Exercise Spotlight: Band Target Squat

Save your knees and build confidence during heavy squats with a band target setup

There are several methods of busting through plateaus that lifters will use when it comes to squatting a ton of weight. Among such methods are those of pausing, and also adding chains to the bar to make light weight feel heavy, or to make the absolute weight increase through the resistance curve of the rep.  Both of these are methods I strongly encourage. 

On the flip side, creating some assistance through difficult portions of a heavy lift leaves fewer options. The most common resort most lifters will rely on is that of a “reverse band” setup. In it, bands are looped around the top of a power cage and come down around the barbell. When this is applied to a loaded bar, it means the bands will be the most stretched – and ultimately provide the most assistance – through the bottom end range of the lift, where the bar is closest to the ground. As the weight ascends, the bar receives less assistance as the tension decreases in the bands.

The problem is, this may not be a possibility to set up in many gyms, either due to the overall difficulty of doing so, or (more commonly) the lack of proper equipment to make this happen. For example, power racks (see image) differ from squat cages in that they have no overhead bars from which bands can be hung, voiding the reverse band idea to break plateaus or salvage joints (more on that below).  With these restrictions understood, it’s worth getting creative to create a similar effect.

Enter the Band Target Squat

I’ll cut to the chase here: This can be a game-changer for lifters after strength, since it not only provides assistance in the bottom end, it also builds confidence due to the tactile cue it can provide an individual during a set. If you struggle with depth issues, you can say hello to some consistency under heavy loads also.

Setting up a tight band across the safety pins set at your desired height will act to gently “sling” the lifter out of the bottom position, and take pressure off of his knees while in that position, which is commonly the most vulnerable and painful for those who suffer from issues during loaded movement. The beauty of this hack is, if you need more help, you just have to add more bands. This can create just the kinetic edge you need to get a heavy weight out of the hole, and still deal with the entire load for the majority of your rep, including the lockout.

If you’re looking to edge closer to a PR and want to build speed out of the bottom – or if your knees, back, or hips are bugging you for the day, take advantage of this hack when it gets heavy, and it can give you just the edge you need.

Band Target Squat: Coaching Cues 

  • Set up your barbell back or front squat in the rack the way you normally would, and set your safety pins at a height that’s between 6 and 12 inches above your bottom depth (using your butt as frame of reference).
  • Stretch your band(s) across the pins, and make sure they’re pulled tight and flat. Pay attention to their placement, and ensure they’re in line with your lower glutes when you squat. Too far forward and they won’t help you. Too far backward, and you’ll miss them entirely.
  • Unrack the weight, and step back until about 4-6 inches in front of the band. Proceed to squat down to full range, establishing good contact on the band with the glutes. Let the band help you on your concentric rep while maintaining good form.
  • Focus on low reps per set; 3-6 is a smart range.

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