Everyone is eager to return to the gym and the playing field to train. However, we need to be smart and perceptive about it. Training is a part of our life, like eating breakfast every morning, not just something we do. Therefore, at the same time we must be safe and discover the best methods and techniques that provide the quickest results. Whether you have been training or not during the pandemic, eccentric isometric training will restore, awaken and boost your strength without missing a beat on the field or in the gym.
Eccentric Isometric Training
Every movement has an eccentric, isometric and concentric phase. The eccentric motion is the stretching, loading, downward phase. The isometric, redirection, phase is the platform where the eccentric force is loaded and the point where the greatest amount of force is generated. And, the concentric phase, is the rebound motion. In order to maximize concentric output, the first two phases need to be trained and optimized. This is often forgotten or not utilized because of resistance training and the emphasis placed on explosiveness and power, that baits you into a concentric obsession.
Visualize it like this, how hard and fast you can bounce a basketball on the floor determines the height of the bounce. If you slam the ball onto the floor, which requires speed and force, it will bounce really high. And, the same goes for the eccentric motion. How fast and how hard you eccentrically move, generates a high amount of force to be used concentrically.
Now, think of the isometric phase as the surface, the platform, to absorb eccentric force and explode from; like bouncing a ball on concrete or in sand. Concrete will give you a perfect rebound as opposed to sand where there is no rebound. The point is, the isometric platform needs to be strong enough to absorb the eccentric force produced and transfer it concentrically. Weak eccentric and isometric phases are a reason concentric explosiveness, agility and speed suffer.
Eccentric and isometric are the most important phases because they:
- Highly stimulate the nervous system
- Produce the greatest amount of force and potentiation leading to greater and more sustainable results,
- Boost concentric output more than concentric training itself.
Weightlifting and resistance training will not provide the same results as the aforementioned.
If you cannot produce force fast eccentrically, or, if the isometric surface is not strong enough, you will not accelerate maximally concentrically, affecting your speed.
Again, the surface and velocity in which you bounce the ball will dictate the speed and height of the rebound force. And, the same goes for movement.
Fast eccentric is ultimately what you want, however, it requires training slowly to prepare it first. Regardless of this, from not training for weeks or months, slow eccentric motions will create proprioceptor adaptation and stimulation, coordination and organization of the musculoskeletal and nervous system and integrate breathing into the motion. When you slow down motion, it integrates the systems to function properly, especially after a few months off. What you can do slow, you can do fast. Conversely, what you can do fast, not necessarily you can do slow. Training slowly gives the brain time to adapt and adjust to activate neural mechanisms, not compensatory/inhibitory ones. Slow allows force to be absorbed into muscles more thoroughly for the nervous system to highly potentiate; all needed for speed.
If you move fast in the beginning, your muscles may not absorb the force well or maximally, and this can highly lead to muscular strain or injury. Understand, fast movements are based on a feedforward loop form the brain, so there is really no adjusting or adaptation happening during fast motions because the functional organization is set from training slow (2).
The bounce of the ball is also a great example of the stretch reflex. A primary reason to train slow eccentrically and isometrically is to develop and strengthen the power of the stretch reflex. When done slowly, the stretch reflex increases contractility and stiffness based on the amount of weight or resistance to protect the muscles form laxity, for instance, performing a deadlift slowly; you feel the hamstrings stiffen.
However, the faster the eccentric force, the harder the concentric braking force. Visualize a kettlebell swing swinging the bell down under the hips. The hamstrings stretch fast eccentrically and the muscles concentrically contract to halt the stretch. This is used to create a powerful rebound concentrically know as the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC). The faster the eccentric motion, the harder the stretch reflex response will be based on the force, the greater the concentric contraction. The stretch reflex is an extremely powerful tool in the world of sport and training.
The stretch reflex is not about bouncing. It is about quickly stopping on the dime to produce a powerful SSC. Like pistons firing up and down rapidly.
Choose the two-or four-day program, and, do for 3 weeks. I always use the first week for adaptation to understand and feel what to do and 2 weeks for strength training before switching the program. If you switch the tempos, you need not to switch exercises. The reason I use functional movements is that all advanced movements start from this foundation.
Use agonist-antagonists training. Movement is not just concentric. Let me give you a few details before the program. You don’t need to do the routine this way, but, it will provide a more superior result.
For example, doing a back row before a chest press makes your chest press stronger. The pre-activation of a muscle used as an antagonist eccentrically, before using it as the agonist concentrically, increases its strength and power (1). The theory is behind the adjustments in the firing pattern. During a back row, the back is the agonist, prime mover, and, the chest is the antagonist, the resister. The first exercise needs to be stronger than the second for the potentiation to work and be higher. The back primes the chest eccentrically, so, when you do the chest press, where the chest is the agonist, the firing pattern is primed for the chest to press more weight and be faster.
Another reason for promoting this training is because of hemodynamics. This is least thought about, but, if not, very important. When playing, the demand for blood is shifting around muscles, especially, in the legs. Agonist and antagonist training improves the transference of blood to muscles back and forth. Therefore, it enhances mandatory cardiovascular effects that augment strength and endurance for sport.
- Eccentric motion use 4-6 seconds
- Isometric pause 2-4 seconds
- Concentric motion is done fast or explosively
- Sets/Reps: 3/3-5 using 80-85% 1 Rep Max.
Perform the first exercise then rest 2-3 minutes and then do the second exercise for 3 sets.
4 Day Routine
•Nordic Hip Bridge/ Squat or Leg Press
• Lunge (Back leg focus.)
•Pull-up/ Long Bar Shoulder Press
• Dumbbell Bent Over Rows/ Dumbbell Chest Press
• Single-Leg Deadlift/ Single Leg Squat (Back leg elevated or split stance.)
• Lunge (Back leg focus.)
•Seated Row/ Dip
• Pull-up/ Dumbbell Shoulder Press
2 Day Routine
- Pull-up/ Long Bar Shoulder Press
- Nordic Hip Bridge/ Squat
- Seated Row/ Dip
- Lunge (Back leg focus.)
- Single-Leg Deadlift/ Single Leg Squat (Back leg elevated or split stance.)
- Pull-up/ Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Lunge (Back leg focus.)
- Dumbbell Bent Over Row/ Dumbbell Chest Press
By understanding this method and programming, you will get back into training safely and develop greater strength and speed for your sport. Eccentric Isometric training is considered the best type of training by many strength conditioning coaches because of its high preventive aspects, the boost it provides concentrically and because of its cross trainability of movements, exercises and techniques that carry over from the gym onto the court/field. It is a superior way to train because it is an all-in-one program that produces unbounded athleticism by training the neurological system, not just your muscles.
1) Robbins, Daniel W; Young, Warren B; Behm, David G; Payne, Warren R Agonist-Antagonist Paired Set Resistance Training: A Brief Review, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: October 2010 – Volume 24 – Issue 10 – p 2873-2882 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181f00bfc.
2) Neuroscience online electronic textbook for neurosciences, UTHealth Sciences Center at Houston, Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, 1997-Present, McGovern Medical School. Section 3- Motor Systems, Chapter- 5 Cerebellum.