As always, STACK is here to keep your training fresh. Today we present isometric training—an extremely beneficial form of training that will challenge your muscles in a new way and boost your performance.
Three types of contractions take place in a muscle: concentric, eccentric and isometric. Concentric refers to the shortening of the muscle when you apply more force than the weight, such as when you curl a dumbbell. Eccentric refers to the lengthening of the muscle when the weight applies more force than you, such as when you lower the dumbbell. Isometric refers to a contraction held for an extended period of time, when you apply the same amount of force as the resistance. The muscle neither shortens nor lengthens but remains the same.
Sports performance specialist John Gaglione says, "Isometric contractions have a lot of merit because they teach an athlete to resist movement. Oftentimes in sports, athletes need to resist an opponent pulling or pushing them in a certain direction, and they must learn to stabilize their body in order to stay in a good position."
Think of an offensive lineman in football engaging a defender with the same force as his opponent. Or a basketball player blocking out before exploding up to grab a rebound. Or two wrestlers grappling on equal terms. Those are examples of isometric contractions during a contest.
You can add isometric training to your strength training workout simply by including a pause at the bottom of the Bench Press, or any lift. This forces you to control and stabilize the weight and helps develop explosiveness for the concentric phase. "By pausing in the bottom of a movement for a long period of time, any momentum built up during the eccentric phase of the lift is killed," says Gaglione. "The lifter is forced to have a much stronger concentric contraction...because he can't take advantage of [momentum]." Developing a stronger concentric contraction prepares you for situations where you're locked in with an evenly matched opponent and need a little more juice to power through.
According to personal trainer and wellness coach Kevin Rail on Livestrong.com, "When you first start doing isometric training, 10- to 30-second holds are sufficient. After you develop more strength, increase your holds accordingly. After you can hold an isometric contraction for 60 seconds with ease, then hold until failure."
When holding until failure, it's important to have a coach or teammate watching you. As your muscles begin to fatigue, proper form naturally begins to deteriorate. A partner can help you reduce the risk of injury.
Integrate the following isometric exercises (videos above) into your routine. They will help you develop the extra strength necessary to control your opponents. And don't forget to share your results by posting on our Facebook wall or tweeting @STACKMedia.
- Keep shoulders, hips and bar in a direct line
- Try to push your leg through the ground
Reps/Sets: 3x7 with a 10-second hold on each leg and 90 to 120 seconds of rest
Eddie Johnson Side Plank
- Keep back flat and body as straight as possible
- Don't let hips sag
Reps/Sets: 1x60 seconds each side
Eddie Johnson Plank
- Keep back and body as straight as possible
- Don't let hips sag
Sets/Reps: 1x60 seconds each side
- Lower into push-up position with elbows at 90-degree angle
- Hold this position for approximately 30 seconds
- 3x3 isometric holds
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