How to Properly Perform The Banded Side Step

Banded side steps….ooooh so fancy and sexy! 🤣But really, there is an over-obsession with the banded side step exercise in the fitness community and most don’t really need to do this exercise if they are already healthy and strong as the maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) for the gluteus medius in the exercise is not even at an adequate level for true strength gains (<40% MVIC). However, in the rehab setting, the banded side step and all its variations (e.g. monster walks) are great for re-training proper movement patterns and neuromuscular control. Furthermore, bands are a great way to increase the MVIC in the exercise and challenge the patient even further.

Are You Cheating When Performing The Banded Side Step?

Various studies have looked at the banded side step exercise and its many variations such as the monster walk. All of these exercises have found relatively high gluteal action, making them a staple in many corrective exercise programs. However, it’s really easy to do this exercise WRONG and completely miss the therapeutic intent of the exercise.

Cue 1: DON’T LET TENSION OUT OF THE BAND.

Keep constant tension on the band during the whole exercise. The moment you lose tension, you lose that extra gluteal activation you’re trying to get in the first place by incorporating the band. Also, the band is often more of a neuromuscular facilitator than actually adding any load or demand to the exercise, so losing tension means you’ve just lost that tactile cue.

Cue 2: KEEP YOUR HIPS LEVEL.

People love to cheat and use their quadratus lumborum and other trunk muscles during this exercise. Look at yourself in the mirror: does your pelvis move while doing this? It shouldn’t move at all. If you feel pain or stress in your low back while doing this exercise, you’re doing it wrong. I am an advocate for small, fast steps during this exercise, but you can also increase the magnitude of the movement and work on a bigger concentric/eccentric movement by slowing it down and taking larger steps. If you choose to do it this way, just make sure you are set with a smaller band to keep constant tension!

 

Where Should I Put The Band?

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There are many ways to progress the banded side step, but one of the simplest ways is to change the band position. The lower down the chain it goes, the larger the lever arm and thus the harder the exercise.

Around knees = EASIEST.

Around ankle = HARDER.

The lever arm creates a normal amount of torque at the knees for everyone who is concerned about it being too much to handle. We put more stress on our lateral ligaments during everyday functional tasks than the amount a band will place on the knees. Of course, if someone has something like an LCL sprain don’t place the band at the ankle, but for everyone else it is 100% fine!

Around foot = HARDEST.

Get some extra peroneal and lateral ankle muscle activation. Try to keep your toes pointed forward the whole time, don’t let them point in!

 

Band Placement Around the Foot Vs Ankle: Which Is Better?

And when it comes to band placement on the banded side step, we know that if we move the band below the normal placement around the knees the exercise gets harder, but where exactly should we place the band? At the ankles? At the feet? A study found that TFL activation is HIGHER with the band placement around the ankles in comparison to the feet. And here’s why. With the band placement around the feet it creates an internal rotation moment. This means that the band will try to pull your toes INWARD. In order to resist this, you have to push OUTWARDS. Most of the glutes are EXTERNAL ROTATORS, whereas the TFL is an INTERNAL ROTATOR. So the push outwards will result in significantly more gluteal activation in comparison to TFL activation! Put the band around your feet!!

Extra Peroneal Activation Anyone?

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The peroneals are commonly found to be weak after an inversion ankle sprain. So you’re wondering, what’s some of the best [P]Rehab for an ankle sprain?? Peroneal strengthening!! The classic banded side step, with a band around the knees, is great for glute med activation. However, by changing the resistance band location to the forefoot (ie the balls of the foot), we can add a little PERONEUS LONGUS and BREVIS activation as well. The band will provide an external force on the forefoot into adduction, which you’ll have to counteract with an abduction force. Furthermore, by landing with the ankle in a plantarflexed and everted position, you must ECCENTRICALLY CONTROL movement into an inverted position using the peroneus longus. This eccentric peroneus longus control is EXACTLY what the muscle must do to prevent an inversion ankle sprain. Furthermore, with the band around the forefoot we have increased the lever arm for the glutes, so I can bet we’re getting more glute activation as well! Change up the classic banded side step and consider placing the theraband around the forefoot for increased glute and peroneus activation.

 

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