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Isometric Training Exercises Exposed Tendon Strength

is Essential
www.bisonstrength.com /blog/2010/06/isometric-training-exercises-exposed-tendon-strength-is-essential/

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Isometrics, isometric training, static exercises, these words are used more and more frequently nowadays,
however, very few people truly know the real facts about such types of training. Due to the lack of real
understanding of not only the theory of isometric training, but also the proper way implementing isometrics, the
strategy drove many athletes away. Currently it is only used in yoga and pilates. If you start researching the topic
on the Internet, you will, unfortunately, not nd much useful information about the isometric exercises. All you will
nd is the denition of isometrics, and a general idea about the exercises, if that.

In many articles writers seem to mislead readers due to their own misunderstanding of the concept. Always
being a huge fan of combining static and dynamic strength training, I spent a lot of time researching the subject
and translated some material from Russian in order to shed some light on isometric training. Therefore here is
the isometric training exposed!

History of Isometric Training Alexander Zass


So many articles claim dierent ways of development of isometric
training, such as being brought from India to Tibet, or ancient China, or
Medieval Europe etc. The truth is that elements of isometric training
have always been used in combination with dynamic exercises even over
a thousand years ago. Asking where isometric training came from is like
asking who invented swords, or bows. Isometric training was not dened
as such until the late nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.
The true father of isometric training was Alexander Ivanovich Zass, 1888-
1962 (The Great Samson), a Russian strongman of Polish origin that was
a member of a Russian Circus group. I do not believe in large muscles, if
there is no real strength of tendons!, proclaimed Alexander. He was
and still is the strongest man the world has ever known! Zass was born in
Vilna, Poland in 1888, but lived most of his early years in Russia and after
1924 in Britain. He lifted a 500 pound girder with his teeth, his was known
for catching cannon balls (200lbs steel cannon balls were caught by Zass
standing 8 meters away from the shooting cannon), catching a person
shot out a specically constructed human cannon, carrying a horse on
Alexander Zass. Samson's System and
his shoulders, carrying a piano with a pianist and a dancer on it, doing Methods
back ips with 54.1lbs in his hands, doing 200 pushups in 4 minutes and
nally tearing chains with his ngers.

During the World War I, Alexander was captured by Austrian troops three times, and three times escaped (at
least once by pulling the prison cell door steel bars out). After the third break out, Alexander was able to escape
Austria and moved to England, where he lived the rest of his life.

The most amazing thing about Alexander was his body size: height 5 6-7, weight no more than 176lbs,
chest measured 47in and biceps 16.1 inches. Alexander said he had to increase the size of the biceps from 15
inches, as the public liked to see big muscles; however, he always used to say big biceps do not stand for
strong arms, as big stomach does not stand for good digesting system. This is not one of Ripleys Believe it or

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Not history tricks, go ahead and research Alexander Zass, see what other of his tricks I missed.

The amazing strength of the Great Samson reached the United States, where athletes started adopting
Alexanders training methods, including falsely claimed to be a father of such Charles Atlas. It is only due to such
training Alexander was able to reach such levels of physical strength. Zass was not a born superman; he stated
that the sources of his strength were strong tendons, will power, and mastering muscle control. So what is the
secret behind the isometric training? What does it have to do with tendon strength? and why does it allow
developing such astonishing levels of physical strength?

Isometric Training Dened

Isometric exercise or isometrics are a type of strength


training in which the joint angle and muscle length do
not change during contraction (compared to concentric
or eccentric contractions, called dynamic/isotonic
movements). Isometrics are done in static positions,
rather than being dynamic through a range of motion.
The joint and muscle are either worked against an
immovable force (overcoming isometric) or are held in a
static position while opposed by resistance (yielding
isometric). Iso same, metric distance. Isometric training without equipment

Forms of Isometric Training


The types of isometrics we utilize are isometric holds, isometric presses, isometric contrasts, oscillatory
isometrics, and impact absorption isometrics. Below is a brief overview of each.

Isometric Hold: An isometric hold is a static exercise in which an athlete is required to hold a particular position
with or without resistance for a required period of time. The athlete is trying to disallow any movement, while
trying to recruit the correct muscle bers to perform this movement. This type of isometric is used to educate the
body to properly recruit and stabilize the kinetic chain.

Isometric Press: An isometric press is a static exercise in which the athlete pushes or pulls against an
immovable object for a required time. The athlete is trying to generate as much force as possible, trying to
actually move the immovable object. This method of isometric teaches the CNS (central nervous system) to
recruit more muscle bers to perform a movement, so when the similar movement is performed dynamically,
these extra muscle bers will be readily activated.

Isometric Contrast: By putting the muscles in the least mechanically advantageous position (stretched position)
and requiring those muscles to re maximally from this position, an athlete is asking his CNS to work overtime.
As the CNS allow the recruitment of more muscle bers to perform this movement, the force being generated is
increased. Once the athlete stops the isometric exercise they will then perform a power movement for low
repetitions with minimal rest. The theory behind the contrast is based on the fact that the athlete will readily
activate more muscle bers to perform the ballistic movement, when preceded by an isometric exercise.

Oscillatory Isometrics: Immediately following an isometric exercise (release all tension), the athlete will perform
a single or series of powerful micro-contractions in the same mechanical position as the isometric contraction

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was performed. Basically all tension will be released from the isometric exercise and the dynamic form of the
exercise will be performed with minimal range of motion occurring.

Impact Absorption Isometrics: A Form of isometric in which an athlete will absorb a force or impact and
immediately perform an isometric contraction for a required time. Upon properly absorbing the impact, the athlete
will minimize any change in the joint angle and hold this position.

Advantages of Isometric Training


1. A single workout does not usually exceed 15 minutes of your time
2. No special equipment needed
3. Can be performed virtually anywhere and anytime
4. Isometric exercises are the best way to train tendon strength, the true human strength
5. Variety of isometric exercises allows you to train for certain activities
6. Anyone can perform isometric exercises of some sort, therefore, such trainings are used starting with
injury rehabilitation all the way to special forces and strongman competition preparations
7. There are isometric exercises for any part of a human body
8. The energy is only spent on tension increase without being wasted on the motion causing fatigue,
therefore, making it possible to reach maximum levels of strength
9. Isometrics increase exibility
10. Isometrics decrease injuries

Disadvantages of Isometric Training


1. Danger of serious injury, and blood pressure problems, if implemented incorrectly
2. Takes time to learn how to properly implement the techniques
3. Isometrics are not a brainless and dumb push or pull of a static object, your mindset is very important. It
takes time to learn to properly control your body, muscles, and breathing.

Concept of Isometric Training


As I have mentioned before, many people, athletes, and writers fail to
completely understand the meaning of isometric training. Isometrics
are targeted on developing tendon strength, which is very hard to
understand at rst, as we are all fed by the pictures of bodybuilders,
giving us an illusion of strength. Just as Zass used to say big muscles
without strong tendons are just that and is an illusion of strength.
Lets break down the concept of isometric s to better understand its
function, you must forget the illusion of big muscles = strength and
simply follow this logic of isometrics:

1. Tendons are what attaches muscles to the bones and makes


them move during muscle contractions or extensions
2. The way muscles grow is they create new muscle tissue, not by
thickening the existing ones
3. In order to fully engage the new bigger muscle we created by
working out, we need to grow tendons, since tendons must attach
itself to the new muscle tissue and connect it to the bone Alexande Zass - Human Bridge

4. Muscles grow through their tear, by healing and increasing the


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size as the result, however, tendons grow through continuous tension
5. Muscle tissue is a lot weaker than tendons, thus takes less time and pressure to tear.
6. Tendons take more time to grow than muscles
7. Dynamic/isotonic training is targeted on implementing multiple sets of repetitions; this type of training
mostly tears muscles, as the tension in such exercises is not enough to train tendons
8. Tendons need a continuous type of tension in training to grow
9. Isometric training provides continuous type of tension to the muscles and tendons without their
contraction at an angle and level chosen by the athlete, therefore, training tendons more

Here we go, this is the logic that many athletes seem to not know or ignore. Lets take pro bodybuilders mean
looking machines with veins popping out. Yes they have a lot of muscle tissue; however, they do not have large
and strong enough tendons to help engage all of that power and connect it to the bone, which only creates an
illusion of strength. Bodybuilders focus on muscle isolation and sometimes linear strength; therefore, their
exercises completely ignore true functional strength with tendon strengthening exercises. Just imagine how
much strength bodybuilders would have, if they also implemented isometrics to support all that muscle! But it is
called bodybuilding, not bodystrengthening

Is isometric training the answer to all the strength training questions?


Another biggest misconception oating around the Internet is that writers and athletes seem to think that
isometrics on their own should be able to fulll all their strength training needs. As I have mentioned before,
isometrics mostly work tendon strength; therefore, increasing their size (it also tears muscle, yet not as much as
the isotonic exercises). It is still muscles that make things move; it is still bones that are able to hold large
amounts of weight and pressure; it is still our cardiovascular system that supplies oxygen to our muscles; and
yes it is still our mind that makes it all happen.

Here is a breakdown of isometric training, how Alexander Zass saw it:

1. Strong will power


2. Ability to control your muscles
3. Tendon strength
4. Breathing right

Strength training must be a part of any athletes workout =>there is no true strength without tendon strength
=>isometrics must be a part of every athletes workout.

Isometrics Myth 1: Isometric training does not help in functional strength


training.
This is a misconception born by the strictly muscle focused perspective. Yes, from such angle it seems as we
are training only a certain part of the muscle from a certain angle (the dynamic perspective). As functional
strength training focuses on movement and completion of certain types of activities, training your muscle does
seem insucient from only one position. If you read the material above, you can now see where this takes a
wrong turn isometrics are mainly focused on tendon strengthening and growth, not so much of a muscle;
therefore, isometrics are essential to functional strength training!

Isometrics Myth 2: You will lose weight by doing isometrics.


With weight loss being the main New Years resolution for Americans in 2010, this rumor spread like a virus. You
lose weight by burning more calories and eating right, plus ushing out dead cells through the cardiovascular
exercises. While isometrics will make you stronger, they are not the best exercises for calorie burning. Isometrics

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do help indirectly by increasing strength, therefore, allowing you to intensify your dynamic workouts; however,
saying that isometric training directly impacts weight loss is unfair and deceptive.

How to Properly Train Isometrics


There are innite types of isometric exercises; therefore, you should
choose whatever is important for you specically. The best thing is
that isometric training does not require purchasing expensive
equipment; in fact you can implement isometric training without any
equipment in the right setting. Alexander Zass only used a chain for
almost all of his isometric exercises. Due to a large number of
available isometric exercises, I will not waste your reading time by
giving you samples, as Google is a click away, but rather would like
to stress the importance of the following rules and directions of
proper isometric training. I call them the 20 Golden Rules of
Isometric Training:

1. Your whole body is your main subject not particular muscles;


respect it and listen to it.
2. Always start implementing isometric exercises on a breath in,
not out!
3. Create a exible wave of power, with a smooth natural entrance, Alexander Zass carrying a young horse showing
leaving stress and goals out of you mind (do not focus on kids his strength at a lake.

breaking the chain, once you learn the isometrics and train
properly for long enough it will break when its time to break), while focusing on the process and the
volume of the body power.
4. Breathe steadily and calmly. If breathing becomes deeper or more frequent, your heart will start rushing,
breaking the power wave stop immediately. Rest, calm down, repeat. Try to feel trough the exercise.
5. The power wave must involve the whole body, only this way you will be able to strengthen the muscle-
tendon-bone relationship.
6. Always stretch your muscles thoroughly before training, using static and dynamic stretching to avoid
serious muscle and joint injuries
7. Start exercise with zero amount of strength and start slowly and steadily increasing it.
8. Do not hurry, let the overall exercise and reaching the level of maximum strength appear naturally, start
with 2-5 second exercises and increase the time over time.
9. Listen to your body during the whole process, feel the ow of power and strength, feel the release, listen
to the recovery with a feeling of uncertainty followed by the new inow of strength. Only this way one
learns to have full control of the muscles.
10. Implement exercises properly the rst time, as statistically it takes roughly ten times longer to change a
habit then to get it. Get used to doing exercises properly the rst time; for instance, on squads, you must
feel it in your quads more than anywhere, otherwise, you have a problem.
11. Use natural biomechanical exercises and positions, do not try to twist your joints the way they are not
meant to be twisted.
12. Properly use muscle imbalances, teach the CNS to recruit proper muscles, increase strength and power
13. Isometric hold time range should be less than 2-3 minutes
14. Isometric press time range should be less than 9 seconds
15. Impact Absorption Isometrics can be held for up to 5 seconds
16. As an athlete, use isometrics as a supplement to training, as sport is dynamic and thus your training
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needs to be dynamic as well
17. If you feel sharp pain in your muscles or joints, stop immediately, rest more than usual, stretch, repeat the
exercise with low pressure; feel what is causing the pain. If pain continues, stop and give it a day or a few
to heal, only then try again (or pay for negligence later). If pains persist, consult your physician.
18. Prepare yourself mentally; imagine a continuous movement, whatever it may be. Chains and walls only
exist physically, not mentally.
19. Only set time limits on your sets, not rests. Allow your muscles to recover from the previous exercise, but
do not slack o between sets. Listen to your body, feel your muscles, use only enough time for them to
recover according to your personal assessment, not more no less. Every person is dierent.
20. Once a week implement a checkpoint. Grab a chain or a stick and try to stretch it with hand down, with
about 95% of intensity for around 8-9 seconds, then drop it and relax. Listen to your body, feel your arms
rise a little in front of you or to the sides. They will then start slowly lowering down. The length of time of
your arms staying up is dened as an amount of tonic activity. You should notice an increase of tonic
activity every week, if you do not, you must be doing isometrics improperly.

This information should give you a good start in the right direction with isometrics. Now you know what isometric
training is really all about and what its true purpose is. Go ahead and look up Alexander Zass and his chain
training techniques if you are an athlete, join a yoga class, or simply nd some exercises you can do in your own
personal setting. No matter if you are a ghter, wrestler, reghter, police ocer, strongman, or a housewife; we
can all benet from isometric training in one way or another!

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