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.

HICT: A "Secret" and Powerful Method of Aerobic Training

Watch the video below to discover a very powerful, yet unconventional, method of developing the aerobic system: (Note: If video is not your thing, I wrote down the bullet points from the video down below.) 

This method is referred to as High Intensity Continuous Training, or HICT.

  • Great for military folks, wrestlers, fighters, endurance athletes, or anyone that needs to be able to produce a reasonable power output for an extended period of time.
  • Start with one, 10-minute set, and gradually work you're way up to two, 20-minute sets (be warned, twenty minutes is a loonggg set).
  • It is both high intensity and high volume, which is what makes it so different than other forms of aerobic training.
  • The intensity is based on resistance, rather than speed, which is why it allows for such a high volume of stimulus. Most high intensity aerobic intervals are based on speed, ex. a 15-60 second sprint, so you can only maintain that level of effort for so long before you fatigue and have to slow down.
  • Your heart rate should stay in the 150s or low 160s during these, which is under most people's anaerobic threshold (for example, mine is about 174bpm).
  • Because the heart rate remains under the anaerobic threshold, there is adequate oxygen supply (and thus it's possible to enhance the aerobic abilities of your fast twitch fibers).
  • If you're doing step-ups, as I am in the video, the preferred method of loading would be a weight vest. I'm using a backpack in the video because, at the time, I didn't have access to a vest. Don't use a barbell (trust me, I tried it).
  • If the weighted step-ups isn't a viable option, you could use a high quality spin bike. Just crank of the resistance on that thing so you're at 20-30rpm (this is very slow). You should literally be coming off the seat a bit on each push of the pedal.

It was 10:15pm - past my preferred bed time - when I filmed this, so forgive me for my tired expression and somewhat scattered thought process in the video.

HICT is an extremely powerful tool when used appropriately.

SAPT's Top 5 Exercises for New Moms

Happy Birthday Arabella!

I’ve always heard a lot about how hard it is for a new mom to find time to exercise. But, I’m now living it and I’m here to tell you it’s a bunch of hooey. Regardless of time, here are my top 5 best exercises that ALL new moms are already doing in some form or fashion. So why not make them an actual workout?… you’re doing them anyway!

My Top 5 Exercises for New Moms

  1. Baby Goblet Squat (Ass to Grass) - I can’t even begin to guess the number of deep squats I’ve done over the last 12 months. This is a legit exercise that allows mom to work on ankle, hip, and thoracic mobility along with quad, hamstring, glute, CORE musculature, and upper back strengthening. Start with just a couple sets of 3-5 reps and work up 10, 15, or even more reps.
  2. Stairs – This one’s easy and obvious. That sweet little baby wants to be held all the time and mom wants to finish losing those last few LB’s, so why not take advantage of the situation and do a little low impact cardio on your household’s stair case?
  3. Baby Clean and Press – This one is fun for mom and baby and, as is common for all these exercises, occurs naturally. Hold the baby about mid-torso level and hoist her up overhead. This will work on a touch of posterior chain power development and get mom some much needed upper body strength and stability! Stick with just a handful of reps (3-6) for multiple sets.
  4. Baby Gate Hip Mobility – If the Ass to Grass Baby Goblet Squats aren’t getting it done for the hip mobility, then inevitably mom will have the benefit of crossing over a baby gate about 3 zillion times a day. I started enjoying improved hip mobility around 7 months when Arabella began crawling and suffered two cracked toenails to prove my hip mobility could, in fact, use improvement. You can’t do to many of these, just try to keep good form (chest up, lift you knee, no hip drop) and enjoy the benefits!
  5. Baby Carrier Household Chores – Talk about great for improving general physical preparedness (GPP)! Last summer Arabella and I spent many hours together with her strapped on my chest in the baby carrier while I did everything from dishes to laundry to vacuuming. You quickly learn if your core is strong or not. This one crushes the lower and upper back, in particular, but is excellent for rebuilding stabilization strength in mom’s midsection.

Here are a few more advanced exercises you can give a try if you’re feeling “froggy.” I should note that my baby is not old enough to reliably stay on my back for the plank or push-ups, maybe in a few more months!

  1. 1-Arm Baby Cradle Carry + Full Laundry Basket Carry – An advanced technique for the busy mom. Grab baby in one arm and full laundry basket in the opposite arm. This exercise is very similar to some of the Mis-loaded bracing/farmer’s walk variations we do at SAPT. Great for improving core strength and stability!
  2. Baby Plank – Use baby’s body weight to increase the difficulty of a standard prone plank.
  3. Baby Pushups – Again, using baby’s body weight to increase the difficulty of a push-up. Although we haven’t tried these yet, I’m pretty sure she’ll be having a pretty good time sitting on my back while “the ride” takes her up and down!

I’ll admit when I got the idea for this post it was designed to be “tongue in cheek,” but as I got to thinking about all the ways having a baby challenges new moms physically, I realized that these are some pretty darn good exercises. Not only are they fun, but they are also very productive if you just focus on doing a few things correctly and accumulating a bit of volume.

So to sum up, today is Arabella’s first birthday and I find myself exceptionally happy. I’m completely in love with my daughter and have found that my husband and I truly work well together. I’ve managed to lose all my “baby weight” and even a few more pounds to boot. And the icing on the cake? I’m working less and earning more.

If you know any new moms who might find this post motivational or inspirational, please forward it to them and don’t forget we offer comprehensive distance coaching to help moms all over the country lose those last few baby LB’s!