Loop bands can be a fantastic tool for strength training, most notably for recruitment and activation of the glutes. Quite often I will program warmups with either loop bands or something similar, such as lateral band walks, to activate the glutes prior to squatting. Not only that, but when I am training clients whom are new to squatting, I commonly use the cue, "imagine having a band wrapped around your legs and you are trying to stretch that band" in an attempt to create that tension from abduction and external rotation at the hips.
For various reasons, there doesn't appear to be many (if any) studies done on actual squat performance while wearing a loop band around the thighs to test for glute activation and overall squat performance...until now at least.
Looped Band Placed Around Thighs Increases EMG of Gluteal Muscles Without Hindering Performance During Squatting
Background: There is little information about the effects of placing a resistance band around the outer thighs on the amplitude of performance and electromyography (EMG) of lower body muscles during a free barbell back squat (FBBS) activity. This study quantified EMG amplitudes of the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, vastus lateralis, and biceps femoris dur-ing an FBBS with and without the use of a looped resistance band. In addition, the effects of the looped band on the number of repetitions completed on failure in performing FBBS were measured at 2 intensities.
Methods: In this study, 15 resistance-trained males (age, 23.6 6 3.5 years) completed an FBBS 3 repetition maximum (RM) test on the first testing day to estimate their 1RM. On days 2 and 3, participants completed 5 repetitions equal to 80% of their estimated 1RM followed by a repetition to failure test using 60% of estimated 1RM with and without a band placed around their thighs in a counter-balanced fashion while EMG amplitudes were collected.
Results: No differences were found at 60% intensity test between conditions (band: 21.4 6
6, control: 20.4 6 4.7; P = .171). Similarly, no differences were found between conditions in EMG of the vastus lateralis or biceps femoris at both intensities (effect size [ES] range = 0.01–0.4, P ≥ .05). In contrast, other than a few exceptions, gluteus medius and maximus showed greater EMG activity in the looped-band condition during tests (ES range = 0.28–
1.15, P < .05) at both 60% and 80% intensities.
Conclusion: Placing a looped resistance band around the thighs can be used as a training strategy to increase the activation of the hip muscles during FBBS using medium to heavy loads without negatively affecting performance.
This is great news for new and experienced strength athletes alike. Underactive or inactive glutes is a pretty common problem amongst both beginner and experienced trainees, despite one's ability to move moderate to heavy amounts of weight.
Placing a loop band around a trainee's thighs to help correct knee valgus (knee caving) has been a tool used in the past, but generally sparingly. This study shows us that regardless of weight being squatted, it may be extremely beneficial for a trainee to improve overall squat mechanics by activating those glutes even more.
Tyler Robbins B.Sc., CSCS
Director of Fitness
Head of CrossFit