I am Dr. Eric Cobb of Z-Health Performance, and today we’re talking about utilizing, overcoming or yielding isometrics depending on whether you have sensation problems or joint problems. If you’re new to Z-Health. We are a brand-based education company. As I’ve said, we specialize in digging through emerging research, finding the nuance and detail that you can apply practically today for yourself and your clients.
So if you are a movement professional and you find this interesting, make sure to subscribe to our channel. Last week we started talking about isometrics, and one of the things that we covered clearly was that there is a difference neurologically and locally whenever we do what is called an overcoming versus a yielding isometric. If you have not seen that video, go back and watch it because this isn’t gonna make any sense otherwise. So make sure to check that out.
So today what I wanna talk about is how do I choose? Let’s say I have a client that comes in, I’m doing an evaluation on them and they’re generally healthy, but I’m taking their history. They say, yeah, I’ve had a little bit of carpal tunnel for a couple of years, on my right side, I get some weird sensations sometimes in my thumb, my index finger, my metal finger, my typical median nerve stuff. If that’s the case and you’re deciding to use isometrics as a part of the rehab program, the current research is important because what has been discovered is that there is a significant difference between overcoming and yielding isometrics and its impact on sensation or joint capacity, joint intelligence, if I can say it that way. In other words, how the brain and joints are coordinating.
So here’s what’s been found when someone is doing an overcoming isometric. Alright? An overcoming isometric is exactly what it sounds like. Let’s say I’m working on my right arm, taking my isometric strap, I’m standing on it, and I’m now going to basically pull as hard as I can, or 70 80% capacity, whatever, and I’m continually basically trying to break the strap. I’m trying to overcome that force. What has been found is that this will upregulate something called a cutaneous muscular reflex. What that means is that the brain is relying on more information from the sensory receptors of in the working area, to control and maintain the force and to continually create it.
So what is now being recommended in the literature is if you have someone with sensory problems, have them use overcoming isometrics. Conversely, what we see is if we have someone doing a yielding isometric, and we’re gonna actually do this in kind of a weird way, a yielding isometric basically involves being placed into a position. So let’s say I’m gonna bring this band up and then I’m gonna put this strap on here.
And so now I’m basically contracting, but the band and the strap together are trying to pull me back to the ground, and I’m trying to prevent that. This is called a yielding isometric. It is similar to what would be considered an eccentric contraction, but I’m not letting any movement happen. What we see neurologically is that in a yielding isometric, we will see an upregulation of activity around the joints.
So the way that our brain seems to be patterned is that for overcoming, we need more information from the skin. Whenever we are doing yielding work, we need more information from the joints in order to successfully control the movement. This is very powerful. This is something that you would have to have done a lot of digging to find, but it’s so practical.
We’ve been using this for several years now with clients, and it is incredible to test. You can actually have a client come in who let’s say is experiencing carpal tunnel, and you say, all right, we’re gonna try some isometrics. And you can do some sensory testing on their hand, and they’ll say, yeah, yeah, this doesn’t feel like this side.
This is more dull or whatever. And you have them do a yielding isometric and you retest them. And they’ll often say, oof, that’s actually worse. Like, I can’t really feel my index finger now. And then literally change it to an overcoming isometric. And all of a sudden, 30 seconds later, you can retest them. And sometimes they will say, that’s amazing. I actually feel that equal.
I have seen this work over and over and over again, subtle detail that is showing up in the brain-based research literature out there, but it is so useful and so practical. I wanted to make sure that I shared it with you. You can test this on your own body.
And for a final tip, think about your own injury history. Most people that I work with, they’ll have a couple of joint areas where they’ve had multiple injuries, they’ve had multiple ankle sprains, or I dislocated my shoulder. And then you can think about the other side of the body, and sometimes they’ll say, yeah. And on the other side, I occasionally will get this weird paraesthesia or weird sensation issue in my left hand.
Well, all of a sudden, they’ve given themselves the prescription for how to use isometrics on the areas where there is a lack of good motor control, where you have joint instability. We’re gonna apply yielding isometrics. And on the other side of the body where they’ve had some nerve issues, we’re gonna use overcoming isometrics.
So this is again, fantastically useful information. I hope that you’re able to apply it this week and get some great results.