Squats have deservedly gained mainstream popularity due to the myriad of benefits they offer including stronger glutes, hips and core. It’s an added bonus that squats also tone the lower body effectively for men and women alike.
Due to the wide-ranging benefits of the free barbell squat (FBBS) it’s also popular in personal resistance workouts, physical therapy and among professional athletes. The key to gaining maximum benefits from squats is making sure your patients do them properly.
In a recent study in the Journal of Performance Health Research, researchers examined whether resistance bands, such as TheraBand. during the FBBS could improve athletic performance, body position (act as a proprioceptive aid) and increase electromyography (EMG) of the thighs, hips and glutes.
The rate of increase in EMG amplitude in muscles groups during an exercise is an indicator of a more rapid recruitment of the muscle – or muscle function.
Could using resistance bands during your squats add to the already impressive list of benefits of the free barbell squat? Could resistance bands improve muscle function during squats and improve overall technique?
The short answers are – In some muscle groups, yes. Mostly in the glutes. And resistance bands can help improve squatting technique.
What the study tells us
Here’s what the study tells us about free barbell squats:
- Those who used resistance bands around the thighs during FBBSs found an increased EMG amplitude in the glutes.
- There was no change in amplitude of the hamstring or quads.
- There isn’t a significant change in overall performance, though the bands may offer a small benefit.
- Recreational athletes probably have the greatest room for improvement in using resistance bands because they help with overall technique.
- The athletes in the study were able to add one more squat to their repetitions when they used the resistance band versus when they did not use the band.
The fact that the glutes had the largest increase in EMG amplitude during the exercise was somewhat expected. This is because hip abductors must resist the bands in order to maintain a proper squatting position.
Researchers in this study believe the increased amplitude in the glutes may be due to an increase in stabilization of the pelvis and knee. In fact, at the end of the study the researchers recommended further studies should be done to see exactly how people’s knees might benefit from using TheraBand during squatting.
What this study means for you
Coaches, physical therapists and amateur and professional athletes alike tend to understand the importance of strengthening the hips because they are a pivotal point in the body. Hips need strength and mobility to support a wide range of athletic movements.
Any way that you can increase your hip engagement during physical activities offers a chance to train and exercise more efficiently. With this study in mind, you can add a looped resistance band between your thighs during FBBSs to engage your glutes, which in turn activates your hips, and encourages better positioning.
Also, the finding that athletes were able to add another squat to their repetitions is interesting even though it’s not statically significant. This means resistance bands could be a good real-world tool for increasing your squat repetition totals.
Using a resistance band to activate the hips during squats may:
- Increase athletic performance
- Correct dysfunction in your stance
- Reduce injury rates
This article was based on a study in the Journal of Performance Health Research written by Kyle F. Spracklin, Duane C. Button and Israel Halperin. For a closer look at how resistance bands improve squats, check out the full study here or take a look at the entire journal to find more studies on rehabilitation and exercising more effectively.
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