by: Josh Bryant
Fancier is better in today’s fitness world!
Instead of following the crowd with the newest “Cirque du Soleil” workout fad, let’s look at a bare-bone basic method that will develop the ability to destroy sticking points. All you need is a power rack, a barbell and a desire to get better.
What are Isometrics?
An isometric contraction is force production without a change in muscle length—examples range from a strongman crucifix hold to a clinch in MMA to holding a pose in bodybuilding.
The isometrics that build bar-bending strength involve pulling/pushing as hard as possible against the pins in a power rack with the barbell under the pins, applying maximum force for five to six seconds.
Sticking Point Occurrence
When lifting up a weight, one’s ability to produce force can change. Decreased force production results in a sticking point.
In the sticking point war, isometrics are the atomic bomb.
Localized Strengthening Effect
Isometrics have a localized strengthening effect; that’s the reason the establishment scoffs at them and why we embrace them. Isometrics strengthen within 15 degrees of the joint angle trained—this localized effect directly targets the sticking point.
By pushing as hard as possible against the power rack in a weak region, not only are you overloading this region but you are also programing your central nervous to be aggressive. Typically, maximal force in a heavy barbell lift is produced for 1/3 of a second—with isometrics maximal force can be produced for 5 seconds and 15 percent more force can be produced isometrically.
Yes—you are producing 15 percent more force 15 times longer—bringing sticking points to their knees.
Isometrics performed too often or too long can have potential negative consequences.
Let’s take a look at the most effective way to build strength with isometrics.
Begin by lifting a barbell to the pins in a power rack at the region you want to specifically target. Produce maximal force against the pins for five seconds. Visualize you ripping the bolts from the ground and pushing the power rack through the roof.
Now wait two to five minutes and perform a set with 60-80 percent of your one rep max for one to three reps as explosively as possible.
You will feel more explosive!
This is because of Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP effect). Yuri Verhoshansky explains it like this, “When you perform a 3-5 RM followed by a light explosive set…to your nervous system it’s like lifting a ½ can of water when you think it’s full.”
Maximal isometrics elicit the PAP effect so more force produced in your weakest points followed by more force produced on the lift you are training, a true win-win.
- Perform against pins in the power rack.
- Don’t start the isometric contraction at the point the isometric contraction will take place. Some dynamic movement is recommended pre and post contraction.
- Perform maximal isometric contractions for five to six seconds.
- Explosive dynamic work precedes isometric contraction.
- Contract as hard as possible.
- After a workout that contains isometrics, perform breathing exercises, static stretching and/or PNF stretching, and some foam rolling.
- Do not perform isometrics for more than six to eight weeks at a time.
Isometrics can be performed with any barbell lift—I have the best results with overhead presses, squats, bench press and deadlifts. Don’t let sticking points hold you back any longer.