Question About Contraction Time

Hi Paul,

I've been making gradual but steady progress with the exercises. I was doing the pushup exercise today and thought of this question.

You know the one exercise where we go half way down in the pushup position and you say to hold that contraction as hard as I can for about 2 minutes? Why is that done? I thought it was kind of the same as holding the biceps' contraction to increase blood flow, but remembered that you told me not to do that for other body parts as it might put too much strain on the heart.

My first impression was that this particular one is recommended because the pushing of the hands against each other aren't enough to give the muscles that great of a workout. I know you keep saying 7 seconds is enough, but even with all three angles, maybe this isn't enough? Is that why we are to also do the 2 minute hold exercise? Or is it for a different reason?

If it is to work the muscle more thoroughly, then why not do something similar for the other muscle groups by having them hold the contraction for up to 2 minutes? Wouldn't that help to work the muscle and therefore build it VERY fast as well?

Thanks kindly in advance.

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Dec 05, 2016
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To Reid
by: Batman from Isometric Training

Hi Reid,

Everything can be damaging if done incorrectly or inappropriately. Extended time Isometrics have a very specific role, and have to be performed correctly and safely. The problem with extended time holds is two fold - the first is occlusion of the blood vessels.

If a contraction is held too long it can cause constraint of blood flow and ultimately cause tissue or nerve damage - however this is less seen in Isometrics and more so in Yoga. This is not the correct way to practice Isometrics.

Secondly, the problem is with the breathing. During extended holds people often unconsciously hold their breath or forget to breath. This dangerously elevates blood pressure and again is not how Isometrics should be performed.

The recommendations made in my programs are safe, efficient and the best of way of performing them to get the desired results eg weight loss, muscle building endurance etc. Right tool for the right job. The same applies to Isometrics. ;-)

Hope that helps,

Batman

Nov 28, 2016
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Further Question on contraction time
by: Reid

Going back to the iso push up, am I correct in saying that in the long run, doing the iso push up could actually be harmful? Is there a point at which we should stop doing the iso push up?

Does the same reasoning carry over to the bridge? I noticed that you wrote to try holding it for 5 minutes.

Thanks!
Reid

Jun 28, 2011
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On Elbow Issues
by: Paul from Isometric-Training.com

Hi Thomas,

Thanks, I do my best, can I quote you? ;-) As regards the biceps I prefer to use my opposing hand - this gives me direct feedback in regards to my exhertion effort, though you can of course contract without the other arm as Maxick would have. The same can be done with the triceps.

Once you develop a feel for the muscle contraction it's far easier to get that cramp like feeling, but it does take time. Now as for the feeling of stress on the joints, and the aching elbows it sounds to me that you not be giving your tendons and ligaments enough time to recover.

Is the pain sharp or dull in nature? The tension should be in the muscle at all times but no the joints. That said, muscle soreness, often associated with a workout tends to be felt most in the insertion of muscles into the joints as a result of the poor blood supply the carry.

Ease off training a little, give yourself more recovery days and keep your joints warm to encourage blood flow.

Hope that helps,

Paul

Jun 28, 2011
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Doubting Thomas No More
by: Thomas

Hi Paul,

Wow, you've done it again. You've slaughtered the doubts in this doubting Thomas's head. :)

I'm sure glad to know that you really know your stuff. I mean I knew that before, but just never knew how much you knew. And it's a lot!

In the Internet world where there are so many crackpots that are partially informed and push products around, it's refreshing to see that you know what you're talking about and it's all back up by hardcore scientific study after study.

And thanks for clearing up the push up confusion. With the little brainpower I have for scientific material, it makes some sense and I can get a glimpse of why you recommend that exercise and not for other body parts.

While reading your email, another question came to my mind. You mentioned 40% contraction.

When I do bicep contraction, for example, I often try doing it without the added resistance from the opposing hand, but notice that I can achieve a good contraction and feel the cramp coming on. Then would this be good?

The reason for this is that I noticed that when using the opposing hand to add more resistance, my elbows were starting to ache a little, perhaps from too much strain on the joint? Just a guess. I think it was worst when doing the tricep exercises. I haven't yet figured out what I can do to get that cramp like feeling on the triceps without putting too much strain on the elbows, but it'll probably come as I gain more control over the muscles.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the elbow issue and the contraction without opposing resistance issue.

Thanks a lot again.

Jun 28, 2011
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Contraction Times Answer Part 3
by: Paul from Isometric-Training.com

----- Part 3

As to why not do that with every muscle, you could be but it's a short term solution and against the long term principals of health I encourage in the ebook. Simply put if you performed this with every muscle it would be first, sub maximal, and secondly create a cumulative stress on the nervous system that after a few weeks of initial improvement the nervous system would fatigue, leading to a compromise of immune function, making people sick and tired. Hence why I don't recommend it. If that was the case then it would only be marginally healthier than weight training.
I hope that clears it up. Let me know if you have any more questions. All the best,

Yours,

Paul

Jun 28, 2011
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Contraction Times Answer Part 2
by: Paul from Isometric-Training.com

------------------- Part 2

Now, it gets better because Mueller and Hettinger didn't have any information on the major energy pathways the body uses to contact and thus stimulate muscle growth. Knowing this it's even easier to see why only a single 7 second contraction is necessary. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is the primary fuel in fast twitch fiber (read the bog strong kind) it is stored in the muscle last for approximately 2 seconds and the resynthesis of ATP from Creatine/Phosphate (CP) will continue until CP stores are depleted, approximately 4 to 5 seconds. This gives us around 5 to 7 seconds of ATP production. Repeat, 5-7 seconds. To develop this energy system, sessions of 4 to 7 seconds of high intensity work at near peak velocity are required.

Thus we have the scientific basis for the results produced by a single isometric contraction. That's not to mention thre other major studies. So I think we can put that to bed?

Now with that being the case - why the two minute iso pushup? There are two reasons for this and I'll come to them in a moment. Before I do let's address the issue of the chest not being stimulated by the angle of the previous exercises. This isn't the case. Remember from the anatomy section we looked at the points where the chest muscles, the pectorals are maximally stimulated? It's when the elbow is brought closer to the body, not further away. As such the chest exercises are within that ideal range and finished off perfectly with the closest contraction possible - the arm twist. This ensures the maximal contractile position and thus the best results possible.

Now, let's look at the two reasons. Briefly put it's sub maximal stimulation encouraging increased blood flow and mass and the second fiber conversion. The first being the least important.

Most people already have poor blood supply from doing push ups, weight lifting etc and most guys focus on the their chest. It's reasonable to assume that nearly every guy has some level of compression damage to their chest as a result of this. Knowing this I included the sub maximal contraction, the iso pushup to correct this problem. Lower intensity isometrics can be held for longer periods of time, in this case 1-2 minutes as it is only about a 60% contraction. This essentially increases blood flow back into the chest - it also encourages the movement of lymph around the body and helps to clear out toxic build up as a result of poor training methodology.

Finally, the majority of my users have previous training as already mentioned. As a result the intermediate fiber types may have converted to more slow twitch fibers. The extended 60% iso pushup encourages a change over to the fast twitch fibers in conjunction with the other exercises when performed in sequence. It's just a little trick that I use to get faster results.

Actually need a third part....

Jun 28, 2011
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Contraction Times Answer Part 1
by: Paul from Isometric-Training.com

Hi Thomas,

I've split this into two parts due to length.

Part 1

Hope all is well. I'm glad you are making progress with the exercises. First let's put this question of it not being enough stimulus to bed once and for all. If you've read through the additional materials Oberman's physiology of strength you should have read the scientific research on fiber stimulation and what is required to build bigger stronger muscles. Aside from that I discuss the work of Hettinger and Meuller and I'll be updating that with some information from an upcoming article being published in a major scientific magazine. Here's the basics of Hettinger and Muellers findings as pertaining to length of contraction -

------------------------------
Even the shortest contraction of more than 40% of maximal strength has a maximal effect. Fatigue and exhaustion do not influence the training effect.
This has been confirmed by further experiments of Hettinger that compared the training effect of the same training strength under conditions of good and poor blood supply.

The third series of experiments pursued the question of what happens if more or less than one contraction per day is performed for training.

The intervals were varied from a fortnight down to fractions of a day.

Correspondingly, the frequency of the training stimulus ranged from one every 14 days to 7 per day. One can see that more than one contraction per day gives no better results than just one per day. Contracting a muscle less often than once a day, on the other hand, reduces the spread of increase in strength.

After an interval of 14 days no increase in strength is detectable. This is due to the course of increase and decrease of strength. Following a single contraction strength rises at the highest rate of speed during the day and then more slowly from day to day for seven days.

Thereafter in the days of the second week it drops back to its initial value. That is why after two weeks no effect is found.

Summarizing the results reported thus far... one can say that there is no better way to increase muscular strength than one short, about half-maximal, isometrics contraction once a day.

------------

Part 2 next


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