Man has made the best in technology and invention when it comes to making things convenient. In the process, things have only gotten more complicated. For instance, when it comes to your fitness, a simple calisthenics routine with regular jogging or simpler aerobics are enough. But we still want to go to fancy gyms with scientifically designed machines which require special skill and safety measures to execute. Don’t get me wrong, I love the iron sport and find hoisting weights to be a very accomplishing task. However, that isn’t really what I need to develop my fitness for or for enhancing my physical fitness.
The best part is – you don’t need to spend too much money and time going to the gym and you don’t need extra focus to ensure your personal safety. Better yet, you can save a lot of physical energy getting to and coming back from the gym. You can utilize that time to complete a workout at home with an old school training form used by the legendary strongmen and wrestlers that gave them incredible strength, strength that most gym buffs of today can’t boast about.
The form of training that I am speaking about is known as Isometric Exercise. It is an obscure form of physical training and is almost lost to the masses. Isometrics training involves contraction of muscles not brought about by successive concentric and eccentric movements (known as isotonic movements). Instead the muscle length stays fixed while it is trying to either move an immovable load or hold a heavy load in a particular position. You shall find this used mostly by athletes and also by patients rehabilitating an injury. However, this method is very effective even for a regular trainee and with appropriate use, can deliver results beyond your wildest imagination.
History of Isometric Exercises
Don’t believe me; let’s, for example, look at the greatest Strongmen in history and who could be a better example than Alexander Zass. A former weight training enthusiast, Zass, built his physique and decent strength, during his early years by employing strength training methods using weights. However, during the world war, he was captured and imprisoned by the Russians. Imprisoned in shackles and solitary confinement in an Austrian prison camp, Zass found his hard earned physique deteriorating, like anybody’s would if they stop working out. Frustration drove him to begin pulling at the shackles and pushing the prison bars. The result was the rapid development of strength. Pretty soon he developed enough strength to rip out the prison bars, bend it to form a hook in order to scale the prison wall and escape. After his escape, his new found training technique became a staple method and he modified it to suit his needs outside the prison. He even developed it enough to sell it as a training discipline to interested patrons and serious trainees. Apart from Alexander Zass, there were other famous strength athletes who used Isometric Exercises to develop their bodies and strength like Joseph Greenstein, Tromp Van Digglen and the renowned martial artist – Bruce Lee.
Types of Isometric Exercises
The beauty of this training method is that you really don’t need to use prison bars and shackles or any fancy equipment to get a good workout. Simply applying opposing force using your own limbs can deliver phenomenal results. The idea is to apply force on an immovable object and trying to move it. This is called as Overcoming isometrics. Here you’re trying to make an immovable object move by consistently increasing the effort.
The other method is when you try to hold an object and keep it from moving. A heavy barbell during a bench press for example, if you’re simply holding the load halfway across the movement and resisting it the entire time, then this is called, Yielding Isometrics.
Now, when you are pushing at a dumbbell or a barbell in an eccentric and concentric manner, your body is only utilizing a small percentage of its muscles to bring about a movement. As a result, you need to work multiple sets in order to ensure maximum muscular stress and thus muscular strength and growth. With isometric contraction, the body is trying hard to move the object and as it realizes that it isn’t able to do so, the body recruits more muscle fibres into the effort. The result is the body’s increased capacity to activate muscles when needed at the first instance. The most important aspect about this training method is its direct impact on tendons. The tendons respond very well to isometric contraction and strengthen up. On the contrary, with the conventional form of training with weights and machines, the muscles respond rapidly and the tendons respond to a much slower degree. As a result, your body becomes subject to potential injuries as you begin to train with heavier loads.
My own personal experience with Isometrics was of the yielding type. I used an equipment called the bull worker and found the gains to be pretty good. However, back then I was training with only a chart with the routine printed on it and nobody to guide me along the way. Not knowing how far I could go with Isometric Exercises alone and having limited knowledge about the discipline, I moved on to weight training as that was the method endorsed by famous and successful champions like Arnold Schwarzenneger and Lou Ferrigno. Anyway, years later, I came across an article about Alexander Zass and read about his legendary feats of strength and about how he’d gained this strength by practising isometric exercises. This pushed my focus back on isometrics. I didn’t fully take it up until late 2012. It has a profound impact on my body and I began feeling a muscular stress similar to lifting heavy weights with just a few seconds of each exercise. This training principle is also to a decent extent mimicked by the gymnasts in their static holds and conditioning exercises. This explains why so many of them who’ve never lifted weight ever before are able to lift mind blowing amounts of weights within a very short time of starting weight training.
Isometric Exercises are incredibly powerful and very efficient when it comes to building muscular strength and burning fat. You can develop a total body workout routine with nothing more than your body weight and do so without the need of any expensive equipment.