15 Cleans, 135#(95#)
30 Box jump, 24″(20″)
10 Cleans, 165#(115#)
20 Box jump, 24″(20″)
5 Cleans, 195#(135#)
10 Box jumps, 24″(20″)
Post Results to BTWB.
I’m not going to go around giving away secrets, however this week we have a workout that will consist of a plethora of gymnastic isometric holds. At first glance these workouts sometimes elicit the response of “that’s too easy” or “I won’t even break a sweat”, however some of these pieces are very important and can be the missing links in getting that first pull-up or muscle up.
What is isometric training?
Our muscles can perform an isometric contractions. This happens when the muscle contracts but doesn’t change length. Unlike traditional strength training—where our muscles usually perform eccentric and concentric contractions through a range of motion—isometric training is done in a static position. Think about pushing against an immovable object—such as a wall—or holding a position of muscle tension without moving, like a plank, a wall sit, or holding the bottom the position in a pause squat. Typically, many isometric movements are done using body weight, but athletes can still incorporate weighted isometric positions into their training.
What are the benefits of isometric training?
Increases muscular strength
As I mentioned above, isometric training consists of the muscle contracting without changing length in a static position. As a result, the athlete doesn’t undergo a full range of movement in the ‘lift’. Some may think that this isn’t an ideal way to build strength, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. Think about the beating your arms and shoulders will take when holding a heavy deadlift at full extension for as long as possible. The reality is that during isometric training the body is able to recruit almost all of its motor units. Motor units are comprised of a motor neuron and skeletal muscle fibers—groups of motor units work together to coordinate the contractions of a single muscle.
Perhaps one of the most useful applications of isometric training as it pertains to weightlifting is that it can help to build strength in movements that require large muscle contractions, and helps athletes overcome ‘sticking points’ in those movements. During a dynamic lift—such as a back squat—the muscles move through concentric and eccentric contractions. For example, say you are weak coming out of the hole in a back squat. A good isometric drill to perform would involve loading a barbell with weight and descending to a position just above full depth in the squat, and holding it for as long as possible. The musculature around the joint angle at that specific body position will undergo sustained stress for a longer period of time that could be achieved in a dynamic movement, thus providing it with greater neuromuscular adaptations.
Can help to improve body control
An athlete should look to incorporate gymnastics-based holds (such as handstand holds and L-sits) to achieve similar levels of muscle activation as can be achieved with overcoming and yielding isometrics, while also improving body control and awareness and core activation. For a practical demonstration of how these areas would get a workout, simply kick up into a full handstand against a wall (or pike press on a box) and hold that position for as long as possible. You will soon start to shake all over and have to focus your energy on maintaining a tight abdomen to keep yourself rigid and in good position.
A fantastic side benefit of isometric training is that it can help to improve your flexibility. Think about how you try to improve your hip mobility for squats. One of the drills you may perform is simply squatting down to full depth and holding that position, focusing on driving your knees out while keeping your chest up. No doubt you will feel a great stretch in your groin, hamstrings, quadriceps and the surrounding musculature of the hip joint. Well guess what? These muscles are contracted and stretched in order to keep you in that position and stop you from falling to the ground. Your body is acting as the resistance, and you are technically performing an isometric hold. Now think about adding a barbell to that position, and you’ve got a yielding isometric movement. Maintaining a low position in a squat with the resistance provided by a barbell will be a serious workout for your hip mobility, and there’s no doubt that you’ll see an impressive transformation when it comes to performing any regular squatting motion in a workout. It’s no wonder that Olympic Weightlifters and gymnasts regularly perform isometrics to improve their flexibility.