Breaking Down the Split Squat ISO Hold

The split squat ISO hold is extremely versatile, no matter if we're dealing with a new trainee, an advanced athlete, or someone looking to spice up their routine. It's the traditional split squat, but performed with an isometric (ISO) hold in the bottom of the movement. See the video below:

Why do I like it?

1.  It's great for in-season athletes, or during a period leading up to competition.  As a strength coach, it's critical to be able to provide the in-season athlete with a training effect, while simultaneously reducing the risk of muscle soreness.  What athlete can optimally perform while he/she can hardly move his or her legs because they feel like jell-o?

The split squat ISO hold reduces the risk of soreness because it minimizes the eccentric portion of the lift, where the most muscle damage takes place (and thus contributes to that delayed-onset muscle soreness you typically feel 24-48 hours after a workout).

So, you can still receive a training effect (become stronger and improve neuromuscular control) while simultaneously reducing the soreness commonly felt after a lift.  Sounds like a no brainer to me!

2.  It's a great teaching tool for beginners.  Many people nearly topple over (and sometimes actually do) when first learning the split squat.  This shouldn't come as a surprise, as it's always going to require sound motor control when you move the base of support from two feet (as in the traditional squat) to one foot. 

For the average person entering SAPT, I'll use the split squat isometric hold to help them learn the position.  Depending on the person, I may have them start on the ground (in the bottom position), and then just elevate a couple inches off the ground and hold.  This way, they're not constantly having to move through the full range of motion, where the most strength and neural control is required.

3.  Like most single-leg variations, it trains the body to work as one flawless unit. As noted in the Resistance Training for Runners series I wrote earlier this year, lunge variations teach the body to work as a unit, as opposed to segmented parts.  Specifically: the trunk stabilizers, glutes, hamstrings, quads,  TFL (tensor fascia latae), adductors, and QL (quadratus lomborum) will all have to work synergistically to efficiently execute the movement.

4.  To use as a change of pace.  Yup...

Key Coaching Cues

  1. Get in a wide stance with the feet parallel to each other (as you'll see when I face the camera).
  2. Lower straight down.  What we're looking for here a vertical shin angle (shin perpendicular to the floor).  It's very easy to let the knee drift forward if you're not paying attention.
  3. Keep a rigid torso (upright).  Imagine as if you're struttin' your stuff at the beach.
  4. Don't let the front knee drift inward (valgus stress).  Keep the knee right in line with the middle-to-outside toes.  I even cue "knee out" sometimes as many people really let the knee collapse inward.
  5. Squeeze the front glute to help keep you stable.  You can also squeeze the back glute to receive a nice stretch in the hip flexor of the back leg.
  6. Perform for 1-3 reps (per side) with a :5-:15 hold in the bottom.