As strength and conditioning coaches, we have two primary objectives:
- Promote and program for injury prevention and sport performance readiness
- Develop strength, power and speed qualities specific to the athletes' sport
The problem we all face, however, is the fact that these two jobs can often interfere with one another. It is common knowledge that when limits are pushed in the weight room, DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and fatigue are likely to appear, which may acutely affect performance in an athlete's sport practice or competition. Furthermore, the best exercises for sport form development, generally speaking, can carry the greatest risk of soreness, long-term fatigue and injury (Bench, Squat, Deadlift). In an effort to accomplish the goals of both athlete preparedness and strength/power/speed development, the Belt Squat Overcoming Isometric can be utilized effectively.
An "Overcoming Isometric" refers to the act of pushing or pulling against an immovable amount of resistance. With the Belt Squat Overcoming Isometric, that immovable amount of resistance is the bottom of the weight rack. Below are reasons why I have found this to be a very effective exercise in any training program:
- Higher Motor Unit Recruitment/Peak Neural Drive: A 2001 study found that during maximal overcoming isometric muscle action, there are higher levels of muscle activation (95.2%) than during maximal eccentric (88.3%) and maximal concentric (89.7%) muscle actions.
- No Load On Back: Puts athlete in a safe position to produce maximal force without involving the spine.
- Adjustable Range of Motion: Depth of squat can be adjusted based on time of year and goal of training cycle (I have my athletes perform a full depth squat in the offseason, then adjust the depth to a quarter squat during preseason/competition because it is more sport specific).
- Cueing Proper Hip Extension Patterns: Simplifies teaching athletes to drive through the glutes since there is no movement during the exercise.
- Creates A Competitive Environment: Athletes are producing maximum force to lift the rack.
- Decreased Co-Activation: A 1992 study found that an 8-week training program consisting of overcoming isometrics decreased co-activation of the antagonist muscles by 20%. Decreased antagonist co-activation provides less opposing force to the contracting agonist muscles.
- Minimal DOMS: Due to the absence of movement/eccentric muscle action in the exercise, minimal soreness is experienced.
- Zero Chance Of Failure: Quite often in the weight room, injury is at the highest risk when failed lifts take place. In addition, when training to failure takes place, cortisol levels elevates, which is not ideal for athletic performance.
- Fatigue Management: Managing fatigue is much easier with overcoming isometrics because they are performed for time, so you can set specific time limitations (seconds) per set limiting deviation amongst your athletes.
- Excellent Option for Athletes with Back Issues: Allows athletes with injured backs to perform exercise maximally when the rest of the team is performing Deadlifts or Squats.
How to Utilize the Belt Squat Overcoming Isometric
I will implement variations of the Belt Squat Overcoming Isometric multiple times throughout a typical training year for 2-3 weeks at a time.
- Myelination Phase: The objective of this phase is to improve motor unit recruitment of the muscle by increasing the rate at which electrical signals (neurons) travel to the muscle via the nervous system. Overcoming Isometrics fit perfectly in this phase because they produce the highest level of motor unit recruitment.
- Isometric Phase (Triphasic): During an isometric phase this can be implemented instead of the typical yielding isometric back/front squat for any of the reasons listed above.
- Power Phase: Allows for maximum force production and increased rate of force development, which will translate to a more dominant athlete in his/her sport.
- Any Phase (Post Activation Potentiation): Increases neural drive and wakes up nervous system when used at the beginning of any lift, resulting in increased explosiveness and dynamic strength following its use for the remainder of the lift.
1. Activation Of Human Quadriceps Femoris Durind Isometric, Concentric, and Eccentric Contractions. Nicolas Babault-Michel Pousson-Yves Ballay-Jacques Hoecke – Journal of Applied Physiology - 2001
2. Adaptations in Coactivation After Isometric Resistance Training. B. Carolan-E. Cafarelli - Journal Of Applied Physiology – 1992
3. Differential Effects Of Strength Training Leading To Failure Versus Not To Failure on Hormonal Responses, Strength, and Muscle Power Gains. I. Shrier – Yearbook Of Sports Medicine - 2007
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