Isometric Progress

How can you tell if you are improving? 

By Paul "Batman" O'Brien 

B.A., N.C.E.H.S., Dip. Acu., Cert Clin. IMed., Dip. Adv. OBB, Dip. CHM, Pn1, PN-SSR, PN-NCA, M.AFPA., M.C.Th.A.

Isometric Progress can be a tricky thing to determine... how can you tell if you are getting stronger, leaner, faster, more muscled? This was a question that came up recently on the private Isometric-Training forum. (Yes...I have one of those and no, I didn't tell you about it because it's only for the people following my programs. ;-) ). We get lot's of great Q and A's done there and this was one of my favourite questions recently...

What's a good way to test strength Batman O'Brien?

- Antoine Woods 

Ultimately the question is, how can you judge Isometric Progress.

The Good news is you can test Isometric Progress in a variety of ways;

  1. Bodyweight Tests
  2. Weight Lifting Tests
  3. Feats of Strength
  4. Endurance Tests
  5. Speed Tests
  6. Girth and Body Comp Measurements etc...

BUT there are some important considerations that must be understood so you have an accurate understating of progress.

Let's look at Bodyweight exercises. For the most part they take little explosive effort and don't tell you really how much strength you've improved. They will indicate rep increases that show neurological efficiency and endurance but not raw per say...

By contract - super hard isolations like a one handed chin, or intense exercises like a handstand pushup don't reveal endurance and neurology - but do indicate increase in strength and power. 

I rarely test these days, but when I do I test both variables...and more....

Strength Testing Isometric Progress 

Let's examine one aspect of Isometric Progress - Strength. Here's a simple way to test each muscle, and an adaptation of what Gama taught to the Atom. And also how the great Paul Anderson practised. 

The answer is Water. Take a large drum, and fill it with water, then fix a bar across it. Try to curl the drum/barrell, or pick it up, or press it, push it, pull it etc. If you can't empty out some water, and then when you can move it, mark the point the water comes to with a line. As you get stronger you should be able to fill the drum with water past that line. This is an easy way to gauge progress.

Alternatively you could do it by testing how much of your own bodyweight you can lift. (Not how many times you can lift it - that's muscular endurance, which will also improve but it's a separate test).

For instance, most people can do about 25 pushups. Fine it's less than 30% of your bodyweight. Try pressing with the feet elevated the same hight as your shoulders, now you can press 50%....keep increasing the angle of you body and it shows you you're increasing strength. Ultimately you want to be able to perform a vertical straight up and down handstand pushup - that's 100% of your bodyweight.

Then do it on one handed.

And yes, I'm being serious. 

Only do 1 or 2 reps though when you are fresh and rested, it's not an endurance contest, it's a strength test. Increase the leverage point...not the reps. The same can be done with the legs, try one legged squats, then with the leg extended, tucked etc. See how far down you can go before you lose the ability to come back up, measure it.

Of course you can also do this with weights as I do. I'll go in and see how much I can lift with impeccable form in given exercise. Say for example, the bench press. 

I'll rack up the weight and lift in my strongest range (I'm not of risking my health for my ego). Boom. Great. If I think I can lift heavier I'll do it again with heavier weight - until I find a set point that I can only JUST lift safely. 

Then I'll come back in 30 days or in 60 days, whatever, and lift it again, same conditions, with about 5-15% more weight on the bar. If I can lift it, great, I'll rest and add more weight to find a new max. This way I can clearly chart my Isometric Progress in terms of strength. 

Isometric Progress, Endurance tests

Of course strength is NOT the only indicator of Isometric I'll examine that too if I am interested. I might do a max pushup test keeping the same cadence (that's important - if I am capable of going faster in a movement it indicates progress even if I don't get more you can test for speed too)...record how may I can do before fatigue and poor form kicks in and re-test in 30 days or whenever...

You can do the same for speed, how fast can I complete a given task? Test it, test again later. 

You can customize your tests for the specific skill or attribute you want to develop. 

Of course you can also do as Jarell is doing lately - you can test your strength by bending objects, nails, horse shoes, forks, spanners, bars, etc.

Snap chains varying in thickness like Zass did and as you get stronger get thicker chains....try tearing a phone book in half...lifting your really is only your imagination that limits you. Find a goal and work to it. 

One of mine was to be able to perform Bruce Lee's two thumb suspension, and I did. That was a great moment. Personally I don't really care how much I bench, that's not a big deal - balancing your bodyweight on just your thumbs, that's something very few people can pull off.

So be creative, have fun and be safe. But do pcik something and test your Isometric progress. Let me  know in the comments below what tests you come up with and what results you get! :-D 

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