult exercises more accessible to people recovering from muscle injuries and managing chronic pain makes physical therapy more effective.

Besides reducing the effort required for strenuous workout routines, the best exercise bands also help users keep pressure off their joints while recovering. This is important to avoid over-tasking healing muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments during physical therapy. Exercise band workouts in physiotherapy treatments are especially helpful for people with chronic conditions, such as back pain and osteoporosis.

With workout bands to assist difficult routines, physical therapists can help their clients avoid burdening injured muscles while exercising other muscles. Add resistance bands to your physical therapy supplies to keep up with exercise routines established prior to an injury and maintain fitness levels without risking setbacks during rehabilitation.

Improving flexibility and balance

When regularly used for static and dynamic stretching, the best exercise bands can help release muscular tension and strengthen your bones. Both results improve flexibility and resilience. These benefits coupled with reducing the impact of exercises on the joints make resistance bands excellent for balance training. Physical therapists recommend workout bands to stabilize the joints because these exercise tools don’t put stress on those parts of the body even when stretching the tendons and ligaments near those points.

Recovering from a muscle injury requires some adjustments. Depending on the extent of the injury, muscles may require reconditioning to regain peak performance. Exercise band workouts, coupled with massage, make recovering muscles more supple by making them less stiff. Flexibility and balance are important to avoid relapse and reduce the risk of new injuries during rehabilitation. The best resistance bands also help recovering patients with limited mobility get back on their feet quicker.

Getting a cardio workout while recovering

Even while recovering from a muscle injury, achieving and maintaining a healthy fitness level is important. Cardio workout is a key part of improving heart health and lung capacity. People in recovery can stay active and grab some cardio exercises with workout bands. Include these in your kit of personal care medical supplies so you can do a few aerobic exercises wherever you go or in between your appointments with patients..

Unlike most cardio exercise equipment, workout bands are perfect for the low-intensity aerobic exercises recommended for rehabilitation. Therefore, recovering individuals can get their heart rates up without the risk of worsening their injuries.

Different colors of resistance bands

The colors of the exercise bands indicate their resistance levels. Brands use this color-coded system to differentiate the bands by thickness and strength. At various stages of physical therapy rehabilitation, there'll be exercise band workouts requiring resistance bands of different colors. Therefore, it's best to pick up a full set containing all available colors.

The most commonly used colors, in conjunction with the TheraBand® system, in order of increasing resistance, are yellow, red, green, blue and black. Some brands make their red bands thicker and offer higher resistance than green ones. Others add three additional brand colors. For example, when shopping for workout bands among CanDo® products for physical therapy, you'll also find tan, silver and gold resistance bands.

A tan-colored band offers lighter resistance than a yellow band and can serve as an excellent starter band for people with severe muscle injuries. For the most strenuous exercises, the best exercise bands are the silver- and gold-colored ones. These offer higher resistances than black bands and provide greater challenges for demanding workouts and rehabilitation exercises.

The table below summarizes the resistance levels of the five major band colors and their recommended uses in physical therapy.


Resistance Level

Use in Physical Therapy



For beginners. Used for shoulder and shin exercises.



Offers higher challenges. For strengthening biceps and triceps.



Used after building some muscle strength. Suitable for working leg, back and chest muscles.



Stiffer and used for strengthening large muscle groups of the legs, back and chest. Suitable for exercise band workouts requiring two people pulling against the band.



Also used for large muscle groups and when working out with someone else. Use this band in physical therapy at the end of the recovery/rehabilitation program.


Types of Resistance Bands

There are different resistance band designs and the one to pick depends on your exercise regimen. The six major types of workout bands are compact, fit loop, figure 8, ring, lateral and therapy resistance bands.

Compact or mini bands are shorter than other types of resistance exercise equipment. They're suitable for upper and lower body exercises and usually have plastic handles at both ends. Figure 8 bands are also short resistance bands. Shaped like an 8, these have handles on their loops. They're ideal for upper body exercise band workouts.

Fit loop, ring and lateral designs are for workout bands for lower body exercises. A fit loop band has one continuous loop, while a ring band is a circular band with two handles. A lateral resistance band is a piece of specialized equipment with Velcro® ankle cuffs connected to its ends.

Therapy bands are thinner than the other types. They also don't have handles and are commonly used for rehabilitation. These are the best exercise bands for injured individuals just starting their recovery programs. The five other types of resistance bands can also be used in physical therapy to target specific muscle groups when healing is well underway.

The best resistance bands can help those in physical therapy strengthen and tone their muscles while regaining mobility, flexibility and fitness on their way to full recovery. These rehabilitation tools are affordable and can be used anywhere and at any time. Pick different types and colors of workout bands when shopping general supplies at CeilBlue™ for your physical therapy sessions.