Isometric exercises are very basic but implementing them into your workouts can really help you gain more strength. But before we dive in, let’s lay some groundwork. The principle behind isometric exercises is the contraction of muscles without the use of movement. Ex: pushing as hard as you can against a wall that doesn’t move. Strength and definition can definitely increase with these type of exercises, but a few tweaks are needed.
Muscle Definition(Tone) And The Nervous System
For those who are new here, we can’t move forward on isometrics until we understand how to increase the definition of a muscle while increasing strength. Lifting heavy weights for low reps with ample rest tones the muscle and adds strength without adding size. Learning to activate the mind-muscle link during your lifts will deliver strong nerve impulses to the muscles without actually breaking muscle fiber. Training in this manner primes the nervous system. Over time your muscles will look like they are in a slightly flexed state while resting. Do you see the connection??
Mind To Muscle Activation To Allow Even Heavier Weights
To fully understand the mind to muscle link to weightlifting, let’s use the bicep curl for example. When people are holding a dumbbell, their first reaction is to throw the weight up without thinking about it. You are going to be smarter while making your workouts more efficient. Instead, squeeze the dumbbell hard and increase the tension in your bicep BEFORE you lift the weight. So you will be squeezing and increasing tension until the weight is moved upward. Not only will you be lifting in a safer manner, but you will surprise yourself with increased strength gains from week to week. The more you “think” about activating the muscles before you perform a rep(in any exercise) the more a “lagging” muscle will develop.
Heavy Weight Lifting Isn’t The Only Way To Add Strength
As time goes by you will ultimately get better at contracting the muscle hard when lifting heavy weights so ultimately strength will increase. But what about increasing strength without using heavy weights? Even if you don’t have access to heavy weights, you can actually get stronger with lighter weights by “acting” as if they were super heavy. This goes back to the idea of squeezing and contracting your muscles as hard as you can before the lift, then maintaining the tension during the lift. What about no weights? If you don’t have weights at all, this is where isometrics come into play.
(Isometric exercise at its finest)
Isometrics And Bodyweight Holds
You can effectively increase muscle definition and strength with isometrics as long as you have the mind to muscle link down. Isometric exercises do a very good job of contracting the muscles hard without using weights. Planks are my favorite isometric “non-movement” move because they sculpt and strengthen the abs very well without adding bulk. You can also perform various exercises in this manner without weights. Let’s use pushups for example. You can effectively make pushups a lot harder by adding static holds. Holding your body ½ way down in a flexed position for around 30 seconds will contract your muscles without any movement. Now to increase the efficiency of these “holds” would be to concentrate on contracting the muscles as hard as you can.
Isometric Holds With Partial Reps To Get Through Sticking Points
Isometric holds can be very useful with the use of weights as well. Static/partial reps come in handy if you are having difficulty pushing through strength plateu’s. Mixing in static holds in your rep scheme can help you through these difficult sticking points. Let’s use the bench press for example. A full rep would consist of the lockout position(2-6 inches or so) and then squeezing and contracting your muscles to slowly lift the weight in a controlled manner until it reaches the max height. So what you do is repeat the same process but stop once the weight moves, which is usually in the lockout position. Start over again and wait about 1-2 seconds and repeat. Doing this for about 3-4 reps(partial) and pausing for about a second between each rep will over time enable you to increase the amount of weight being used for full reps.
Note: Partial reps are effective but limit them for a couple times a year with a duration of around four weeks. Not all exercises can be done in this fashion nor does it work for every body part. Also, be smart and put up the “safety” bars if you decide to do this with the bench press.
Finish Off Your Exercises With Full Reps
It’s a good idea to finish off your partial reps with full motion lifts. You want to make sure you don’t compromise flexibility. The cool thing is that you will notice the previous weight will feel much lighter in your hands.
Note: If this post is a little confusing, please let me know and I can try and explain a little better. It makes sense in my mind what I am trying to explain but it can be difficult to put it down for others to read.