Have you wondered why athletes at your gym sometimes wrap their muscles with some kind of rubber bands? It looks like the kind of thing reserved for advanced athletes. But what are these bands and most importantly what do they do to an athlete’s body?
When doing a quick search about this technique and the compression bands, you’ll find statements like “a MUST HAVE in every person’s gym bag”, “an essential performance tool” and “a magical tool for improving mobility and recovery”. All of these claims got me intrigued.
Let’s figure out if the attributes related to these bands are real and learn about their physical benefits from trusted sources. In the end, our sore bodies might find relief with this very accessible technique.
What is Muscle Flossing and Why an Athlete Should Care?
Flossing is a common term used for blood flow restriction therapy. In short, it’s the practice of using a therapeutic elastic band on the extremities and joints. This band limits the blood flow coming through the veins without damaging the arterial flow that goes through the extremity. Several physicians compare this therapy to heavy weight training. When a person performs repetitions of a particular exercise using light weights, and wearing the compression band, they receive the strengthening benefits of heavy lifting without stressing tissues that may be healing or recovering from previous workouts.
The floss compression band isn’t going to make you stronger. What it does is change the way the muscles align themselves when you are performing different movements. By creating this compression in the working muscle, we are preventing it from receiving enough blood flow to continue with the normal contractions. This leads to a release of autonomic and anabolic hormones that move throughout the body, causing increased protein synthesis. Muscle protein synthesis is the process of building muscle mass. This natural process in which protein is produced helps repair muscle damage caused by intense exercise.
The floss compression band used while performing the movement the athlete wants to change/improve, creates a positive change within the tissues and joints through compression, tension and movement. The benefits of this therapy are; increased range of motion, improved recovery times, better joint centration, decrease in pain, increase in strength with minimal loads, and overall better movement.
An interesting result shown by this research is that the positive effects of using floss compression bands can occur in, both, strength training (weight lifting) and low Intensity aerobic training (like running). Although the increase in muscular strength is more potent in resistance training, this finding makes aerobic exercises more attractive since it typically doesn’t improve muscular strength.
What about safety?
All of this truly sounds like a “magical tool”, but what about safety? Is it okay for us to disrupt the flow of blood in upper or lower extremities while we exercise?
Yes, it’s safe! Research has found that using compression bands while training, in healthy individuals and older adults with heart disease, doesn’t change blood markers nor does it provoke clot formation. Plus, excessive muscle damage is minimal.
Additionally, when you take the floss band off, you’ll feel a rush of blood going into the mobilized area, this rush of blood helps recovery.
Remember that you have to feel comfortable while using the bands. If you notice that your limbs are turning purple or you have numbness, pins and needles, or excessive changes to blood flow, you can try loosening your band a little, but if the discomfort continues, stop using it immediately.
How to use a Floss Compression Band
Keep in mind that the bands can be used at any time such as during warm up, cool down, and in between workouts. Most athletes “floss” while warming up in exercise specific movements for loosening muscles and mobility.
It’s also very popular to use them not only while weight lifting but after. Athletes state that it relieves soreness and helps them initiate and speed up muscle recovery.
Flossing is also a great alternative when you are very sore and using a foam roller is super uncomfortable and painful.
This technique can be used on joints or the soft tissue area of the arms or legs. The bands can be applied directly to the ankle, knee, shoulder, wrist, or elbows. And around muscle bellies (clusters of muscle fibers in any given muscle) like quadriceps/hamstrings, biceps/triceps, and the lower leg. You should avoid flossing the head, neck, or chest.
Follow these 3 simple steps to apply this technique:
- Firmly overlap wrap the floss tape (2 inches – 5 cm wide latex rubber band) around the limb (muscle or joint) using roughly 50% tension.
- Tuck the end of the band under.
- Keep on for 2-4 minutes for treatment
- Move the joint or muscle, slowly increasing the range of motion.
To work on your joints, it’s recommended to use 2 bands to cover all the area either on your shoulders, wrists, ankles or elbows. Take the band and wrap it tightly around the joint. After, move the joint increasing the range of motion. Use movements like push-ups, PVC pass-throughs, squatting, and lunging. If you want to work on your knees, watch this video by Carl Baird, Therapy Chiropractor of Evolve Performance Healthcare. You’ll learn how to wrap your knee and do some exercises to improve mobility.
To add a floss compression band to your gym bag essentials, check out the WOD Nation’s Muscle Floss Compression Band combo pack. It’s made of natural latex rubber and comes with a carrying case. We like the combo pack because it gives two different band strengths. The black band is a bit easier to use on smaller/weaker joints and muscles like feet, wrists, and elbows. While the stronger red band is great for bigger/stronger body parts like knees, quads, and shoulders. Both bands measure 2″ wide and 7′ long.
Read about what other athletes think about WOD Nation’s muscle floss compression bands:
“This stuff is amazing & really works! My chiropractor suggested these after my knee surgery. Really sped up the healing and greatly reduced the swelling. As an old (58) weekend warrior who goes to the gym 5 days a week, this got me back a lot quicker than I expected.” – Chris D.
“I had an IT tear that resulted in tendonitis and scarring. I started using these bands a couple weeks ago & I’m seeing dramatic improvements. This is the extra push I needed to speed up my recovery. Worth every penny!” – Jenny P.
“Magic strikes again! I’m a powerlifter who has previous injuries and lots of scar tissue. Seemed like a better option than “stop lifting and take pain pills”. So I tried it and can’t believe the results. My squat depth and nagging pain has improved tremendously.” – Rick B.
Here are our TOP 3 Muscle Floss
- WODFitters Muscle Floss Band = WODFitters Floss bands are made from high quality latex built to last and withstand abuse.
- Serious Steel Mobility Floss = Serious steel floss recovery and mobility bands are available in singles or pairs and thickness of .051 inches or .06 inches.
- WOD Nation Muscle Floss = It’s made of natural latex rubber and comes with a carrying case.
By using muscle floss compression bands around your joints and muscles, you can experience a magical transformation and relief without the need of a physician. In less than 4 minutes of compression and movement, you can improve recovery. The bands can help massage out all the scar tissue and inflammation, increase range of motion in difficult areas, and help increase blood flow and circulation. But that’s not all! This amazing tool can also help increase the muscular strength whether you are into lifting weights or low Intensity aerobic training. It doesn’t matter, you can get wonderful benefits.
As always, pay attention to your body and adjust the tension as needed. Remember that the purpose of compressing is to mobilize, not demobilize. You don’t want to keep the bands on for too long or have them too tight. Find the right tension for your body. If you’re flossing for the first time, you can ask for help, but it’s pretty simple (though you may need a buddy to get those pesky shoulders). Go lighter on the tension until you get used to it and comfortable.
Giuliana is a yoga instructor and Crossfitter from Peru who is currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand with her Crossfit Coach (and husband) Tim.