Eccentric Accentuated Leg Training for Functional Strength and Size
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
Research has proven time and again that eccentric overload is one of the most potent forms of training not only for building incredible levels of functional strength and hypertrophy but also for reducing risk of injury. While it’s fairly easy to apply this concept to various upper body movements (e.g. partner assisted negatives on bench press) this can be tricky to apply to lower body strength training, particularly compound movements. That’s because performing supramaximal squats, deadlifts, lunges, and hinges can be quite daunting and oftentimes semi risky. It’s for this very reason I’ve written several articles highlighting the implementation of the Power Rack Eccentric Potentiation Protocol (PREP) and how to apply it to barbell squats and other compound lifts.
However, one other unique method I frequently incorporate with my athletes to safely and effectively apply eccentric overload to lower body compound movements such as squats, lunges and deadlifts is the BANA. The BANA (bilateral assisted negative accentuated) method also known as the eccentric accentuated 2:1 method (i.e. up with 2, down with 1) is one of my favorite eccentric overload methods. Not only does it produce incredible gains in functional strength and hypertrophy, it also very effectively targets each limb individually during the eccentric portion of the lift.
Essentially what you’re doing is performing the concentric phase of the lift with 2 limbs and the eccentric phase with 1 limb thereby providing greater eccentric overload during that eccentric or negative movement. Unfortunately, this technique is often limited to machines (i.e. leg extensions, leg curls, and leg press) especially when it comes to lower body training. However by strategically applying this method to the biomechanical drop rep protocol (similar to biomechanical drop sets only the adjustment happens mid rep rather than mid set) we can just as effectively apply this method to lower body compound movements. Here’s what I mean.
We can essentially break down lower body movements particularly squat and deadlift-related exercises into 3 categories namely single leg squats, single leg supported squats (i.e. split stance and kick stand squats) and, finally, traditional bilateral squats and deadlifts. By categorizing these into tiers of movements based on level of difficulty we can make several inferences regarding the loading of each movement in comparison to the others.
For instance most lifters can handle at least 25-30% more total loading on traditional bilateral squats and deadlifts in comparison to their split stance and kickstand counterparts. Furthermore, most individuals can also handle at least 25-30% more total loading on split stance and kickstand movements in comparison to single leg squats and single leg deadlifts.
Additionally, most individuals can handle 25-30% more loading on the eccentric phase of an exercise than they can on the concentric phase.
Once we fully comprehend these various components we can easily apply the BANA eccentric accentuated 2:1 to most lower body movements. Simply chose a movement that’s 25-30% stronger on the concentric phase (i.e. bilateral squat) while simultaneously selecting a unilateral movement that’s 25-30% more difficult on the eccentric phase. In other words each repetition will be a biomechanical drop rep where the eccentric and concentric phases of the movement are biomechanically adjusted to produce maximal muscular overload.
Besides producing extreme eccentric overload, an added bonus of these is that they also provide a very knee friendly method for performing single leg squats. Single leg squats are notorious for being tough on the knee joint. However the knee tension is predominately created from the concentric phase of the movement, not the eccentric phase. In fact, the eccentric phase is typically quite therapeutic on the knees not to mention the rest of the body. Fortunately the BANA method resolves this issue altogether as single leg squatting is only applied to the eccentric phase, not the concentric.
Although there are near limitless combinations of BANA squat exercises, here are some of my favorite variations.
Deadstop Lunge to Deadstop Anderson squat
Applying the BANA eccentric accentuated 2:1 method to lunges is quite simple as shown in the video.
Essentially what you’re doing is performing a supramaximal dead-stop eccentric lunge followed by an explosive dead-stop Anderson squat. To perform these, set the safety pins so you can reach a 90 degree position on the lunge, then select a load that’s approximately 20-25% of your maximal split squat/lunge weight. Perform the lunge/split squat in a slow and controlled fashion, gently allow the barbell to settle to the pins, adjust your body into a bilateral squat position, then squat the barbell back to the top position. Repeat this sequence for 1-4 reps per side.
In this particular scenario I’m performing the lunge with 405 pounds and Leslie is using 205 pounds which represents 20-25% more weight than each of us would use on a traditional barbell lunges and split squats. Besides crushing your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, this is one of the single most effective methods for improving your split stance and lunge strength. As an added bonus you’ll also be able to boost your squat power as you perform submaximal explosive dead-stop squats.
Single Leg Dead-Stop Squat with BANA 2:1 Method
One of the most simple yet effective ways to apply the BANA 2:1 method to leg training is by combining single leg and double leg barbell dead-stop squats as shown here by my awesome figure athlete Leslie Petch.
The pins will be set slightly higher than normal since single leg skater squats typically involve slightly more compact range of motion than traditional squats. Simply perform a controlled eccentric single leg barbell skater squat using approximately 20% more total load than you would typically handle on single leg squats. Once you gently reach the pins, shift your body into a bilateral squat position then simply squat the barbell back to the top in an explosive fashion. Several sets of 3-5 reps per leg will more than suffice for crushing your lower body while simultaneously providing a very low back friendly back squat variation.
Eccentric Accentuated BANA Kickstand Squats
Another great way to make use of the dead-stop bilateral assisted negative accentuated (BANA) squat method is by incorporating a kickstand squat. Simply perform a controlled supramaximal kickstand squat on the eccentric phase then reset at the pins and perform and explosive bilateral Anderson dead-stop squat. Here’s one of my bodybuilding athletes Ben Lai showing how it’s done.
The kickstand allows the athletes to reap similar benefits as single leg squats albeit with greater overload since balance won’t be as much of a limiting factor.
Eccentric Accentuated Barbell Back Squats
Although performing the BANA 2:1 method is very intuitive and fairly simple using the dead-stop method in a squat rack, the single leg squat to lunge/split squat is also very effective.
It takes a bit more practice as the lifter will need to have higher levels of motor control and body awareness. However it’s arguably more effective than the dead-stop method since it involves a degree of constant tension particularly in the stretched position as the lifter will need to hold a brief eccentric isometric single leg squat before moving into the split squat position. Here’s one of my awesome clients Erin English showing how it’s done with the single leg barbell back squat positioning. Be prepared for some serious lower body soreness throughout your quads, glutes and hamstrings as these are deceptively challenging. As an added bonus they’re also incredibly effective for improving balance and lower body stability not to mention full body motor control.
Eccentric Accentuated Front Squats
Similar to the back squat setup shown above, front squats are also very conducive for performing the bilateral assisted negative accentuated (BANA) eccentric accentuated 2:1 method. Here’s Leslie demonstrating it as she performs a slow and deliberate single leg eccentric isometric front squat before seamlessly transitioning into a stronger front lunge position on the concentric phase.
These are absolutely brutal on the quads. Additionally this is a great way to overcome the common pitfalls associated with heavy front squats (i.e. wrist, hand, and shoulder discomfort) since the total load will be relatively light compared to traditional front squats yet the legs get absolutely pummeled.
Eccentric Accentuated Goblet Squats and Skater Squats
Similar to the barbell front squats above, the BANA protocol is also quite conducive for employing on single leg goblet skater squats as demonstrated by my NFL athletes Prince Iworah and CJ Okpalobi.
During the eccentric phase they overload the goblet skater squat movement unilaterally with an 80 pound dumbbell which represents significant overload for one leg (most likely more weight than what they would be able to comfortably handle on traditional single leg reps). Once they reach the bottom position and pause they pull the elevated leg down to the floor and essentially perform a modified lunge to drive them back to the top before repeating the cycle. This is also a great way to overcome the common goblet squat issue where the upper body and core fatigue before the legs. With this method the legs tend to fatigue well before the upper body and core.
Eccentric Accentuated BANA Trap Bar Exercises
The bilateral assisted negative accentuated (BANA) training protocol is not simply limited to squatting variations. By using the trap bar, we can easily apply the BANA method to deadlifts and variations thereof. Not only do these crush the quads, glutes, and hamstrings but they also target the upper back and postural muscles. Here are several of my favorite variations.
In the first clip I’m demonstrating a BANA trap bar variation by performing a traditional trap bar deadlift on the concentric phase then increasing the eccentric overload by performing the negative phase with a kickstand position.
The second variation shows my awesome client Leslie Petch performing the same drill but with a single leg squat on the eccentric phase rather than a kickstand position. This isolates each leg to an even greater extent. Finally, the third variation involves a trap bar BANA protocol that not only provides eccentric overload in a unilateral fashion but also produces constant tension on the lower body musculature. Rather than placing the trap bar back to the floor after completing the eccentric phase the lifter simply places their back leg to the floor and performs a modified split stance deadlift/squat. Several sets of 3-5 repetitions per leg will be more than enough to kick start newfound levels of lower body strength and functional mass.
Here’s another similar variation using the trap bar deadlift and eccentric lunge.
Eccentric Accentuated Smith Machine Squats
The Smith machine is also very conducive for performing the BANA eccentric accentuated 2:1 method. For many lifters, this would be an optimal way to familiarize themselves with the BANA method.
Although the athlete will be missing out on the lower body stabilization and balance components, it does make it easier to overload the movement.
Eccentric Accentuated BANA RDL’s and Hinges
The bilateral assisted negative accentuated (BANA) 2:1 method doesn’t have to be limited to the squat and split squat pattern. This same concept can also be applied to RDL’s and hinges. Simply select a load that represents approximately 70% of your RDL. Perform a traditional deadlift or RDL then perform a slow and controlled eccentric with the same load before placing the barbell back to the floor.
This should represent a load that’s approximately 25-30% of your max single leg RDL. Besides obliterating your entire backside including your glutes and hamstrings, this also does wonders for improving posture as well as hip mobility and stability.
Eccentric Accentuated Leg Curls
Want to annihilate your hamstrings? Try this brutal eccentric accentuated leg curl as shown by my awesome client and national figure competitor Leslie Petch. The slide-board band resisted single leg eccentric leg curl provides the ultimate combination for eccentrically overloading the posterior chain in a functional manner. With that said, this is a highly advanced variation that pulverizes the hamstrings as well as the glutes. Before progressing to this variation I recommend starting with single leg eccentric accentuated without bands, then double leg with bands then eventually the single leg eccentric band variation Leslie shows here.
I recommend performing several sets of 3-5 reps per side. I also recommend super-setting these with a single leg hip hinge exercise such as an eccentric isometric single leg RDL as these will help prevent cramping in the hamstrings which will likely occur form the intense contractions of the slide-board leg curl. On a side not, focus on keeping your toes perfectly straight as proper foot and ankle alignment is critical during glute bridges, legs curls, and hip thrusts as it maximizes muscle activation and minimizes compensation patterns and energy leaks.
Advanced Variations with Double Barbell Protocol
Here I have one of my awesome NPC national figure competitors Leslie Petch performing a very advanced eccentric isometric BANA 2:1 barbell suitcase squat as we prepare her for her upcoming competition next week. This particular deadlift squat variation has a few unique components.
First, the double barbell suitcase position provides a great full body stimulus not only to the legs but also to the upper body. Unfortunately when performing traditional bilateral variations, the grip & forearms tend to fatigue before the legs. When performing unilateral or BANA variation the legs tend to give out at a similar rate as the upper body & arms thereby making these an incredible full body functional strength & hypertrophy exercise.
You should be able to perform these with a load equivalent or greater than your bodyweight as Leslie shows here with two 65 lb barbells (total of 130 lbs) at a bodyweight of 125. The balance, stability, alignment, and motor control not to mention overall strength required to complete these is significant to say the least.
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