Of all the resistance band workouts out there, one of the most effective for lower body strength has to be squats. While they're not always the most popular exercise, squats are a vital part of a comprehensive leg and glute workout.
We've looked at some of the common questions around using resistance bands for squats (the booty band workout!) and we've included 6 recommended exercises which you can try yourself, to maximize the number of muscle groups involved in your routine.
What types of squats can you do with resistance bands?
Squats with loop resistance band
This exercise is very similar to the classic squat, but we use the resistance band to add a simultaneous workout for the triceps and shoulders. Start with your feet flat on the ground, placed shoulder-width apart, and turned outwards slightly. Loop your resistance band underneath your heels, and stretch the band up to rest on the back of your shoulders. Now, lift the band from your shoulders, with your hands shoulder-width apart and stretch it above your head as you complete the classic squat movement. As you lift yourself out of the squatting position, gradually release the band to return to your shoulders.
Squat with lateral leg raise
This exercise adds additional resistance to work your hip abductors and stretches your hamstrings. Start in the usual position, and loop the resistance band around your lower thighs, just above the knee joint. Lower your body as normal until you reach the squat position, with your thighs parallel to the ground. As you raise yourself out of the squat, lift your left leg out to the side, straightened, tensing against the band. Bring it back in smoothly to return to your starting position. Alternate which leg you lift with each rep.
This is a great exercise to perfect your squatting form. Anchor the loop safely to a fixed bracket, a weight bench or a column at roughly waist height. Stand inside the loop, facing away from the anchor point with the band around your hips, and move forward to remove any slack. Now, bend as if you are beginning a squat, but stop the movement when you feel the tension build in the band. This illustrates the correct position your body should be in when beginning and finishing a squat.
Banded split squat
This exercise extends the workout to your calf muscles, as well as involving your shoulders and triceps. Start with your dominant foot over the resistance band. Gripping the opposite end of the loop with both hands, pull the band up and above shoulder height, in front of your face. Your elbows should be stretched out from your body, and parallel to the ground. Extend your non dominant foot back, toes to the floor. Now lower yourself to a split squat position, so that your dominant shin and non dominant thigh are perpendicular to the floor. Alternate which leg you lead with each rep.
Banded butterfly squat
This targets the inner thighs, quadriceps and hip abductors. Start in the same position as for the "Squat with lateral leg raise" described above, with the band in the same place. Proceed as for a normal squat, but just as you reach the lowest part of the movement, bring your knees outward by pivoting on the balls of your foot, working against the tension of the band. Pivot your knees back together before raising your body to the start position.
Jumping split squat
This has some similarities with the "Banded split squat" described above, except you start with your resistance band looped around both your ankles. Now, move into the split squat position, as above. When at the lowest point of the movement, jump off the ground. Swap the position of your legs in mid-air so that you land in an inverted split squat. Repeat.
What do resistance bands do for squats?
Resistance band exercises add an extra dimension to your workout. With squats, for example, the classic method, without a resistance band, relies solely on your own body weight to provide the resistance to train your leg and glute muscles. So, there's an upper ceiling when it comes to how much load you can put on those muscle groups and a corresponding limit to how much you can train them.
Introducing loop band exercises to your squats (we'll go through a few examples below) means that you can increase the amount of work done by your muscles. And using a variety of bands, with different resistance levels and either alone or in combination, gives you extremely granular control of the amount of resistance you add. You can build this gradually over time, or customize different workouts, applying more or less resistance to different muscle groups.
Where do you put your bands when doing squats?
Band placement depends on the specific exercise you are doing. For some types of squats, your aim will be to isolate specific muscle groups and make them work harder, for example squatting with a loop resistance band around the thighs and shins maximizes the work done by the muscle groups involved in the classic squat.
By comparison, some exercises, like the banded split squat, use the resistance band to introduce other muscle groups to the workout, in this case the shoulders and the triceps.
Do resistance bands actually work?
The short answer - yes! But let's look at it in more detail. Resistance bands work in a couple of different ways. With bodyweight exercises such as squats, they provide added resistance which allows you to train your muscles further than you would be able to achieve with your own bodyweight alone (naturally that has an upper limit).
But in addition to simply adding extra resistance, they allow you to spread resistance through the exercise, which can help balance the load on your muscles so they are getting a more consistent workout, and not jerking or pulling suddenly.
There's also the benefit of introducing ancillary muscle groups to a single exercise, for example adding a tricep, bicep or abdominal element to the workout depending on the exact placement of the resistance band.
Resistance bands can also help you learn the correct way to do squats, that is, perfecting your posture and form by providing support, and preventing your knees from turning inward or outward.
What muscles do banded squats work?
The principal muscles which are worked out in banded squats are the major muscle groups of the lower body. That includes the quadriceps, the gluteus medius, and the hip abductor.
In addition, this exercise (depending on the specific type, e.g. banded squat, lateral squat, etc) places a secondary demand on the core muscles, including the abdominals and laterals. While this isn't primarily a core workout, it will help with stamina and tone in these areas.
Finally, with the correct band placement, as shown in some of the examples above, the exercises can be expanded to include shoulders and triceps in the overall workout.
So, as we've seen, introducing the use of a resistance band into your squat program can transform it from a single muscle group workout to an effective whole body training routine.