The Benefits of Isometric Exercise

Isometric exercise may help rehabilitate injured joints

Isometric exercise, while limited in application and benefits, can be employed in certain situations. One area would be the rehabilitation of injured or repaired joints or limbs. If used properly, isometrics can be useful in returning strength and range of motion.  Of cours, this should be implemented only at the direction of a qualified physical therapist or athletic trainer. Some personal trainers could also help with this, but would only do so under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

Another specific use of isometrics is overcoming sticking points in weight lifting. For example:

An athlete or weight lifter wants to improve their efficiency in the bench press. Perhaps to increase in their one rep maximum lift, or to overcome a failure point, while attempting a desired number of repetitions. To employ isometrics in this situation, a bench and a power rack are used to improve strength, at the point of failure, or sticking point. The safety bars are set at the proper height (your sticking point) and usually an empty Olympic bar is pressed up isometrically and held for a pre-determined length of time against the safety bars, perhaps 5 to 10 seconds. Hand-spacing and form should duplicate exactly the lift that is being trained for. Note: The athlete should continue breathing normally for the duration of the exercise.  After completion of the exercise, the pressure is slowly released and the bar is lowered to its starting position. Then the exercise is repeated for the desired number of sets. To get the most out of your efforts, do not do the isometric training on the same day that you do the lifts you are trying to improve.

Power racks are also useful in improving bar curls, all angles of bench presses, and of course squats. Just set the safety bars at the proper height and engage the lifting bar against them to overcome sticking points. 

Isometrics can be used on other exercise equipment by the use of special limiting straps, which are set at the length needed for your particular application. Cables or ropes of desired lengths can also be anchored, and suitable cable attachments can be used to duplicate many of the exercises on weight stack machines. Simply attach the desired bar and employ the selected isometric exercise.

The above suggestions are using isometric training on the concentric part of the exercise. Isometrics could be applied to the eccentric movement also.

 Using the bench press as an example again, try this:  using an assistant, determine where your point of failure is during the lift (usually in the concentric part of the movement.)  Using submaximal weights, press the bar up, then slowly lower to your pre-determined point of failure. This is where your spotter comes in. Have the spotter tell you when to hold, and then count off the number of seconds, again 5 to 10, or maybe more. You will need to concentrate and focus.  Remember to breathe.  When completed, return the bar to the rack, with the spotter's assistance. Repeat for the number of sets you have selected.  You may want to try this in conjunction with the static lifts in the eccentric phase as explained above.

Since all-out training is normally discouraged, the use of isometric training would be used very rarely.  But when it is needed, it can be quite useful in helping athletes reach their goals, and enable them to take their training to the next level.

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