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How To Make Isometrics Better (Long vs. Short Muscle Length Matters!)

Video Highlights

-- Difference Between Long and Short Muscle Length Isometrics
-- Muscle Length and Strength/Hypertrophy
-- Enhancing Neural Drive

Hi, I am Dr. Eric Cobb of Z-Health Performance, and today we’re talking about the differences between long and short muscle length isometrics. This is an incredibly practical and useful tip, so make sure you watch all the way through. If you are new to Z-Health, we are a brain-based education company. We specialize in taking emerging research, digging into it, and looking for the nuance and details that actually matter to world-class movement professionals.

We specialize in coaching doctors, therapists, and movement coaches from around the world. So that’s you and you find this interesting subscribe and if you were just an avid athlete or someone working on your own health, make sure to also watch, ’cause we try to make this as simple as possible so that you can start using the information immediately.

Alright, we’ve been talking about isometrics and the incredible usefulness or utility of this particular training system or training style. And we’ve been discussing in the previous couple of videos, emerging research that is, again, is really, really useful. So today we’re gonna cover another piece. We’re gonna talk about muscle length.

So if I’m working on, again, a bicep curl, isometric, I have some options. I can start with the muscle in a kind of extended position. So this would be considered a long muscle length bicep curl or bicep isometric. I could be in the middle and I could also be short, right?

So I have a shortened version, a middle version, and a lengthened version. The question always is, well, does it really matter? And is there any evidence that says one is better than the other? Well, yeah, the answer is yes, but it’s new. And so this is what I want you to hear.

If you are trying to improve dynamic activity, so if you want to improve your running, you’re jumping your sprinting, you’re hitting speed, you’re throwing speed, you want to focus on long muscle length isometrics throughout the research literature. What we see is that there is a higher correspondence between long muscle length isometrics and other things. So if you are kind of in a vacuum and you go, okay, which one would I choose? I, ’cause I’m only gonna do one, one length, then choose long.

Now, if that’s the case, then why would we also periodically want people to work on short muscle length isometrics? Well, there’s another big reason here because what we see when we look at this neurologically is that shorter muscle length isometrics increase what is called neural drive. Neural drive is an overarching term that basically means the amount of information or impulse, if you will, coming from the brain through the spinal cord to the working musculature. So if you think about your own body, it’s likely there are areas that if you try to contract really hard, we will often, you know, you hear this in different forms of strength training, where they’ll say people have kind of a power leakage ’cause they’re unable to get tense or tight in that particular area of the body.

We see this throughout fitness world where people are doing all kinds of planks and other activating exercises in order to basically they’ll say things like, wake up a muscle. Well, muscles aren’t, they’re asleep, but what they are lacking is sufficient neural drive to contract intensely.

So when I’m working with a client, I am constantly evaluating them to see, okay, first of all, trying to achieve, is it an athlete who’s already in good shape, they’re trying to increase their force, their power, their jumping height, whatever. Our long muscle length isometrics are going to be the exercise of choice. If instead working with someone who’s injured and they are coming back in a rehab setting where they’ve had maybe a surgery or they had a long period of immobilization, and I’m choosing to use isometrics with them, what I may find is that I need to do more short muscle length ISOs in order to increase neural drive to basically help the brain and body reconnect at some level so that you can really begin to create tension.

Isometrics are unique compared to dynamic exercises because when we look at the research literature generating tension within a working muscle, we can generate the most tension using isometrics, which is one of the reasons it’s such a powerful tool, both in the performance and the rehab world. The big question is, are you doing it the right way to have the most impact on your client? So this will give you a little bit insight into which to choose. Obviously, you are always able to do long, middle, and short within a training session. That is something I have people do with regularity. But in the essence of saving time and making sure that our programming is up to speed with current research, I wanted to make sure that you had this level of delineation. Alright, hope you found this useful and interesting and we’ll see you again soon.

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