What are isometric exercises and how are they different from the regular exercises we all learned in Physical Ed Class?
Essentially an isometric exercise is when you pull or push against an immovable object. Isometrics as a means of physical training was discovered by the old-time strongman in the 1900s.
Finally in the 1950s two German doctors performed tests at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Their research revealed that isometrics did indeed work in building tendon and muscle strength. Increases of over 300% in a very short time period was the norm.
This kicked off a firestorm of Isometric training manuals and courses. (The major point in isometric exercise is that there is no “full range of motion.”)
For example, if you were doing a bench press you would do multiple repetitions until you got to a point in which you could no longer press the weight. This is the exact place in which the muscle is completely stressed out and can no longer push up the weight.
In essence at this point you are doing an isometric contraction.
National level powerlifters have known this for years and have applied isometrics to their Olympic training programs. Isometrics is probably one of the best ways to increase both muscle and tendon strength.
One of the things that created additional popularity for isometrics was due to the fact that members of the United States Olympic power lifting team were using isometrics to get phenomenal results.
Later on it was discovered that they were also taking anabolic steroids.
However, it seems like in many cases they threw out the — baby with the bathwater. What most of these critics of “isometric exercise” failed to understand is that anabolic steroids on their own do not produce any gains in strength or muscle size!
Therefore, their conclusion that these gains only came about as a result of steroids is completely and utterly false.
What is also interesting to note is that as isometrics lost some of its “popularity” it kept on being used by physical therapists, power lifters, bodybuilders, and strength and conditioning coaches in professional sports.
However, other than physical therapists… everyone that used isometrics incorporated some type of isometric exercise equipment in their use. Of course, these people would use an isometric exerciser.
Why you might ask?
Because they understood that in order to continue to make gains there must be progressive resistance. The Olympic power lifting team’s uses what is called a “power rack”. Bruce Lee referred to his as an “Isometrics Power Rack.”
Today, there are small portable isometric exercisers that you can purchase for the use in your home without having to buy a complete set of free weights and a power rack.