Isometric Training - What is it & What are The Benefits
Recruiting almost all my motor units below whilst practicing the Isometric Crucifix Hold/Pose
If you've been following for a while you will know my exclusive 5-pillar work smarter system is all about building REAL usable strength and conditioning. This 'balanced' 5-pillar system is what hundreds of ordinary guys and girls have used to build a strong toned pain free body FAST
One of the 5-pillars is STRENGTH (physical AND Mental strength and resilience) but as mentioned it's about real usable strength (functional) that has a bigger cross over to everyday activities and sports unlike traditional weight lifting and bodybuilding (that's for the bodybuilders) and part of this balance of strength we incorporate some ISOMETRIC training
Unlike traditional strength training, where our muscles usually perform eccentric and concentric contractions through a range of motion. A concentric muscle contraction is a type of muscle activation that increases tension on a muscle as it shorten as opposed to lengthening for eccentric.
Isometric training is done in a static position. Think about pushing against an immovable object, such as a wall or holding a position of muscle tension without moving, like a plank, a wall sit/squat. Typically, many isometric movements are done using body weight, see picture above of my Olympic Ring Crucifix Isometric Holds - Not quite there yet but good to have a challenge, but athletes can still incorporate weighted isometric positions into their training.
What are the benefits of isometric training?
When you activate all motor units this will only increase 'strength'
Famed strongman Alexander Zass credited much of his great strength to his isometric training as a prisoner during World War 1 he would push on the bars and chains that held him captive and quickly saw benefits. Not long after, he started promoting this method of training through his mail order courses. One of the main benefits of isometric training is that the body is able to activate nearly all the available motor units - something that is usually very difficult to do
Motor units are comprised of a motor neuron and skeletal muscle fibers—groups of motor units work together to coordinate the contractions of a single muscle. In fact, in 1953 two German researchers, Hettinger and Muller, studied the impact of isometrics on strength, concluding that a single daily isometric exercise that utilized two-thirds of a person’s maximum effort exerted for six seconds at a time increased strength by 5% for up to 10 weeks. Isometric Training can help to improve body control - While overcoming and yielding isometrics have excellent application in weightlifting, these methods are less advantageous for movement patterns that require full body control and awareness. However, isometrics can still be used to improve these areas. An athlete should look to incorporate gymnastics-based holds (such as handstand holds and L-sits) to achieve similar levels of muscle activation as can be achieved with overcoming and yielding isometrics, while also improving body control and awareness and core activation.
Above - L-Sit practice whilst balancing on 2 kettlebells. You will soon start to shake all over and have to focus your energy on maintaining a tight abdomen to keep yourself rigid and in good position. Isometric training also improves flexibility - A fantastic side benefit of isometric training is that it can help to improve your flexibility. Think about how you try to improve your hip mobility for squats.
One of the drills you may perform is simply squatting down to full depth and holding that position, focusing on driving your knees out while keeping your chest up. No doubt you will feel a great stretch in your groin, hamstrings, quadriceps and the surrounding musculature of the hip joint.
Well guess what?
These muscles are contracted and stretched in order to keep you in that position and stop you from falling to the ground. Your body is acting as the resistance, and you are technically performing an isometric hold.
See below picture taken from the wake up warrior squat (strength/mobility) challenge -
OR why not try the wall squat (for support) hold and attempt to build up to 30/60 seconds? Picture below -
Also give this Glute/Hip bridge hold a try for 30-60 seconds, below -
Lift and squeeze (activate) your glutes (backside) keeping bodyweight on heels and shoulders whilst keeping consistency throughout now continue to hold for 30-60 seconds to also wake up lazy glutes - common for back pain etc
Above - Here I am performing an isometric pull up hold, using my door, if you don't have a pull up bar you can view the 'how to do a door pull up' video on my YouTube Channel.
Lift body-weight until chin is above bar/door and build up to 30 seconds holds Mel Siff notes in his book Supertraining that:
“Isometric training also produces significant strength increase over a range of up to as much as 15 degrees on either side of the training angle. Moreover, as with all strength measurements, there is a specific force or torque versus joint angle curve for each type of muscle contraction, so that it is highly unlikely that a strength increase would be confined to a very precise angle and nowhere else in the range.”
Essentially, Siff is saying that the strength that’s produced at any particular joint angle has a 15-degree carryover to any position above or below the area that’s being worked. In other words, it is more likely than not that the strength gained at one joint angle will carry over to others. Given that you can perform isometrics with little equipment and a relatively short time frame, you’d think they’d be far more popular in the training world. So why aren’t they mainstream? For starters, there’s no denying the commercial aspect. With isometrics there’s no valuable equipment to sell. Secondly, there has been some selective use of the science involved in isometric research. Many will cite the potential drawbacks such as decreases in coordination and speed of movement or decreases in muscle elasticity. So like all good training systems, you need to know how and when to apply isometrics and how to overcome any shortfalls because any potential decreases in muscle elasticity and speed of movement are easy to overcome with the use of mobility, relaxation and stretching techniques so AGAIN its all about training BALANCE!
We incorporate the correct balance within our 5-pillar system, including isometric, for building and sustaining a strong, flexible, athletic, pain free body fast without hours of exercise and boring diets
Grab your free warrior wellness guide to learn more: https://anybodyspt.lpages.co/wake-up-warrior-free-guide/
Anton 'Isometric' Hedges Train for Purpose & Train Safe and with some Isometric exercises ('',)
Research Sources - Boxlifemagazine, Breaking Muscle