Before Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone burst on the scene showing off their bodybuilding muscles, the biggest rage for exercising at home was isometric exercises.
In essence, isometrics are part of all bodybuilding or weightlifting exercises. You see, at the point where you can no longer push the barbell or dumbbell up… that becomes an isometric or static contraction.
An isometric contraction is nothing more than a movement where you apply pressure or resistance to an object that either resists back or doesn’t move.
Weightlifting Versus Isometrics
The reality is that Isometrics can actually give you a greater muscular contraction than what you would normally get from strength training or weightlifting.
The major advantage of using isometric exercises or a piece of isometric exercise equipment is that the workout doesn’t take as long as a traditional weightlifting program. This also makes isometrics very portable because they can be performed just about anywhere. If you don’t have a great deal of time, a great deal of space, or a lot of money to spend then isometric exercise is the ticket for you.
You can forget about expensive home gyms like the Bioforce, Bowflex or even the Total Gym.
Disadvantages of Iso-Exercises
For example, it can raise your blood pressure if you hold your breath and most people tend to do just that.
This may cause your blood pressure to become elevated and this could cause some problems. It is essential than, that during any exercise movement that you breathe regularly.
Isometrics only works one individual muscle group. Therefore, the best way to perform these exercise movements would be to come at them from different positions or angles. This will give you the same effect as lifting weights because you’re using a full range of motion.
In spite of the drawbacks, isometrics can still be beneficial when done during your workout instead of just replacing it. Here are some ways to add them into your regular routine to be most beneficial.
Another possible disadvantage of isometrics is that it only works one specific muscle group at a time. In order to target the entire muscle you would need to exercise from another position and a different angle. This would replicate performing a full range of motion exercise or isotonic’s.
Aside from some of these disadvantages there are many advantages to performing isometric exercises.
Iso-movements can be beneficial in a variety of athletic sports that require you to utilize static strength or isometrics. Some of the sports include but are not limited to Brazilian jujitsu, judo, wrestling, Archery, mountain climbing, gymnastics, yoga, martial arts, shooting, horseback riding, power lifting and others.
Charles Atlas and Isometrics
As mentioned earlier, isometric exercises have been around for a long time.
These types of movements were performed by Chinese monks were performing kung fu or Wu Shu as it’s commonly called in China today. Many of the movements are part of yoga as well as Pilates today. It’s in the early days of strongmen and “physical culture” that this type of exercise movement was brought to the attention of the public. Individuals like Charles Atlas, Alexander Zass, and others popularized these type of static movements.
However, Charles Atlas did not utilize true isometric exercises. His muscle building course “Dynamic Tension” utilized what he called “Dynamic Self Resistance.” Where he pitted one muscle group against another while moving across the muscle range. Many of the exercises in his course are simple calisthenics, push-ups, sit-ups etc.
Bruce Lee and Isometrics
One of the most notable proponents of isometric exercise was Bruce Lee.
He began using iso-exercises when he first took up the martial arts. As I mentioned earlier, isometrics has long been included in traditional martial arts classes. Bruce Lee took it one step further by utilizing different pieces of isometric
exercise equipment. He utilized the Bullworker as well as a power rack to help increase his speed and power.
He focused more on this type of training after he sustained a back injury from performing some dangerous weightlifting exercises. The exercise is called the “Good Morning.” In his training he utilized what has now been termed “post isometric exercise contraction.” He would perform several repetitions of the exercise and then on the last repetition he would hold the tension (static hold) for approximately 7 to 10 seconds.