And no, I’m not talking here about solitary confinement in the slammer. What I’m referring to is an isolation hold in a given exercise movement, at that movement’s most extreme joint angle, i.e., the joint angle of least favorable mechanical advantage. You might also have heard these referred to as eccentric quasi-isolations (EQIs). How long of an isolation hold are we talking about here? How about a full five minutes — eventually. But we’ll start of with less, though — much less — and buildup to the full five minute mark. Maybe. And I say “maybe” because this methodology is — though it might not sound very much so — beyond difficult, both physically and psychologically.
I like to sprinkle these in throughout the week, mostly on “off” days, shuffling through about seven different position holds. The push-up, squat and lunge positions (and their variations) comprise the core of the options here, but there’s absolutely no need to limit yourself to these positions. Take just about any exercise you can conjure, figure out that movement’s CJA (critical joint angle, i.e., the angle of least mechanical advantage), and stick a hold in that position. Use additional weight if need be — take the biceps curl as an example of an exercise that would require additional loading. Also, LDIs (or EQIs, if you prefer that terminology) are great for those times when it’s impractical to get to the gym, or get outside — or, as in my situation over the last few days. — foul weather, mixed with company, leaving little opportunity for other workout options. Another bonus to this methodology is that — in a bit of irony — although it’s fast-twitch intensive, (a bit of irony in and of itself) it is very easy on the central nervous system.
The LDI/EQI method itself is deviously quite simple. Take the basic push-up as an example: assume the push-up position, then lower yourself into a full stretch and a nice, tight plank, with your chest hovering just a fraction from the floor. Now, hold this position for 5 minutes. Sounds easy, huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought when I fist attempted them. Just give it a shot and tell me if it doesn’t re-define time for you. Never thought 20 seconds could last so damn long, didja? Ok, so start off with 2-minute holds, and when you do have to take a break, make it only as long as it takes to draw and exhale 3 big breaths, then re-assume the position until your 2 minutes are up. A curious thing will happen in as short as a week — not only will you be able to significantly lengthen the position’s hold time, but your strength in both the flat bench and the various shoulder presses will increase as well. Hmmmm.
But why should this be, you ask? What’s going on here, — physiologically speaking — with this methodology? Now, I don’t claim to understand the science behind why this methodology works, though I’ve studied it vigorously and I do think I have a pretty good handle on things. From what I’ve been able to distill from the (sometimes) vague sources that I can find, here is the gist of what’s going on when you do an LDI/EQI:
- neural programming (if done correctly) at the proper exercise positions/stances
- a tremendous fast-twitch muscle fiber activation (and a prolonged activation) at a low CNS “cost”
- tendon/ligament stretch (especially the golgi tendons) and strengthening
Now, what can I say, empirically, about LDIs/EQIs? They do work, simple as that. They are also extremely friggin’ boring. Seriously boring. However, the mental conditioning required to persevere with these also adds to the acquisition of a certain mental toughness. They are also great in a pre-hab/re-hab sense, and I do employ them quite often as a pre-pre-warm-up tool, i.e., soon after I get up in the morning, prior to my hour-long commute to work/the gym. I’ve found it is best not to use them immediately prior to (i.e., as a warm-up tool) the “meat”of a workout, as these are a workout in and of themselves.
A discussion on the proper uses of (and the supporting hows and whys of) LDIs/EQIs could go on, ad nauseam. Here’s a forum discussion thread that delves much further into the subject of LDIs/EQIs than I’d ever be able to do here. You’ll see plenty of references in this thread to Jay Schroeder, as he is — I guess you could say — the “developer” (for lack of a better term) of this methodology. Of course, that itself could be disputed as well, and Schroeder himself is as controversial a figure as you’ll find anywhere. My point here is not to take sides in a Jay Schroeder debate — I certainly have my opinions on his training methods (positive, for the most part) — my point here is simply to introduce you to yet another methodology that I believe works (and that I employ myself), and that you can keep readily at hand in your own workout toolbox. This is just another example of there being an opportunity hidden within every obstacle. I believe that the more tools you have at your disposal, the less likely you are to be tripped-up by an unfortunate or unforeseen event.
Give them a shot and see what you think. I suggest starting with the basic push-up hold, and maybe the squat or lunge hold. You can do these as often as you like, but I wouldn’t do them just prior to a regular workout, as they’ll render that workout worthless. If you use them as a “pre-warm-up” like I do, give yourself about an hour’s recovery time before diving into the real McCoy.