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Reactive Effort RFE Split Squats

March 21, 2013

In a previous post we discussed how most activities in sports take place unilaterally, or off of a single leg.  That includes sprinting, changing directions, and jumping for a layup or fly ball.  While the Olympic Lifts are excellent exercises to increase overall power development, they do not train the neuromuscular system in patterns specific to sports performance.

Power can be defined as strength x speed, or the rate of force development.  In reactive effort movements the athlete is required to fully relax the muscle and then react to rapid muscular elongation by generating a high degree of force in a very short period of time.   This “explosive eccentric” muscle action has been suggested to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers and has been shown to result in improved concentric power output over traditional training alone (1).  A very simple example of this is the “stick” in plyometrics.  As an athletes strength increases, resistance can be added to these exercises to further increase the rate of force development.  The more resistance, the greater and more rapid the amount of force the athlete will have to produce upon contact, and thus the greater improvements in power output to be expected.

The Setup

Prior to performing this exercise the athlete must have the strength, coordination, and experience to efficiently perform the rear foot elevated split squat.  Choose a weight similar to the athletes 8-10 RM to start (increase the load as the athlete becomes more proficient).  This exercise is demonstrated below by Jason Cholewa.

Set up in the RFE split squat and have the athlete descend 2-3 inches from lockout.  Hold this position for a 2 count, then relax the primary movers by flexing the hip and the knee, effectively bringing the foot off the ground.  Drop down into the bottom of the ROM, and as soon as contact is initiated powerfully contract the primary movers to prevent any further eccentric action and to drive back up into the start position.

Perform sets of 2-5 repetitions, with full rest periods.  Focus on minimizing eccentric action following contact, and the speed of movement out of the hole.

Jason Cholewa, Ph.D., CSCS

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1. Ojasto T, Häkkinen K: Effects of different accentuated eccentric load levels in eccentric-concentric actions on acute neuromuscular, maximal force, and power responses. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association 2009, 23:996–1004.


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