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Comparison of Kinematics and Muscle Activation in Free-Weight Back Squat With and Without Elastic Bands

Saeterbakken, Atle H.1; Andersen, Vidar1; van den Tillaar, Roland2

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: April 2016 - Volume 30 - Issue 4 - p 945–952
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001178
Original Research

Saeterbakken, AH, Andersen, V, and van den Tillaar, R. Comparison of kinematics and muscle activation in free-weight back squat with and without elastic bands. J Strength Cond Res 30(4): 945–952, 2016—The purpose of the study was to compare kinematic muscle activation when performing 6 repetition maximum (6RM) squats using constant (free weights) or variable resistance (free weights + elastic bands). Twenty recreationally trained women were recruited with 4.6 ± 2.1 years of resistance training experience and a relative strength (6RM/body mass) of 1.1. After a familiarization session identifying the 6RM loads, the participants performed 6RM squats using constant and variable resistance in a randomized order. The total resistance in the variable resistance group was similar to the constant resistance in the presticking region (98%), but greater in the sticking region (105%) and the poststicking region (113%). In addition, the presticking barbell velocity was 21.0% greater using variable than constant resistance, but 22.8% lower in the poststicking region. No significant differences in muscle electromyographic activity, time occurrence, and vertical displacement between the squat modalities were observed, except for higher barbell displacement poststicking using variable resistance. It was concluded that, due to differences in total resistance in the different regions performing variable compared with constant resistance, greater barbell velocity was observed in the presticking region and lower resistance was observed in the poststicking region. However, the extra resistance in the sticking and poststicking regions during the variable resistance modality did not cause increased muscle activity. When performing squats with heavy resistance, the authors recommend using variable resistance, but we suggest increasing the percentage resistance from the elastic bands or using chains.

1Department of Teacher Education and Sports, Sogn and Fjordane University College, Sogndal, Norway; and

2Department of Teacher Education, Nord Trøndelag University College, Levanger, Norway

Address correspondence to Atle H. Saeterbakken,

Copyright © 2016 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.