There are a lot of fitness freaks who build an impressive physique using just their body weights. What’s the secret behind that?
Here’s a particular type of training you would want to try out to get the physique you aim for.
Isometric training: Isometric training is mainly strength boosting training that involves the constant length of the muscles while workout.
As opposed to dynamic strength training, where the muscles are contracted using a range of motion, in isometric training, there is more use of static holds and contractions to put pressure on the muscles. Confused? Imagine pushing an immovable wall?
Feel pressure in your arms, shoulders and pecs? That’s the idea behind isometric training.
As far as chest muscles are concerned, chest isometrics lay emphasis on making strong the upper, middle and lower pectoral muscles.
There is slight pressure on the triceps and delts too. Read on further to get an idea about some helpful isometric chest exercises.
Exercise #1: Isometric Push Ups
- Assume a push-up position and go down till the mid point. Exhale fully and hold this position for some time. Make sure your muscles feel tense.
- Making the pectoral muscles as tight as possible, pause the position for half a minute. You will feel your body wobbling, resisting against holding this static position.
- Release slowly. The slower, the better.
Do 6-8 such repetitions and rest for about 1-2 minutes between sets. Complete 3-4 such sets.
Exercise #2: Isometric chest flys
Chest flys are usually performed holding dumbbells and squeezing the pecs using the ull range of motion. In the isometric version of this exercise, you need an open door.
- Situate your feet shoulder width apart and stand near the door. With your hands at either side of the doorway, imagine you are pushing both the ends of the door with your pecs.
- With time, increase the intensity of the contraction and push harder.
- Pause this position for 30 seconds and release slowly to rest. Complete 6-8 reps and three such sets.
Exercise #3: Isometric Hand Press
- Stand straight and keep your arms at chest width. Bend the elbows slightly so that a triangle is created between the wrist line and the elbow line.
- Press your palms together as if you are holding on to a baseball bat hard.
- Squeeze the pecs and hold this position for half a minute. Do 6-8 reps, three sets.
Combining strength training and isometric training:
Isometric training has been around for quite a time now. Initially, it was used to increase the strength beyond the failure point.
For instance, if a person is doing bench press at a certain weight and unable to get past the fifth repetition in the set and a certain position.
The strategy was to hold this position for a few seconds and then push the rack back with the help of a spotter.
What did this was got the chest muscles used to the position, thus developing strength in them. The muscle memory and built up strength during the next workout ensured that the person pushed beyond this point for sure.
Say you are performing incline dumbbell flys. You can hold the weights either just after the start of the rep or at the mid range or just before completing the set.
Incorporating this strategy while doing basic chest exercises such as bench presses, incline dumbbell flys, cable crossovers, etc. would be great. This way, the muscular tension is maintained throughout the set.
If you are working the traditional way, the tension remains only for a certain amount of time, particularly during the end of the set. The potential for muscle gains escalated further when you get 8-12 more seconds of maximum muscular tension.
Secondly, there is not extra energy required to do isometric holds along with strength based exercises. Many people complain of plateaus after a certain point, when the body just does not seem to grow.
“Plateaus” demand a change in the way you work out. Using isometric training will make sure you get rid of any of these.
Isometric chest exercises using resistance bands: It is a good idea to incorporate resistance bands while doing isometric exercises. The disadvantage with resistance bands is, there is not much resistance to the muscle during the full range of motion as compared to the resistance felt with weights.
Using the traditional weightlifting strategy with these bands does not extract the full benefit of the muscles worked. In the initial part of the motion, the band is not stretched at all, and your muscles do not work with any weight. The tension gradually builds up in the bands, and you start to feel some contraction.
The resistance is not as significant, though; that too exists during the latter part of a set. Using isometric strategy for resistance band training weakens the muscle fibers, providing them a large scope for growth. Here’s how:
As opposed to working with weights, where you lift a dumbbell, there is the force of gravity that is working against you and thus causing contraction in your muscle fibers. The point is, there is just a single uni-directional force that acts when you adopt the isometric hold strategy. With resistance bands on the other hand, the force working against you is never constant.
The more you stretch the band, the more pressure you feel in your muscles. Add to that, the extra force components that will be resisting you. It is basic Physics. When you pull a band, it is always bent at an angle, and hence, there are the horizontal and vertical component forces that work in conjunction to weaken your muscles. The result is: you feeling the almost dynamic tension and wobbling to resist these forces. Your muscles feel these small changes, with micro tears and movements within them. As against normal weights, the load changes with time and length of the band, encouraging more muscle recruitment.
Exercise #4: Isometric chest exercises with resistance tube
Wrap the resistance band around any object, immovable, say a bed post. Hold an end in each arm and face away from the post.
- Walk away from the object till you feel some tension build up in the band.
- Situate your arms just in front of the chest, fully extending them and squeezing them to complete one rep.
- Push again against the tension in the band and start the isometric strategy by holding the position for 10-15 seconds. Here’s your chest press using resistance bands.
You can also lie down on the band such that it is fully tensed. You can perform the bench press equivalent using the tube. Hold the static position for 3-4 reps, particularly towards the end to feel the burn.
Isometric resistance band push-ups can be performed by wrapping the band around your upper body and pushing against the resistance using isometric holds along the rep range.
Why Isometrics for chest exercises?
Isometrics amp up the intensity on the pectoral muscles. The largest motor units of the muscle are recruited. A motor unit connects to the muscle fibers. With the emphasis on maintaining a certain position constant, more motor units have to be under work. This means the muscle gets matured quicker.
Thumb rule: Don’t incorporate isometrics during the end of the workout. Use it when you have started your exercise or in the middle when there is scope for use of more motor units. Note that isometric training is just a supplement to your strength training. It is just a method to make your strength training more effective so that you get rid of those plateaus and see massive results.
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