How to Squat with Bands if You Don’t Have a Power Rack

Squatting with bands isn’t meant to be done like this…

The Problem(s)

  • Got a gym with a squat rack, but no power rack.
  • Want to squat with bands, but dumbbells are too light to hold down the band tension, and band tension lifts the squat rack.
  • Have mini and purple bands, but stepping on multiple bands is terrible for stability.
  • Drape bands over the bar for speed deadlifts, but often have up to 6 bands under the feet which is again terrible for stability, but not as bad as in the squat.
  • Want to squat with bands but can’t think of a solution in the commercial gym setting until…

TODAY!

It’s been over 3 years since I last squatted properly with bands (with Chris @ Darkside Barbell of London). I’ve draped them over the bar and then stood on them directly, but walking the bar out while keeping several bands under the foot is no easy task, and the lack of stability seems to make it quite dangerous and uncomfortable… at least with the band tension I’m using.

As I’ve done many times before, I was thinking about a way to remedy this problem, I’ve considered…

  • Making a large platform to stand on during the squat and anchoring the bands to it
  • Having 4 Koreans stand on the rack, one on each corner
  • Anchoring the bands to benches on either end and having several plates on top of the benches
  • Standing on a thin metal pole that the bands are anchored to and keeping it under my feet as I walk out the weight
  • Moving the rack inside the heavier smith machine rack

But for one good reason or another, none of the above worked. But today, instead of just thinking about the problem, I started drawing the problem

And then it hit me!

Standing on the bands was the simplest solution, but the thickness and lopsidedness and stretching of the bands during the movement made balance very difficult. So instead of focusing on how to anchor it, I thought about what I could stand on that would make balance a lot easier and keep the bands away from my knees during the movement.

The obvious solution was to make a thin metal plate with hooks on the end so it could stick out the side of my shoes!

The band shoe insert… not a bad start!

However, it still looked like a lot of work… gotta find the right metal, a place to do some metal working (not nearly as easy for me as if I were in the USA… no hardware stores here!) and the potential of ruining a couple perfectly fine pairs of converse allstars. Although I regularly train barefoot… I’d wear cons if it meant I could squat with bands on dynamic effort day!

This was an improvement over standing on messes of bands directly, and without the problem of tipping over benches, dumbbells falling off things and injuring myself or others. It’s no fun when you’ve got your bands anchored down by dumbbells and then one flies off and you suddenly find one side of the bar 100lbs heavier than the other!

But that was just the first iteration of the idea… instead of ruining my shoes, I thought about making a hole I could step into with the hook on the side… kind of like a band squatting slipper.

Just step in, hook the bands on the hooks, and away you go. But slippage could be a problem, so the metal slippers would need a thin layer of rubber glued to the bottom.

And then (about 10 minutes later), the second stroke of inspiration hit…

SHOELACES!

I’d improvised bouncy bench presses ¬†with shoelaces as the lead for the bands, and they’d do the trick here as well. Now, regular shoelaces may be a bit flimsy, so I’m actually using hiking boot laces because they’re stronger and stretch less.

Surface area problem SOLVED!

The laces are so thin, you hardly notice them when wrapped around your foot… maybe 1/20th the surface area of several bands in contact with the floor, and 1/5th the height… much more manageable than walking out a heavy weight while balancing on several bands that strip the hair off your legs.

I could have just looped the laces over the bands, but I wanted to make a regular tool that wouldn’t require untangling, so this is what I came-up with:

Just shoelaces and a pulley hook do the trick! Note the knot which prevents slippage and tangling!

Now anytime I want to squat, all I have to do is drape the bands over the bar, and hook my foot to it.

Setup is a Cinch… Any Rack Will Do!

Here’s what it looks like in action:

The Walk-Out

And will the bands scrape the legs?!?!

SUCCESS! The Bands Clear The Legs!

No leg scraping!

Aside from the shoelaces making my feet bleed, the bands aren’t stretched along my calf and quads anymore. This means that I won’t get “band-burn” anymore like I did 2 years ago when standing on several bands (very unsafely).

Most importantly, I’m stable.

The shoelaces are so small that they fit nicely in the arch of my foot. So the one thing that could be improved is the reason my face looks so serious… the pain from the darn things!

But this was just the first trial. Next time I’ll be wearing these lovely babies:

Worn these over 4 years and they’re still good as new!

And if those don’t quite relieve the the nasty cutting sensation, I can always wear my cons.

 

But the fun doesn’t stop there!

The little foot apparatus will allow me to perform banded deadlifts with more stability as well. I would just drape several bands over the bar and stand on them in the past (even thicker than the squats), which is not great for stability. But unlike the squat, it was manageable because I didn’t have over 100kg on my back in addition to the band tension and have to walk with them under my feet!

So check-out the new and improved deadlift setup… not quite as good as a jump stretch platform… but not too bad for a $5 fix!

Sure beats standing on bigger, thicker bands that tear skin off your feet!

Locked & Loaded!

And the new apparatus will save the bands from some wear and tear if doing reverse band deadlifts since there won’t be friction between the bands and the rack:

Easy setup for reverse band deadlifts as well!

Brendan Gets Ready for His 1st Warm-up Set… Like a BOSS!

 

Don’t worry, deadlifts will make that ass bigger… like a BOSS!

So the moral of the story, as always, is that when there’s a will, there’s a way…

I just wish I’d thought of this 3 years ago!

For any of you in similar conditions to Brendan and I… no power racks, no chains, no pins, no blocks, doing glute ham raises on the pulldown machine bench… hopefully this post will help you.

All you need are:

  • 2x Jump-stretch bands
  • 2x Durable shoelaces
  • 2x Pulley hooks

And you should probably be an intermediate lifter or above if considering band work… unless you’re even more unfortunate than us and can’t find a gym with enough plates!

So good luck if you give this setup a try!

And if you like this post, your friends will too, so share it!

Stay Mighty!
-Nick