Preliminary Isometric Tension Improves the Effectiveness of Dynamic Work by up to 20%
By: Hristo Hristov
Are you looking for a simple and effective way to increase your strength? This article will show you how to incorporate isometrics into your training regime to increase the strength of your favorite lifts.
Soviet research, dating back to the sixties of the 20th century, points out that isometric training preceding dynamic work may increase its effectiveness by up to 20%. This is called the "immediate after effect" of isometric training. When the reverse sequence of training was tested (dynamic work preceding isometric work), results actually deteriorated.
According to Mel Siff's "Supertraining", the after effect occurs immediately after the preliminary isometric tension. Strength continues to increase and peaks between the 10th to 20th minute. To maximize the strength boost, I recommend performing isometric holds 15-17 minutes before the hardest sets of dynamic work. Doing so will synchronize the strength after-effect peak with the hardest part of the training session. Example: consider a training session that consists of high-volume Bench Presses and Deadlifts. Iso-Bench-Presses should be performed 15 minutes before the hardest sets of Bench Presses and Iso-Deadlifts should be performed 15 minutes before the hardest sets of Deadlifts.
The intensity of the isometrics should be carefully selected for maximum results. Tensing at 50% of the max intensity should produce the greatest strength gains. Elite athletes may perform better at higher intensities.
One last question remains: how to select the most performance-enhancing isometric position for a given dynamic exercise? Here you have two choices: the isometric drill should train either the weakest position of your lift, or the position where the involved muscles are maximally stretched (sometimes your weakest position is your maximally stretched one). This recommendation has to do with the long term strength effect of isometrics. It makes sense to strengthen the weakest position in a lift, because a chain is as strong as its weakest link. Improving the strength of a muscle in its most lengthened position, has a distinct strength carryover to shorter muscle lengths. Therefore isometric training at stretched positions, should improve the strength through the whole range of motion!
The training protocol that I have mostly used is 3 sets x 10 sec isometric holds at 50% of the max effort with 10-30 seconds rest in between.
Let's give specific examples of isometric exercises. For the bench press, load the bar with 50% of your max, lower it 1-3 inches above chest level, and hold for 10 seconds. Rest 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. For the deadlift, simply pull on the bar with 50% effort, without moving it at all. For the squat put 50% of your max, squat down to the lowest position you train, and sit there for 10 seconds. Don't forget to push your feet into the ground to activate all the squatting muscles. Imagine that you are squatting up, but don't move.
Here's the overall protocol again:
- perform 3 sets of 10 sec isometric holds at 50% intensity
- the isometric exercise should train the weakest or the maximally stretched position of the corresponding dynamic drill
- the isometric exercise should be executed 15-17 minutes before the hardest set of the corresponding dynamic drill
You may find that during the isometric holds you start sweating :] That's because they are a great way to warm up the whole body. You get a dynamic strength boost + a great warm up.
Preliminary isometric tension has these three advantages:
- it warms up the body
- it has an immediate positive effect on your dynamic strength
- it has a long term positive effect on your lifts
You can utilize preliminary iso tension on your max testing days. Here is the scenario: you are testing your Bench Press max. Load 50% of your projected max. Perform 3 sets of 10 sec holds in the position where the bar is 1-3 inches above chest level (rest 10-30 sec between sets). In the next 15 minutes, perform 2-5 sets of 1-2 reps gradually increasing the weight to around 90%. Example:
- Rest 3 minutes, 2x50%
- Rest 3 minutes, 2x70%
- Rest 3 minutes, 1x80%
- Rest 3 minutes, 1x85%
- Rest 3 minutes, 1x90%, Rest 3 minutes
Psyche up, and go for your projected max. Good luck.
Hristo Hristov owns X3MSoftware, a company specializing in developing diet and fitness tracking software. Hristo has a degree in Computer Science and passion for strength training. Hristo has designed and written Fitness Assistant, X3MSoftware's leading software product. Download your demo at http://www.x3msoftware.com
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The Power of Stretching - Dave Snape
muscles ache from a good stretch. This is quite
normal and is part of the process. Stretching has
seemingly been with us and particularly with athletes
since the beginning of time.
A very key point to good stretching is to hold the
stretch for at least seventeen seconds. This is a
pearl of wisdom gleaned from a ballet teacher a few
years back. She said that any stretch under 17
seconds was just not effective.
The 17 second rule is exceeded in the high intensity
Bikram's yoga where stretches are held for about 30
seconds. Don't forget the high level of heat that is
used in Bikram's to extract that last little bit of
stretch out of your muscles. An interesting twist
is not necessary to gain benefits from stretching.
it can't hurt, right?
So what kind of benefits can you expect from
stretching? That's an easy one. Have you ever seen
movie, Blood Sport? Did you know that Frank Dux could
truly stretch his body to the extreme. The actor that
played him was quite elastic as well.
Great elasticity is also something you might see in
well trained Spetsnaz (Russian) agents. They often
out with Russian kettlebells too. They are for
strength gains and the ability to withstand ballistic
Why are stretching and flexibility considered
to these people? Stretching gives one the ability to
have explosive power available at one's fingertips
without the need to warm up. Of course most of us are
not martial artists or agents. But, you'll be happy
know there are plenty of other benefits.
Let me give you an example. After learning to sit in
the full lotus position for long periods of time, my
ankles became very flexible. One day I was walking
along and my left foot fell into a pothole. This
pushed my ankle sideways to about 90 degrees from
Amazingly, this didn't even hurt, not one bit. If my
ankle hadn't been so flexible, I may have suffered a
sprained ankle. At the very least, it would have hurt
Key point: stretching helps you to avoid injuries.
Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon or
ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically
Stretching actually grows the ligaments, tendons and
muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over
Check with your physician before undertaking any type
of exercise, including stretching.
Here is some good
instructional material on stretching:
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