Maximize Results and Minimize Injury With Isometric Exercises

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A slow and steady exercise routine can yield the greatest results, said Drew Baye, president of Drew Baye’s High Intensity Training. In an interview with, Baye has this to say about fast-paced exercises: “There is no general physical conditioning or health advantage to moving quickly during exercise” and finishes the thought by saying “but moving quickly does reduce the efficiency of muscular loading and increase the wear and tear on the joints and risk of injury.”

Baye is an authority on scientific exercise programs, having started coaching while studying biology and exercise physiology at the University of Wisconsin. He has been training clients and companies for the last 20 years, and his experience points to slow repetition exercises and isometrics for the best results. “How fast you are capable of moving and thus your power output is directly related to the amount of force the involved muscles are capable of producing and how quickly the force can be increased. Both of these can be improved in general without moving quickly during exercise.”

Isometric exercises

Isometric exercises are weight bearing holds that involve no lengthening or shortening of the muscle. Body building giants like Mike Mentzer and John Little have both trained in this unusual method and adapted protocols of their own. Famed strong man Alexander Zass also touted the benefits of isometrics.

Zass had this to say on isometrics: “The great secret of developing strength is to do so in a way which will store up energy instead of dissipating it, and build up the stamina as well; and the only method I know which really does this is exercise against very strong resistance.”

Isometric exercises are recommended as part of any exercise routine, but are especially useful when traveling or otherwise without weight sets. Those who are just beginning weight training, or who are rehabilitating are better off performing isometrics to build up strength without risking injury.

Types of isometric exercises

Timed static contraction: This exercise is performed against a stationary object, like a wall, an opposing hand, a trainers hand, or a fixed bar on a weight machine.

Here is a popular protocol for TSC, developed by Ken Hutchins:

  •  Gradual increase of contraction from 0% to perceived 50% effort: ~5 seconds
  •  Contraction against resistance at perceived 50% effort: 30 seconds
  •  Contraction against resistance at perceived 75% effort: 30 seconds
  •   Contraction against resistance at perceived near maximal effort: 30 seconds
  • Contraction against resistance at maximal effort: 30 seconds
  • Gradual decrease of contraction from maximal to 0% effort: ~ 5 seconds

 Static Holds

Static holds are accomplished by transferring weight to the hands in a fully contracted position, and holding the weight still until muscle failure. This exercise is best executed by resisting the weight as much as possible as the weight falls in the negative repetition.

Here is Mike Mentzer’s guide to static holds:

  • The instructor or training partner assists in raising the resistance to the desired position. Using a step the lifter lifts himself into the starting position with his legs.
  • The resistance is transferred from the trainer to the subject or the subject transfers the resistance from the legs to the upper body.
  • The resistance is held motionless until static muscular failure occurs – the point at which the muscles no longer possess adequate strength to prevent negative movement of the resistance.
  • The resistance is then lowered slowly under strict control.

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