Isometric training 101


Have you ever failed a rep in the same position over and over again? Like why won’t my body just work for me here?!

Getting stuck in a lift is no fun. Especially when it’s the limiting factor from you hitting a PR in the lift. There are many potential reasons for missing a lift, but if your technique is pretty dialed in then it is most likely a strength issue in that particular range of motion. 

Luckily there are many training techniques to eliminate specific weaknesses like this and one of the best ways is by incorporating isometric protocols into your training. 

Isometric, as the name implies means “relating to or denoting muscular action in which tension is developed without contraction of the muscle.” Boom. Science.

That means you train the muscle without moving it. If you have a weakness. It means holding the muscle in an isometric contraction at (or around) the range of motion you want to improve.

Seem pretty simple right? It is!

You can use isometrics in the middle of your movement as well. You can incorporate a pause during the eccentric (lowering) of the weight, at the end range of motion to eliminate the stretch reflex, or during the concentric (raising) to increase muscle fiber recruitment.

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you’d like to act.”

Bob Dylan

From there you can apply all different kinds of techniques depending on if your goal is to improve strength, hypertrophy, or activation. 

Isometrics can really help you build maximal strength. Target the position that you want to improve, your “sticking point”. Perform a ten second isometric hold at this position with a moderate to heavy load. The goal is to stay locked in this position to increase motor unit recruitment and stimulate muscle fiber growth. The body adapts to the stressors placed on it. By stressing a weak point the body goes to work to make it stronger.

You could apply this to a sticking point on your squat or bench press. It could be performing a deficit deadlift and hover the bar at ground level to develop pulling strength from the floor.

If you are trying to build muscle isometrics can work for you. That includes the booty muscles too ladies! (and guys?)  When performing a lift you want to pick rep scheme that you know that you can hit while perform an isometric contraction at the top of each rep. This works great for movements like chinups, dips, or glute bridges. Perform a 3-5 second contraction at the top of each rep where you contract your muscles as hard as you can before lowering down for the next rep.

Let’s say you have weak glutes or have difficulty activating them for a lift. Increasing time under tension with longer duration isometric holds is one of the best ways to improve recruitment. A good example of this would be a single leg glute bridge isometric hold. Hold the lockout position at the top of the hold for :30-60 seconds focusing on maintaining full hip extension. You will find your backside burning and shaking real fast! This can be a great warmup protocol for movements that you have trouble getting warm for.

Now that you have learned a little bit about isometric training think about how or where you could apply them to address an area you’ve been wanting to improve!

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