Eccentric Isometrics & HBT (Hanging Band Technique) Training At It’s Finest!
Strength coaches will often give numerous reasons as to why pause reps are so beneficial such as “staying activated and tight in the hole,” “fixes technique issues,” “minimizes the contribution of the stretch reflex,” “improvements in the bottom position,” “takes away momentum,” and “minimizes the elasticity attributes of the muscle.”
So it’s nothing new to think about what pause reps and isometrics do for the body, but recently I have been playing around with some accentuated eccentrics and pauses (eccentric isometrics) for my clients. Adding such variable manipulations can work wonders for motor control, correction of poor movement patterns by owning the positioning better in each segment of the exercise. The difference from normal pause and isometrics is simply your accentuated eccentric and pauses at various portions.
What I love most is that they are very joint friendly since you use loads between 50-70% of your normal weight!
It’s a gym owner’s secret love as well as athletes and the everyday gym population!
Other Benefits of Eccentric Isometrics:
- They can enhance power, torque, stability, symmetrical loading, hypertrophy, post activation potentiation and overall movement efficiency
- Increased sensory feedback and proprioception
- Solid measures of stretch reflexes (due to the eccentric phase)
- Increases in muscle stiffness through both mechanical and neuromuscular mechanisms which can help prevent injuries
- Enhanced sensory feedback
Fatigue is a lifter’s worst nightmare, and accentuated eccentrics can help this by increasing the stiffness and focusing on the eccentric portion since the concentric phase requires more ATP for excitation-contraction coupling processes. So, by limiting the time in the concentric phase, we are limiting fatigue while working muscles in the lengthened state is proven to be highly beneficial for muscle development.
Here I am setup in a split squat stance where I pause slightly halfway down and at the bottom while explosively coming up. The bands provide oscillating kinetic energy which make it MUCH harder than it looks since it has proprioceptive benefits (being in a split stance). The body control and kinesthetic awareness is maximized from the neural firing patterns making it a very advanced exercise.
Not only does this tax the legs, but your mind is in overdrive hitting the CNS by focusing to properly sync all the motor controls needed.
Other useful variations that don’t require much setup can be these:
- SL RDL to Balance: This is a great exercise to help combat alignment, stability and symmetry issues. The key is to begin your hinge slowly with the accentuated eccentric and pause near end range, while coming back to a single leg balance with a bit more tempo, then another pause.
Not only does this fire up the posterior chain, but the motor recruitment and proprioceptive cues needs to both hinge and flex the hip in one rep makes it very challenging.
Another variation of the RDL you can use is the SL Kickstand Trap Bar with an accentuated eccentric and pause. Major credit to Tony Gentilcore for showcasing this beauty, as it does wonders for keeping lifters noteworthy of lat-engagement and proper hinge mechanics with the pause. The key here is to keep at least 80% of the weight on the working leg. The band keeps tension highest where it is least vulnerable at the top of the exercise. This in return dials in more time under tension and giving that isolating leg some work!
- Trap Bar 90 Press: These are a game changer for your shoulders! The neutral grip not only makes them happy but also has them working overtime to control and stabilize more so than the normal barbell. I love doing them with a split stance to take momentum out of the equation and add another component of stability.
- The Landmine Pigeon Press works great for eccentric isometrics as well. The stress you can put on the pecs while keeping the shoulders in a safe position cannot be beat with this setup.
- Bulgarian Split Squat: These are essential for nearly every gym user. However, I often see them done ridiculously fast and with horrible tempo. Focusing on a slow eccentric followed by a pause at the bottom to increases time under tension, eliciting a huge carryover for athletes because of the added stretch to the hip flexors, and creates more mTOR recruitment.
- Chest Supported Row: Amazing exercise for the oblique sling, working actively with scapular retraction and passively with protraction. The core has to work overload to stabilize one side while working the other. The key here is to keep a strong brace of the core and neutral spine while resisting the shoulders to drop or hips to sag.
- Single Leg Ring Push Up, Knee Tuck: This one makes the normal push up look like the 1950 chevy compared to the new age Camaro. Everything about it just is put in overdrive. Stability, eccentric control, isometric strength and rotary core work all in one! Maybe I purposely invented this, or it was the fact my rings were set as low as they could go and I needed some sort of elevation which cued my exploration into overdrive. The key points here are to keep your reps under 5 with a slow, controlled tempo and resisted allowing your back to cave towards the side with the leg elevated.
How to use this information?
With these, we’re not chasing fatigue. Instead, we’re aiming for deep activation and overload of all of the available muscle fibers and motor units in order to complete the task as efficiently and as powerfully as possible.
- Focus on form. Push through the feet. If you can’t lift the weight barefoot, first go back to the drawing board and address barefoot mechanics.
- Start with 50% 1RM loads and gradually work to use more.
- Stay in the 1-5 rep range since you are putting lots of time under tension for each rep.
- DO NOT pause more than 2-7 seconds and risk collapsing. This is NOT the point of either eccentrics or isometrics.
- Co-activation is key, so focus on the muscles not gravity. Think SLINKY where your muscles coil and spring with the antagonist muscles firing into position.
And of course: The bamboo bar kicks ass for the split squats!
What do you think? Agree with the hype of eccentric isometrics? Regardless, everyone can benefit from dropping the weight and focusing on technique,