Isometric Strength Training

by Kilo on April 27, 2011

static contraction training book

Static Contraction Training by Sisco and Little

Isometric strength training is founded on the idea that you can get stronger by exerting yourself against resistance. Now, genius that you are, the idea that you can build muscles and gain strength through heavy lifting is probably not novel.

But isometrics take the idea of heavy lifting one step further. What’s heavier than heavy? An object that you cannot move. There are two different types of iso exercises.

In the first you “move” against something that you can’t possibly move.

Think pushing against a mountain or a wall.

In the second you hold yourself into a static position like a plank. Dan John once told me that his lifting coach would make him hold hundreds of pounds in the barbell rack position until he trembled. Besides the movement of the trembling, that’s an isometric exercise.

No matter how hard you push, you aren’t going to move that mountain, and pushing against the earth isn’t going to knock us out of orbit, no offense to your might and majesty.

So why would you do this?

  • Isometric exercises don’t require any equipment
  • You can get a workout anywhere, anytime there is gravity
  • It’s the heaviest resistance you can get
  • You’re protected from the potential dangers of high-speeds in unskilled movements
  • If you’re an astronaut in zero gravity, it might be all you’ve got to keep your bulging astronaut muscles in peak condition

If you are interested in learning more about this I have two books to recommend, both by Peter Sisco and John Little.

The first is called Static Contraction Training. It’s focused on heavy weights and minuscule ranges of motion.

The second is called Power Factor Training. It covers a lot of the same ground but has some ideas about how to quantify progress and PRs that are closely aligned to many of my own.

Each book is also worth reading solely for a glimpse at the clothes they are wearing in the pictures. Think Daisy Duke denim shorts with a velor shirt tucked into them, and giant combat boots.




{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick Tracy April 27, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I think statics are an underutilized training strategy. With them, it’s easy to, as Ironmind urges “lift more than you can.” I like to push on one of the main beams in my basement as hard as I can, and see how long I can maintain the pressure. I think that bending and tearing things right at the edge of your ability is also very similar to this method, since you have to grind pretty hard over a very short ROM. Good stuff.


Kris Wragg May 3, 2011 at 4:42 am

I bought a copy of Power Factor Training, I really like his emphasis on calculating density and also the Power Index is a new one to me, which I will now start recording too.

I haven’t done much “strong range movements”, aside from maybe dinnie ring lifts, going to start testing them more as I’m intrigued.


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