Mini bands are a great tool to add to your training bag. Not only do they help to improve athletic potential, but they also work wonders for your squat. Banded squats could be the single best assistance exercise out there to improve your squat.
How Will They Help My Squat
The squat is a compound multi-joint exercise and that is just an understatement. It is also one of the most technically challenging for most athletes. The form take much practice at first and a lot of trainees either give up with the exercise, or worse, perform partial squats.
This is the true beauty of the squat. It is the one exercise that draws out muscular/postural imbalances like no other exercise. Once these faults are analyzed and corrected, huge progress will be made towards athletic potential.
The secret to the squat is the lifter’s ability to activate their glutes. The glutes are the strongest muscles in the body. In relation to the squat, the glutes really start to kick in once the hips drop below your knees, which is past 90 degrees.
Brad Schoenfeld, wrote a great scientific article titled The Biomechanics of Squat Depth. In the article he mentioned research has shown how maximal gluteal activation occurs with full depth squats. Partial squats had 16.92 ± 8.78% gluteal involvement; parallel squats had 28.00 ± 10.29% gluteal involvement and full depth squats had 35.47 ± 1.45% gluteal involvement.
If you watch most people squat, however, you will find an abundance of partial squatters, a handful of parallel squatters and a rare few full depth squatters. Why is this?
Well, if you ask most partial squatters and parallel squatters, they will tell you that squatting too low hurts either their knees or back or both. This is not the real problem. The real problem is that these lifters don’t know how to use their glutes.
Gluteal function and activation is past the scope of this post, however, a simple trick to help correct this issue is to use mini bands.
With the mini band placed around your knees, squat down as low as you can go. You will find that the band will be forcing you to drive your knees out. This will activate the outside of the hip, which will stabilize the knee (preventing knee valgus) and help to activate the glutes.
Great! Now that you understand how they will help you its time to examine how to use them.
How To Use
Mini bands are very simple to use. Simply place a band around your legs just above your knees (at a minimum). Once the band is secured various walking drills and stationary drills can be done such as:
- Wall Walks
The band can also be placed around the ankles as well combined with a band placement at the knees as well in order to make the above exercises more difficult. However, this should only be done once you become proficient with the movements above. The bands I use and recommend are King Athletic.
Weighted or Unweighted?
At first, start out with unweighted banded squats. This will help you get the feel of them and it will help you to condition your glutes for weighted squats. This is especially true in warm ups.
Unweighted banded squats will also help to draw out any hidden muscular imbalances and/or weaknesses you were not aware of. Don’t get upset, this is a good thing. It is better to draw them out with unweighted squats where safety concerns are very limited verses weighted squats, which can lead to injury. Sadly, the latter of the two is the way most lifters discover imbalances.
Once the issues are corrected, you can then start adding weight to your banded squats.One of my favorite techniques that I find helps assist me with full squat depth is weighted banded pause squats. Perform 1-2 sets of 5 reps with a 5 second pause on each rep. These should be done after your work sets with ~75% of the weight used in your work sets.
Where To Go From Here
Now that you have a better understanding of how banded squats can help you improve your squat form, what do you do now? The answer is simple, practice, practice, practice.
When I first hurt my shoulder, I started to perform kettlebell arm bars to improve my mobility. When I was doing them my shoulder started to feel great, but when I started to get lazy, I stopped doing them and my shoulder started to bother me again. It took a lot of time and consistent practice in order for my shoulder to graduate from the arm bars.
The same goes for banded squats. Don’t just do them a couple of times and call it quits. Spend a good amount of time with them and really dedicate yourself to becoming a better squatter. It will work wonders for your strength, athletic potential and physique as well.