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In simple terms, muscle can only contract in a few ways. It can do the obvious and contract to shorten the distance between joints, such as when doing a bicep curl. This is called aconcentric contraction, where the muscle tenses while shortening.
It can also tense while lowering a load, or resisting it, such as when lowering the weight on a side lateral (see picture ). This type of contraction is known as eccentric and occurs when the muscle tenses while lengthening. A final type of contraction is called an isometric contraction, and it occurs when the muscle tenses while not changing length. Examples of this are poses in body building or pushing against an immovable object such as a wall.
One of the main benefits of isometric training is that the body is able to activate nearly all the available motor units – something that is usually very difficult to do.
Isometric sessions be used just like regular strength training with peak frequency for the week at around three to four sessions. Be careful with how much you do. These sessions won’t leave you sore or tired, but CNS fatigue is easily hidden. It can take the nervous system up to five times longer to recover than the muscular system, so the effects of isometric training can last a long time after your session.
So, take heed – isometrics work, just use them like any other high intensity method, and a little goes a long way.