Growing up, we have all at least once fallen victim to the dreaded wall sit or front plank during PDHPE class as a measure of leg and core strength.

Whilst these are quick easy options for teachers/practitioners to use with their students/clients, this style of training can prove to be a game changer when it comes to overall sporting performance.

Before we get into that, you’re probably wondering, what is Isometric Training?

Let’s have a quick review of the types of muscle contractions:

  • Concentric contraction – activated muscles shorten throughout movement
    • Example: bicep curl during upwards phase
  • Eccentric contraction – activated muscles lengthen throughout movement
    • Example: bicep curl during downwards phase
Isometric Training

Simply put, an Isometric contraction occurs when there is a development of tension without noticeable shortening or lengthening of the muscle and/or major joint (i.e. knee, elbow).

The classic examples given above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the range of different exercises that can be performed in an Isometric manner in the hope of improving muscle tension and resiliency.

Yes, these movement aren’t as ‘sexy’ as your traditional strength training (TST) movements like squats and bench press, but there are many benefits to Isometric Training that you may not realise.

Why Isometrics Should Be Part of Your Toolbox

To make this an easier experience for you, I will briefly touch on the major benefits:

  • Isometrics do not require high levels of movement skill in comparison with TST, yet when done properly, maximum strength levels can climb rapidly at specific joint angles (e.g. ¼ Squat against safety pins)
  • Isometrics generally results in less training induced soreness levels in comparison to TST and thereby, less energy cost as well which can ultimately optimise recovery between sessions
  • Isometrics allow you to isolate your ‘limiting factor’ in major compound lifts by training key muscle groups at specific joint angles. This may be when you are at your deepest point in the squat or bench press
  • Isometrics offer options to those in rehab and can act as an analgesic effect (pain relief) rather than exacerbating it through TST

Types of Isometric Contractions

There are two main types of Isometrics:

  • Overcoming Isometrics:
    • Pushing or pulling an object that is immovable
    • Focuses on max strength development at specific joint angles
      •  Overloaded Barbell on Safety Pins or Inverting J-Hooks on Rack
  • Yielding Isometrics:
    • Holding an object for a specific amount of time
    • Focuses on muscular endurance at a specific joint angle
      • Barbell Loaded Split Squat

Disclaimer: Don’t think that I’m belittling TST. Those types of movement (dynamic movements that incorporate both eccentric and concentric contractions) remain the holy grail exercises for overall muscle strength and power development. IST can add some variety to your program to help expedite such adaptations.

Isometrics can also be used to prime the central nervous system before performing a power-based movement such as plyometrics.

By ‘waking up’ those higher threshold muscle fibres (type II), this may lead to an optimised expression of lower body power

Below are some examples of how an isometric-based exercise can be paired with a power-based movement:

A1. ¼ Pin Squat Isometric                                              3x8s                 100% Max Effort

A2. Concentric Jump                                                     3×4                  Max intent for height

B1. Pin Bench Press Isometric                                        3x6s               100% Max Effort

B2. Concentric Bench Press                                           3×5                 Max intent

C1. SL Weighted Hamstring Bridge Isometric             3x20s             Hold weight up

C2. SL Triple Hop for Distance                                        3×3                 Max intent for distance

If you found this article interesting, would like to know more or potentially look at training with us at Precision Athletica, please get in touch with our team including the author of this article Strength Coach – Jackson Williams.

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