Isometric Weight Training

The Secret of Strength in Stillness

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 weight training is a VERY advanced technique that I teach in great detail in my Project Dragon - Isometrics Mastery Program. The use of weights in isometric training is very popular online but there's a huge amount of misconceptions and untruths surrounding the topic. As such I think it is important that you get some clear cut pointers on this method, backed up, as always with my articles with some hard scientific evidence. 

First off I think it's important to point out that I'm not a big fan of weight training. Certainly there are many benefits to lifting weights; more muscle, increased strength etc. That said, there are too many problems caused by conventional weight training. These include repetitive strain injuries, worn joints, and compression damage and more. I see the long term damage weight training causes in my clinic everyday.  In fact in Project Dragon I devote an entire chapter to the injuries weight training causes. 


What if there was a way to harness the benefits of weight lifting without the damage it causes? 

There is - and that's where isometric weight training comes in. 

Traditionally Weight Training involves selecting a weight, be it a dumbbell, barbell or kettlebell. You then take this resistance and move it through a full range of motion for the given muscle. This is the greatest contrast between Isometrics and Weight Lifting. In Isometrics there is no movement. This is also my chief concern with weight training – moving through a full range of motion.

Full range motion against resistance causes you to place weighted stress on your muscles and tendons when they are in a stretched and thus very weak position. 

For a moment, imagine a biceps curl. The movement starts with your arms are practically straight. In this position the muscle is stretched and the weight straining the muscle is at it's most dangerous here. 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.

And there's another problem here - one that highlights the ineffective methodology of conventional weight training and gives insight into the why and how of the success behind isometric weight training.

The fact is that in a stretched position - the opening position of most weight lifting exercises - you cannot fully contract your muscles.  That means the weight you are lifting is minimal in comparison to the actual weight you can lift with a contracted muscle.

If you bring the weight even a quarter of the way through a full range of motion from this start position the weight is no longer of sufficient resistance to stimulate muscle growth.

As you bring it closer to a contracted position you can recruit far more muscles fibre. 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 fibres. If you aren't stimulating your fibres 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 creating Isometric weight training. 

A very simple example of this is using a smith machine or power cage. Here you can safely 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 biceps 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 centimetres 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 weight training 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 biceps curl over 300lbs. Believe me, when you are straining against 300 + lbs in a biceps curl you are stimulating every muscle fibre 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, part of my 7 Seconds to A Perfect Body Program, I did a quick video demonstration.

In this very amateur video (apologies) you can see first hand how Isometrics weight training works. 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.

Now this is only the MOST BRIEF of explanations about isometric weight training.

The science behind it is staggering and I've written and developed a full course on this as part of my Project Dragon - Isometrics Mastery Program, an advanced course for my Perfect Body clients. 

 I’ll leave you with a final thought about Isometric Weight Training...

If you can biceps curl over 200lbs nice and easy using the most amount of muscle fibre 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?

In the meantime you can get incredible strong  and well muscled arms– in fact, strong enough to lift a grown man overhead with just 1 arm, here – 7 Seconds to A Perfect Body Program

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