Isometrics and Weight Lifting

How the Science of not Moving a Muscle means Lifting More.

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.

Isometrics and Weight Lifting are often seen to be opposing ideologies, but the truth is they’re not. Now, I’m not a big fan of weight lifting by and large. There are great benefits to lifting weights, bigger muscles, increased strength and so on, but in my opinion there are too many problems caused, such as repetitive injuries, worn joints, and compression damage all of which I discuss in more detail in my e-books. What’s more you can get all the benefits of weight training far quicker and much safer using isometrics.

With that said how can Isometrics and Weight Lifting work together? I was asked this very question recently by a reader of this website. In short Isometrics can ensure that when you lift weights you can keep your joints safer, that you get bigger firmer muscles faster, and you strength levels soar… and here’s how.

Traditional Weight Lifting involves selecting a weight, be it a dumbbell, barbell or kettlebell and moving through a full range of motion. This is the biggest difference between Isometrics and Weight Lifting. In Isometrics there is no movement. This is also my biggest problem with weight training – moving through a full range of motion.

Moving through a full range means that you place weighted stress of your muscles and tendons when they are in very weak, stretched position. Think of a bicep curl. At the start of that movement your arms are practically straight, the muscle stretched and the weight the train of the muscle is most dangerous here, and yet this is where most people focus. Its madness, especially when you consider that there has NEVER been a single study shown that you in order to develop muscle and strength you need to train a full range of motion. Why anyone would voluntarily put themselves in a position where they strain an already stretched muscle is beyond me – it’s asking for injury, and that is precisely what happens.

The other problem with this, is the fact that in a stretched position, the starting position of most weight lifting exercises, you cannot fully contract your muscles, thus the weight you can lift is minimal in comparison to the actual weight you can lift with a contracted muscle. By the time you’ve brought the weight a quarter of the way through a full range of motion and closer to a contracted position you can recruit far more muscles fiber – which means you can lift more and that means the weight that was working you at the start is no longer sufficient to stimulate all your muscle fibers. If you aren’t stimulating your fibers there is no need to grow and develop, hence the need to do multiple reps and waste time.

Isometrics on the other hand also has a problem – you can’t objectively tell how hard you’re contracting a muscle, thus how much stimulus you are producing. You can solve this problem by bringing Isometrics and Weight Lifting together. How?

Simple, using a smith machine or power cage you can select the position of a barbell and place it any position along the full range of motion of the muscle you wish to work against. To explain this I’ll keep the bicep curl as my example. You can place the bar in a position say midrange, your elbows at a 90 degree angle. Place a considerable amount of weight on the bar and contract your muscle isometrically against this – the bar may move a few centimeters but try not to go past an inch – if you do just add more weight. Hold it here for 7-12 seconds.

You can perform this at any point in the movement to improve your strength and gauge your isometric contractile ability. You’ll be shocked at the amount of strength you actually have, even in a small muscle like the biceps. In a near full contracted position I can easily bicep curl over 300lbs. Believe me, when you are straining against 300 + lbs in a bicep curl you are stimulating every muscle fiber you have, and that builds some seriously strong muscle tissue.

I know that may sound hard to believe, so after the photo shoot with fellow instructor Ray Lee for my ultimate arm training guide – Secrets of 7 Second Arms I did a quick video demonstration. In this very amateur video (apologies) you can see first hand how Isometrics and Weight lifting work. It’s fast, efficient and most importantly safe. In the video below, you’ll see me contract against and isometrically hold a relatively light weight of 242lbs. If you pay close attention to the video, you’ll see I take it up about 2 inches of the safety stops and hold this for several seconds before setting it down.

I’ll leave you with a final thought about Isometrics and Weight Lifting, if you can bicep curl over 200lbs nice and easy using the most amount of muscle fiber in the shortest space of time and in a safe range of motion – why waste time lifting super small weights like 20 or 30 lbs like most weight lifting enthusiasts?

I’ll be explaining this in much greater detail in an upcoming book specifically written for Isometrics and Weight Lifting. Until then you can get incredible strong – in fact, strong enough to lift a grown man overhead with just 1 arm, here - – Secrets of 7 Second Arms

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