To do effective leg exercises with resistance bands requires a set up that provides adequate resistance. In this article you will learn how to set up resistance bands to provide adequate resistance for effective leg exercises.
Although I recommend Bodylastics resistance bands, in their manuals they
recommend doing squats and lunges using only the standard handles to
hold the bands at shoulder level when doing the exercises. The problem
with this is that you will not be able to use more resistance in this
position than you can support with your arms and shoulders, and that
will be a lot less than your legs need to get an adequate load and
Another problem with Bodylastics and other similar resistance bands for leg exercises is they propose that you stand on the bands. When you stand on the bands your feet are not in complete contact with the floor. It is uncomfortable. Your nervous system interprets this as you are standing on a potentially dangerous unstable surface, so it dampens muscle firing.
I have solved these problems in the following way.
First, I use Bodylastics bands only to add resistance to full heel squats, Sisyphus squats, split squats or pistol squats. By doing this, you take advantage of your body weight as resistance, minimizing the amount of additional resistance you need from the bands.
Second, I built a platform on which to stand to perform leg exercises with resistance bands. It is composed of 2 x 4 boards, 2 are 24” long and 6 are 12” long. The 24” long boards are the bottom or feet of the platform, and the 12” boards form the top surface. The 12” boards are all screwed to the 24” boards with 2” wood screws. Here’s what it looks like:
Instead of standing on the bands, you lay bands on the floor, then put the platform atop so that the bands are between the base boards of the platform, like this:
Third, instead of holding the bands with my hands, I attach them to the carabiners on a Brute Belt.
Start by squatting or kneeling on the platform. While holding the platform down with your weight, attach the necessary bands to the Brute Belt carabiners. Now you can stand up on the platform and perform full heel squats, split squats or single leg (pistol) squats.
You can use loop bands with the platform and Brute Belt as well. The set up is a little different for each type of squat. I demonstrate how to set up each exercise in the video below.
If you have a power rack that is securely attached to the floor, you can attach eyebolts and carabiners to the front posts as I have done to my rack, as shown in this photo:
If you don’t have a power rack, you may be able to create a similar set up with something else to which you can attach the eyebolts and carabiners, maybe a wall, some anchored posts, or a set of stall bars. You want the anchors about 4 feet apart.
Once you have done this, you can thread Bodylastics bands through the large carabiners, place the platform in front, attach the bands to your Brute Belt, then perform split squats, Cossack squats, or sissy squats. However, I’ve found that this set up is not good for pistol squats, it pulls you forward resulting in a tendency to come up off one’s heel when performing the concentric phase of the pistol squat.
You can also use the platform and Brute Belt to perform rise on toes for the gastrocnemius (calves). Put the required bands on the floor near some sturdy upright you can use for balance if necessary, place the platform atop, squat on your heels on the platform, attach the bands to the Brute Belt carabiners, and then stand up. Now you can perform rise on toes with substantial resistance.
In this video I demonstrate some of the leg exercises with resistance bands I have performed with Bodylastics bands attached to my power rack.
For hamstrings all you need to do is the standing resistance bands leg curl with the Bodylastics bands and the ankle straps. I think this may be the best resistance bands hamstring exercise. By standing the movement is similar to the hamstring action involved in walking and running, and your whole body is involved in stabilization, which increases total body including cardio respiratory demands. In addition, the movement engages both of the functions of the hamstrings (hip extension and leg flexion) in a very natural movement, unlike prone or supine leg curls.
You can use loop bands with the wooden platform described above to perform leg exercises with resistance bands.
In this video I show how to perform split squats, Cossack squats, upright full squats, and front squats with a loop resistance band and the platform. You may be able to do these without the platform but it will be less comfortable with the bands under your feet.
At some point it in progression of band resistance for various forms of squatting, you will need to use multiple bands, and it will become difficult to hold multiple bands in place without an implement. In the long run if you want to take your legs to their maximum strength and size potential you will probably be best served by squats with a barbell or X3 bar.
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