Isometric training isn’t new, it’s been around for years. However, with all the new gadgets, gizmos, equipment and sports research, I feel it’s a long lost type of very effective training. It’s especially great for those who are injured, have arthritis, or working back from an injury Isometrics offer extraordinary results in muscle size and strength and can be achieved in a very short period of time.
To understand how this type of training is effective, you need to understand a little bit about muscles fibers and how muscles contract. A muscle contains two types of muscle fibers: slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers. Slow twitch is responsible for the strength and endurance of a muscle. Fast-twitch is responsible for the speed of muscular contraction. Muscle contractions are defined according to how they lengthen or respond to force. The four types of muscular contractions are concentric, eccentric, isotonic and isometric. Isometric exercises or training is commonly used in strength training and relates to exercises where there is no range of motion and no visible movement of the joint or muscle. Because the muscle does not move under force, its length does not change.
Muscle fibers are intermingled, so it’s impossible to isolate out a single fiber type during a muscular contraction. All of the fibers contract together, known as the all or nothing principle, though at times one of the fibers may be dominant during the contraction.
Fiber types are arranged into groups known as motor units. A motor unit is defined as one motor neuron and all the muscle fibers it supplies. There are many motor units within the overall muscle. Initially, only some of the motor units become active. As the demand on the muscle increases, more and more motor units are recruited to help support this demand.
With isometric training, a muscle opposes some form of resistance and is contracted to a certain length and then held for a certain period of time, usually 10 seconds or more.
There are a few benefits to isometric training. First, by forcing your muscles to hold a position for acertain length of time, your body starts to recruit more and more motor units to help maintain this contraction. Second, the motor units that are recruited are forced to contract continuously, time after time, until your muscles achieve a state of maximum intensity safely and effectively. The end result is that the entire muscle matures very quickly.
Isometrics are performed by mimicking a pulling or pushing movement. They are held in a static position. You can adjust the intensity by how long or when you add an isometric hold. One example you may want to try, after performing an exercise (with movement) to just before you reach failure, then hold that exercise, in an active position to complete failure. Another example, get out the stopwatch and pick one or a number of exercises. Holding them with weight, or without for 10 seconds to 5 minutes. You have total freedom to play with isometrics. You can integrate one or two into a current workout, or, create an entire workout of ONLY isometrics. Chart your progress and enjoy the enhancements!