Today we’re going to talk about using long muscle length isometrics as a kind of fast hack, if you want to call it that, for improving outcomes.
So whenever we talk about isometric exercise, this is an isometric strap. It’s just like a luggage strap with handles. Isometric exercise basically means I’m contracting my bicep, but no movement is occurring.
And isometrics are one of our very favorite strength tools because of the research. In general, they are safer because our brain is not required to coordinate a lot of movement, which means we can create a huge amount of tension, we can increase strength, while doing it very safely. They’re also one of the only strength training tools that have significant research around them, in relationship to pain relief.
So, if I have someone that’s got a painful knee or painful arm I usually will begin strength training with them using isometrics. Now the issue that we run into is “if I’m working on my bicep, where should I do the isometric? Should I do it at full length?
Should I do it in the middle? Should I do it close to full contraction?”
Well, there’s some cool new research over the last year or so that indicates that if we want to have the greatest carry over to real life, to sports performance, to explosive movement, etc. There tends to be a better result whenever we do long length isometrics.
So right now, I have my isometric strap really low so I’m in an almost fully lengthened bicep position, and then I can do my isometric contractions from here.
So, our suggestion for you is if you want to maximize your return on investment for isometric work, think about what length, or what position, can I get into that would create the longest muscle length? And then do your isometric work there.
Traditionally with isometrics, we recommend somewhere between a five and ten-second hold. Whenever we used to teach this, we would say, well, we’re going to do five sets of a 6-second hold in this position. And then we’re going to go to the mid position and do another five. And then we’re going to go to this position and do another five. So you wind up doing 15 sets in that old-school tradition. What we’re finding is that if I work in this long length, I can do five sets to six sets of six seconds and get a really, really fantastic benefit from it.