How can you tell if you're doing a 100% contraction?

by Charlie

most isometric newbies may not be able to fully contract the muscle, how can you tell if you are?

I often find when i do iso's that i can contract the muscle very hard at first for about half a second and then the contraction becomes weaker, even though im trying my hardest.

its a weird feeling as i can tell that it is not my maximum strength but its almost like my bicep (for example) is literally unable to squeeze out maximum force

any explanations or ways round this?

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Aug 15, 2012
Steve hit it on the head NEW
by: Paul from Isometric Training

Steve did a great job answering this. And he's completely right, many beginners do struggle to reach a point of maximal contraction. This is, as Stephen points out, the do not have the ability as of yet to contract the muscles in isolation accurately. The nervous system hasn't learnt the skill yet.

This is partly why I recommend you take 7 weeks to get used to the exercises in the course. It can take that amount of time to condition and train the nervous system to develop the skill of contraction.

I only add that when you do reach maximal contraction you will be tired and exhausted after the isometric workout but it should be an energizing kind of exhaustion if that makes sense. When I'm doing my isometrics, I'm pumping sweat, shaking like a leaf and psyched afterwards. Every time I complete a workout it's like I've gone toe to toe with an un-scale-able mountain and climbed it, an incalculably long distance and run it and fought a life and death struggle against the best fighter in the world and beat him. It's the euphoria of victory over the self.

Hope that helps,


Aug 11, 2012
Re: How can you tell if you're doing a 100% contraction? NEW
by: Stephen Hopper

Hi Charlie,


Many thanks for your nice post. Perhaps I could offer a reply, until Paul responds with more authority?

You are right, beginning isometrics trainees (are you a beginner?) are not able to fully contract a muscle. If memory serves, Paul says something to that effect in his writings.

A major part of strength training (of any kind) is training of the Central Nervous System (CNS) to activate the musculature. This is partly why newbies are not able to contract the muscle, as you quite rightly pointed out. I personally place much importance on this aspect of training. It does take time, but it will come as you persevere with your training. The learning curve is necessary.


Are your contractions more like a slap or clap than a press or steady pull? That you drain so early in the contraction suggests this to me. If so, try ramping into the contraction, rather than going from zero to full force in the twinkle of an eye.

Are you contracting at the strongest point of contraction for a given exercise? Taking Biceps Curls as our example, bring the fist of the arm you are training right up to the shoulder. Then back off slightly, your hand still very close to the shoulder. Now do your 7 second contraction. Do you feel the difference?

I hope these suggestions prove useful. Please let us know.

Kind regards,


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