Part 4 of 4 – Isometrics
Part 1 – Muscle Contraction Types
Part 2 – Weight Lifting
Part 3 – Plyometrics
Part 4 – Isometrics
In this section, I’m discussing several different types of isometric exercises and define which types of muscle contractions are involved in the exercise, and why that exercise is important to overall athletic performance.
Isometric training exercises are unique for several reasons. First, they are the only type of exercise where the type of muscle contraction is identified by name. Many times we hear people wanting to compare plyometric training with isometric training, and weight training with isometric training, but this not reasonable.. This is because you are trying to compare a type of exercise (weightlifting and/or plyometrics and/or cardio, etc.) with a type of muscle contraction.
Weightlifting and plyometrics, as well as cardio exercises for that matter, primarily involve concentric and eccentric muscle contractions. Isometric exercises, have isometric contractions, which as you may already know, are a type of muscle contraction where muscles undergo tension but do not change length in any direction.
Isometric exercises are also unique in that they are generally much safer than other types of exercises. Sometimes this limits their effectiveness, while other times it enhances it. And, until recently, many people associated isometric training with weights only as the resistance aid, and this also minimized their effectiveness.
With new resistance tools and more creative exercise strategies, isometric training is demonstrating every day that it can target those hard-to-get-at muscles very effectively and that other strategies simply cannot.
But for the purposes of this article, we are only going to describe you some of the age-old isometric exercises that your parents were probably taught. The modern day version, with resistance bands, and unique athlete positioning will have to wait!
Isometric Biceps Curl with Weight
Take a 20 pound weight and perform a biceps curl. Hold a position halfway between the repetition for 10 seconds. The length of your biceps muscle doesn’t change during this time. A force is still being applied.
Push against a wall for 10 seconds. The wall doesn’t move and neither does the length of the muscles in your arms pushing against it. Again, a force is still being applied.
Get on a weightlifting bench and grab hold of the bar with whatever weight you are comfortable with. Lower the weight to a point in your repetition where you feel you are at your weakest. Hold the bar at that position for 7-10 seconds. The bar doesn’t move and neither do the muscles in your arms and chest. A force is still being applied.
Isometric exercises have been around for a long time and so it is nothing new. Many extraordinary results in muscle size and strength have been achieved in a very short period of time with this type of training. However, because of the number of new training products and techniques out on the market today, its use by athletes is often overlooked.
As we stated in the first section, no training program would be considered complete without incorporating, to some extent, each of the three different types of muscle contractions mentioned thus far.
Plyos and weights are great because they involve eccentric and concentric contractions. They are extremely beneficial for size and strength, and in some cases this added strength transfers over into speed.
Since many athletes are already doing these types, they are probably hitting plateaus because they are still missing the third type of muscle contraction, isometric.
When they apply the strategy of isometrics with the resistance band to their existing routines, the completion of all three contraction types within an exercise program has an exponential effect on their performance, especially improved speed and quickness!