1. Eccentric Isometrics
You may also know them as paused reps or time under tension. Eccentric isometrics is an old training technique where you perform the eccentric or negative phase of a lift in a controlled manner, then holding the stretched position for a given duration before completing the lift/concentric phase.
For example, take your basic air squat. Instead of performing 12+ reps, cut your reps in half and slow it down. Take your time as you lower into your squat, hold the stretched position for 2-4 seconds, and then stand back up quickly. Focus on good form and keeping tight, using optimal/natural range of motion. Do not collapse.
Eccentric isometrics is an excellent technique to help clean up form through increased proprioception and sensory feedback. “Ultimately movement modification, body positioning, neural firing patterns, and overall motor control are maximized from this heightened state of kinesthetic awareness and sensory integrated movement.” – Dr. Joel Seedman
2. Offset Loading
Offset loading is exactly how it sounds, you load more weight or place more tension on one side of the body. This can be performed using various equipment and even body weight.
Offset loading exposes imbalances and helps eliminate them as it forces the weaker side to catch up to the stronger. It also results in extremely high core activation as you are resisting rotation and lateral flexion. In addition, it requires the lifter to move in a slow, controlled manner so both sides move in unison which improves mechanics, and is effective for hypertrophy training.
You can apply this technique to almost every lift. For example, the dumbbell chest press. The heavier dumbbell should be 2-3x as heavy as the lighter dumbbell. Perform 2-4 sets of 3-5 repetitions. Repeat on other side.
You can also try barbell back squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses using this technique. Offset kettlebell or dumbbell carries are another option. If you find yourself without any equipment, 1-arm body rows using a door frame and single arm planks are other great options.
3. Unilateral Work
Unilateral exercises are single-leg or single-arm movements. They often get overlooked in training, which is unfortunate because they highly improve their bilateral counterparts.
Variations of lunges, 1-arm presses, and rows helps to isolate and correct muscle imbalances, improves coordination, uses core muscles, and aids in injury prevention and rehabilitation.
In addition when you train one side of the body, the opposite side is also stimulated. This is referred to as cross-education of the muscles, and is thanks to the nervous system. The brain pathways that are used for the primary unilateral exercise stimulate the same muscles on the opposite side of the body. Cross-education is greatest on lower body muscles and when eccentric (lengthening) contractions are used.
4. Eyes Closed Training
Most gyms have mirrors lining the walls, but individuals should rarely rely on them while training. Instead, try the eyes closed training technique as this teaches the lifter to rely more on kinesthetic awareness instead of sight.
It’s not necessary to perform your entire workout with your eyes closed, instead choose 1 or 2 exercises and really hone in on the muscle(s) you are working. It may be necessary to reduce the reps and/or sets, but you should be able to handle 80-90% of your typical load.
This method is an effective way to clean up technique and movement patterns as faulty alignment and poor posture is quickly corrected. It forces the lifter to look inwards allowing them to better tap into their mind muscle connection. If you have never tried this before, try it while performing basic bodyweight exercises before adding external load.