How To Set Up Bands For The Squat
Using bands is one of the greatest training tools that is likely missing from your training programs. They serve numerous purposes from accessory work, to dynamic effort work, and just overall variety to training to keep things fresh and ever changing for continued progress. Bands have unique properties in the training world when it comes to accommodating resistance. We’ve talked about the use of the chains for the squat, but bands provide some benefits that chains simply miss out on.
Bands provide a training effect called over-speed eccentrics. In simple terms, the bands force the weights to come down faster than just the pull of gravity alone, which then in-turn provides more kinetic energy that we can use for a concentric muscle contraction (in this case, squatting the weight up faster from the bottom). Basically, the bands are always “pulling” down, where chains simply deload into the floor and unload off the floor. Knowing that the bands are pulling down continuously, we know that every inch you squat the bar, the more resistance you will encounter as the bands try to pull you and the weight back down to the ground. This is an amazing, yet cautious aspect of training with bands.
To properly set up your bands for the squat, you have a couple options. Ideally you will have band pegs for your squat rack (and if you don’t you probably need to find a new gym), but if not there are some other options to make due. If you have band pegs, simply run the back part of the band through the middle and up to the bar. The band pegs will need to be set about 6-8 inches away. This will create a small triangle at the bottom and can require some work to get the band up to the bar if you are big time squatter (500+ pounds). The second option here is to set the band pegs a couple holes away from one another, loop one end of the band on the band peg, go around the closer peg, and back up to the bar. This can be a simpler way to set them up, but sometimes will require multiple bands to achieve the desired band tension if you are a strong squatter. The third option is to choke the bands using the bottom of your squat rack and the safety pins. This is similar to the first option in terms of how the bands are set up, but you’ll just have a higher choke point for the bands.
By having the bands set up in this fashion, this will ensure that the bands have tension throughout the whole range of motion. The last thing you want is for your bands to become a limp noodle when you’re in the bottom of the squat. This will not only provide little to no training effect, but will likely make you look like a fool in the gym. I can not urge enough to set your bands up on the bar before you begin to add more weight. This will allow you to warm up properly with the proper accommodating resistance that you need, but also let you make better decisions on weight jumps if it happens to be a heavier training day.
*Warning: the first time you use bands, I would highly recommend you take your time walking out the bar with no weights. The bands will naturally pull the bar out of the rack to a perpendicular position between the bands and the ground. This could cause the bar to slide off your back.*
So what are the negatives?
Well, training with bands can have some pitfalls. The first being that they are hard on your joints when you use them in conjunction with barbells, especially a straight bar for squatting. Knowing that the bands are constantly pulling downward, this force is also dissipated in the wrists and elbows. Long term use, especially with poor technique and biomechanics, can wreck havoc on your joints. Phase the use of bands in and out of your training to prevent this from happening. Another minor issue is that bands “ground” you while you are performing the movement. Think of using a Smith Machine (I know, ludicrous right?), and how it locks you into a specific range of motion. It’s difficult to move forward, backward, side to side. Well bands act similarly, which can detrain the stabilizing musculature to some degree. It’s not nearly as bad as a Smith Machine, but is a training effect that can occur with prolonged band usage.
What Will You Need?
You’ll need the following things to set up your bands correctly:
- Band Pegs and/or safety pins
- Pair of bands (we prefer the ones from Elitefts)
Once you have these, you’re good to go. However, the pair of bands you will need will be based upon your strength level. Ideally, you will have 20-25% of band tension at the top so that you can get the desired training effect. Since this will be based upon how much you can squat, your band tension will vary, especially due to how tall you are. I would recommend picking up a digital luggage scale to help determine which bands get you to the desired band tension. Below are estimates of where you might start:
- Squat 200 lbs or less – Mini Bands
- Squat 200 lbs to 330 lbs – Monster Mini Bands
- Squat 330 lbs to 420 lbs – Light Bands
- Squat 420 lbs to 550 lbs – Average Bands
- Squat 550+ lbs – Combination of Bands
For example, a 400 pound squatter would want to have 80-100 pounds of band tension on the bar at the top.
Watch the video below to learn more about setting bands up for the squat, and how to get the most from them in your training.
While bands are certainly one of the best training tools you might not be using, but setting them up properly and having the correct tension will be of vital importance to ensure you reap those benefits. We use bands on the squat to help develop lower body speed and power with our athletes, but also to help teach them how to move weight as hard and as fast as possible during repetitions. Hopefully this can go on to help you hit a personal record or improve your athletic performance.
Feeling confused? Have questions? Did we blow your mind with something? Let us know in the comments section.