If you want to get results from your training, you should understand how reps work and not just do them. Just performing reps will create strength. However, maximizing your strength is a different story. For this reason, it is essential to know how the isometric part of your rep will boost your strength, speed, and explosiveness.
What is a Rep
A rep consists of an eccentric, isometric, and concentric motion.
The eccentric lowering phase is called the yielding or generation phase. This phase is where energy gets produced. This phase dictates and determines how much concentric power will be created.
The isometric phase is the absorption and transition phase. If your isometric strength cannot absorb the eccentric energy produced, it will dissipate in the isometric phase, and you will lose concentric power and speed.
The concentric phase is the upward release phase. The first two phases together create the energy for concentric power.
How much force you produce in the eccentric phase gets absorbed in the isometric phase. What gets absorbed isometrically gets transferred concentrically.
Are you confused? You need not worry. Here is a visual for you.
Look at it like this; if you hold a basketball in front of you and drop it, it will bounce back up off the court. The ball falling to the court is an eccentric motion. The ground is the isometric phase. And the bounce back up is concentric. That is similar to how a rep works.
Now let me dive in deeper. If you slam the basketball against the ground, the ball will bounce super high into the air. The speed and force generated from your eccentric motion and the strength of isometric absorption determine how high the ball will bounce.
Now, if you change the isometric strength, let’s say, the court to sand, when you slam the ball into the sand, the ball will not bounce because the isometric phase is not strong. So, therefore, the concentric phase is not effective. Or, if you bounce the ball in the dirt, it will not bounce so high, no matter how hard you slam it into the dirt. So, bouncing it on the court makes the ball bounce faster and higher.
Bouncing the ball off the ground, sand, or dirt will absorb force differently. Like the strength of your isometric phase, allowing you to do more reps, move faster, or be more explosive.
The takeaway is that isometric strength is the most critical part of your training and the secret to quickly enhancing your strength potential. People often suffer injury in eccentric isometric motion because their isometric strength is weak, like sand.
What is Isometric Training
Isometric training is a force generated against an immovable object. For instance, when you are pushing against a wall or trying to pull a truck. The other way is by training the isometric phase of your exercise, for instance, holding the mid-bottom part of your squat for a particular number of seconds.
Using isometrics in your strength training routine is excellent for strengthening your whole body and a muscle’s specific range of motion. Isometrics lets you train at any angle or range possible.
Benefits of Isometrics
There are many excellent benefits to isometrics.
- Improve flexibility because of the PNF response in the isometric movement. PNF means when you apply resistance to a stretch, it improves flexibility instantly.
- Synchronize your muscles and nervous system to fire simultaneously from increased force production.
- Teach muscles to absorb force.
- Essential for plyometric training to develop speed.
- Help overcome your weak links and sticking points in a particular part of a range of motion.
- Enhance the capacity and capability of your nervous system, which improves endurance.
- Strengthen postural muscles and improves alignment. It also strengthens joint stability.
- They are great for preventing injury and are excellent at resolving neck or back tension or pain.
In addition, another excellent benefit is isometric training strengthens your tendons and ligaments. Tendons and ligaments respond best to weight bearing, time under tension, and isometric training rather than performing a regular rep. This is because they become stronger by absorbing force, precisely what they are supposed to do. But it will not happen if you train speed.
How to Train the Isometric Phase
There are many ways to train isometric positions. The traditional way is a plank. Another way is pushing against a wall. These are good ways to train your whole body isometrically. However, you can train different ranges of motion in your strength exercises. This is more beneficial for sports and strength-specific exercises.
What is great about using isometrics in different ranges of your motion is that your strength develops 15 degrees above and below the isometric point. For this reason, you only need to do 1-2 positions, but three work even better! For example, during your squat, you can hold the bottom position, the ¼ position, and then the top. Or just hold the bottom position.
Isometric Training Using Repetitions
Using your five-rep max, perform a 5-second slow eccentric motion. Then, hold the isometric phase for 6 seconds. Then, come up fast concentrically.
You can complete a program using isometric training in all your strength exercises this way for just a few weeks. Or do every other set out of your 4 or 5 sets.
The purpose is to get your nervous system to generate a high level of force and synchronize it with your muscles to absorb the force, not dissipate it, so both systems work simultaneously.
Strict Isometric Exercises without Reps
You never work with 100% effort during a full range of motion. The hardest part of your motion is the lower to middle part of the motion. This point is the isometric position that produces the greatest amount of force. So, you want to begin here.
As you move the weight above the midline, the force of the movement begins to get easier to the start position. And that is another added benefit here. To enhance your strength, you can generate and maximize isometric force in the mid to top phases.
Use a cable machine, smith machine, squat rack, or resistance bands to create different ranges of motion for isometric training. You need to make the bar or band immovable so you can pull or push as hard as possible.
At the bottom of the eccentric movement, push or pull it concentrically against the immovable bar as hard as you can for 6-10 seconds.
At the mid-phase, push or pull as hard as possible for 6-10 seconds.
Three inches below your lockout position, push or pull as hard as possible for 6-10 seconds.
Do this for your back rows, bench presses, lat pulldowns, shoulder presses, deadlifts, squats, calf raise, etc.
Full Body Pull
Set the bar below waist level and pull it up as hard as possible, doing a calf raise simultaneously.
Full Body Push
Set the bar above your head with extended arms so you can use your whole body to isometrically push it up as hard as possible, doing a calf raise simultaneously.
With isometric training, the sky is the limit. You can even work the motions eccentrically, alternating pulling and pushing positions. You will see results instantly, and if not, very quickly.