Resistance Band Squats: Get Strong the Easy Way

Banded squats are an easy and safe way to burn calories and get stronger. 

Strength training burns tons of calories, helps lose weight and is effective at lowering blood sugar.  This 2017 study on strength training and the risk of Type 2 diabetes found participants who did any strength training saw a 30% reduction of Type 2 diabetes.  But strength training can be hard if you have some aches or pains, or if you haven’t exercised in a while.  Using resistance bands can solve this and banded squats are a simple and effective way to ease into strength training. 

What are resistance bands? 

A resistance band is an elastic band and when under tension, creates resistance or “load.”  Using a resistance band with bodyweight exercises adds load to contract muscles and build strength.

Types of Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are made of latex, nylon or rubber and come in different levels of resistance.  The amount of resistance can be labeled “light,” “heavy,” etc. or by weight such as 20 lbs., 50 lbs. and so on.  

They also come in a variety of lengths, thickness and styles.  They have loop bands, free bands (non looped), tube bands with handles, and others.  Ultimately, the type of band you need will depend on the exercise or movements you want to do. 

For the banded squats we talk about below, you’ll need loop bands in both large and small sizes. But it’s good to have a combination of bands so you can try other exercises as well.

Why Use Resistance Bands

Easy, safe way to build strength

A resistance band is easier to manage than weights, which is important if you haven’t exercised in some time or have minor aches. This allows you to focus first on proper form and movements, which helps prevent injury.

In fact, resistance bands are commonly used for physical therapy to strengthen muscles and rehabilitate body movement.  You control the resistance from the band by your movements and band placement so you can workout on your own pace.

Focus on specific muscles

By simply changing the placement of a resistance band, you can target specific muscles or create more or less resistance. This is a huge advantage over using weights where you’re more limited in how you hold or place weights.

Take for example doing bicep curls with a loop resistance band.  Gripping the band with your hands workout bicep and forearm muscles.  But using the forearms for the curl actually reduces load on the forearm muscles (by not having to grip the band) and limits the curl movement to focus on the biceps.

A resistance band allows you to easily target weaker muscle groups and is a big reason why they’re widely used in fitness.

Convenience

Resistance bands are lightweight and very portable so you can exercise anywhere.  Not having time to workout is one of the most common reasons we hear that limit peoples’ diabetes self care (which we wrote about here).  We know self care is hard when you don’t have much time in your day but if you start by committing 15 minutes a day for self care, that’s a big step towards controlling diabetes.

Resistance bands work wonders for if you have limited time. Doing just 5 minutes of the bands squats we talk about below is enough to start burning blood sugar. Keep a pair of bands in your car or at work and you can easily get 15 minutes of quality exercise every day.

Adds variety to exercising

One of our favorite reasons to use a resistance band is that you can add them to any body weight exercise and even create different exercises.

With weight training, the movements are more controlled because of the added load. And changing movements usually means changing body positions, weights or even the whole exercise. 

But a resistance band gives flexibility with body movements and allows you to work out different muscles at a time.  And doing a variety of exercises keeps you from getting bored to help stay motivated with working out.

In this article we only go over a few variations of banded squats but you can easily find a dozen other versions for this one exercise.

Learning How to Squat

Before doing banded squats, learning proper squat form is critical. The classic squat is an important movement that we learn as kids and use in everyday life.  It’s a compound movement that uses muscles in the legs and thighs (quads and hamstrings), bottom (glutes), as well as the core (lower back and abs).

But most of us don’t use correct form when we squat. Think of all the times we reach down to the floor but don’t bend our knees. It’s a common mistake but can lead to muscle pain and sometimes injury. 

Below are steps to do a body weight squat which is used for many banded squat movements.

1. Starting position

Stand with feet shoulder width apart and weight balanced evenly.  Don’t lock your knees and tilt your chest slightly forward, like you’re getting ready to run.

2. Squat down

Squat downs slowly with knees bent and butt back, keeping your chest and head facing forward. As you move down, keep your knees outward and back straight.  

3. Bottom of the squat

Squat down until your butt is level with your knees and thighs parallel to the ground. 

4. Stand up

Slowly stand up back to the starting position using your leg and glute muscles. Be sure to keep feet planted, back straight and chest forward. 

3 Simple Banded Squat Exercises

Now that you know how to do squat exercises, we go over three kinds of the resistance band squat. We chose  resistance band squats because they workout the larger muscles (quads, hamstrings and glutes) so you can burn the most calories in a short amount of time. 

The banded squat exercises below work best with loop bands in both large and small sizes. We suggest starting with a lower resistance level to work on proper form and get comfortable with the movement, then increase resistance as you’re able to.

Banded Back Squat

This banded squat variation is similar to conventional bar squats but instead of a bar, a large loop band adds the load. Like standard squats this also works out lower body muscles along with other muscles in your core.  

Place the loop band on the back of your neck (near shoulders) and step on the inside of the loop. Stand at the squat position with feet shoulder width apart or wider. Keep the band on the outside of your knees as you squat down, using the same movement as a standard squat.

Credit: Image from muscleandfitness.com

You’ll notice that resistance band squats adds load at the starting position.  This differs from a standard squat where there’s more resistance at the lower part of the movement.  This is because the resistance band is under full tension at the start of the squat position then decreases as you squat down. 

Quick Variation: Use a wide standing position.

This is the same as the banded back squat but take a really wide stance for the standing position. Keep about 3 feet of space between your legs. The variation puts more emphasis on the inner thigh and calf muscles.

Banded Squats with Mini Loops

This variation is basically a body squat but with mini loop bands around the thighs.  This resistance band squat isolates the glutes and hip abductors, which can be one of the weak muscle groups for many people. The band pushes the thighs inward and is countered by pushing the knees outward, which then strengthens weak glutes and hip abductors.

Place the mini loop band around your thighs or closer to the knees for additional resistance.  Use the starting position of a regular squat with feet shoulder width apart. You should feel tension from the band – if not, take a wider stance or use a heavier band. Squat down until thighs parallel to the floor.

Credit: Images from uk.starwoodsports.com

Quick Variation: add a side step to the squat

When you squat down, take a side step so that your knees are past hip width. Hold for a few seconds then step in with the other leg and move up to the standing position.  The side step stretches the mini loop band for even more resistance to really work the glutes and hip abductors. 

Banded Split Squat 

The banded split squat is similar to lunge exercise but you hold a resistance band to create an imbalance as you lunge down, which you need to stabilize by using the core muscles.   Aside from strengthening legs and butt muscles, the banded split squat helps improve balance and coordination. 

To start the split squat position, grab the looped band (you can also use free band) with both hands and take one foot and step on the middle of the band. Step back with the other foot, slightly bend your knee, and keep your heel off the ground.

Keep your torso straight with weight mostly on the forward leg, and feet and hips pointed forward.  The band should be in full tension at the starting point – if not, the band may be too long and won’t have enough resistance.

Bend both knees to lunge down until your back knee is almost touching the ground. Slowly stand up using the front leg for power and at the same time keep balance using the back leg. Do a couple reps then switch legs for the next standing position. 

Quick Variation: add a bicep curl.

The standing point and movement are the same as a banded split squat but at the end, add a bicep curl to get a quick upper body workout. The key thing here is using a loop band with the right length.  The band needs to have enough tension at the starting point but not too much that you can’t pull to a bicep curl.  Once you find the right size, this variation is an easy way to combine lower and upper body workouts to save time.

Summary

There’s no doubt strength training is effective at lowering blood sugar and weight loss – two big priorities for people with Type 2 diabetes.  Banded squats work great to ease you into training, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while or have some aches and pain.  

We showed you three easy banded squat variations that are guaranteed to burn calories and help make you stronger. Best yet – bands squats only take 15 minutes of your day and can be the easiest part of your daily diabetes self care.

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