This paper really grabbed my attention by that fact that I see so many girls squatting with bands around their knees these days.
This study aimed to determine if a band around knees affected knee motion (kinematics) and lower body muscle activation.
13 males and 13 female subjects found their 1RM in the Barbell back squat and then performed 3 squats at 80% intensity (High) and 40% intensity (Low) whilst wearing a light resistance band, extra-heavy resistance band and no resistance band.
What they found is the heaviest resistance band significantly produced 13% more gluteus medius and gluteus maximus (GM) activity during the high intensity squat and 25% in the low intensity squat. However, using bands significantly produced less activity in the vastus lateralis (VL) and vastus medialis (VM).
Meaning, if you want to grow your GM whilst squatting, then using a band above your knees will improve activation of those particular muscles. However, it means you will reduce activation of the VL and VM.
One purpose of this study was to find out if squatting with a band actually decreased the peak knee valgus angle and decrease maximum tibial rotation (reducing collapsing of the knees) because a lot of clinicians and coaches implement bands to promote neutral knee alignment during squatting.
What they found is that squatting with bands actually increased knee valgus angle and tibial rotation (knee’s collapsing inwards). And, reduced peak knee flexion (decreased depth in the squat). This type of squatting increases the risk of knee injuries and should be avoided, especially in newly trained individuals.
Here are some pictures to show what the study is talking about (minus the barbell).
Depth and knee position isn’t favourable.
My view is I think the squat is a foundation exercise that needs to be executed at a reasonably high level, especially under heavy load. Very few of my clients actually get to squat in their first program due to mobility issues that need to be addressed. When the squat is done correctly at depth (not a half squat) there is huge amounts of GM activation without the need of a band. Furthermore, there are many better exercises to target your GM without comprising your knee’s health. Hip extension exercises such as glute bridges, deadlifts, back extensions (45* and horizontal), good mornings or even walking lunges are far better alternatives to growing your GM rather than banded squatting with a heavy load and potentially injuring yourself. Injuring your knees is serious and shouldn’t be a risk when performing exercise.
For those who will continue to use bands, just be careful of how heavy the band is and what is going on with your knee positioning.
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Level 2 Senior Coach, naturopathy student and transformation expert
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