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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Isometrics are Wonderful

Here is the thing about isometrics: almost everyone dismisses them!

There is no rhyme or reason about it.  My feeling is that no one has actually looked at the research, or ever experimented with this form of exercise- I mean, how can it be that pushing hard against an immovable resistance for a matter of seconds can:

Lower blood pressure, dramatically!
Strengthen that muscle in a huge way, even throughout the muscle, not just in that particular angle!
Be done so fast, and so relatively painlessly!

Well, isometrics CAN do that, and it is just a shame that the benefits have been shoved aside. 

I believe that this is because conventional isotonic weight training- in paleo parlance ‘lifting heavy things’- has the “advantage” of building bulky types of muscle.  Big, chubby muscles that everyone can see, and say “Hey- have you been lifting weights??” 

If you have a fragile ego, like I did when I was 14 or so, to hear this is very gratifying.  And so, people tend to double down on the weight lifting! 

Many take it to extremes.  I did, and I know so many others.  Bigger is better, right? 

I’m here to tell you that no, it’s really not!

Bruce Lee figured this out, the hard way.  He was early in his career when he saw a photo of  Arnold Schwarzenegger in a muscle magazine of the time in the late 60’s or early 70’s.  It inspired him to take up heavy weight training, ala Arnold.

The result?  He injured his back, leading him to a drug dependency to alleviate the pain that eventually took his life!  Heavy weights, particularly squats will do that…

After he was injured, he returned to isometrics, resulting in a physique that was so amazing, that today it is still not only awesome, but timeless.

Trust me, lean, fit and ripped is WAY better than big, bulky, and- eventually- sagging and fat as you age.  And it’s even better at the moment, when you are young- far better!

Isometrics not only made him ripped to the bone, they also made him much more efficient as a fighter, much ‘lighter’ yet stronger, functionally.   They even partially cured his pain from weight training, but only partially.  Heavy weights are ultimately debilitating… and so are heavy things!

So, don’t lift heavy things, at least not for exercise- only because you need to move something heavy!  (What a concept)!  When you exercise, use either-

Light weights, like your own body weight for high reps, as in pushups.

Self resisted movements, where you resist with one limb against another.

Virtual resistance- this is really the king of them all, the one exercise everyone should use daily!

And Isometrics, which are the fastest, simplest, easiest way to build lasting strength, joint health and fitness that there is!  And that almost no one uses.

And it is so simple: one way is to simply flex; do a “most muscular” pose, holding for several seconds.  Pretend you are Arnold, in front of a huge crowd at a bodybuilding competition- FLEX for all you are worth!  Relax briefly, then repeat- hold for 5 seconds, next for 6, and the last for 7.    Watch the second hand of a clock, because those seconds will go by really slowly, since you are really exerting yourself!!

I have a nylon strap, meant for moving things.  Unbreakable, can hold hundreds of pounds.  I use it when I do isometrics, and you should too!  Very inexpensive, and incredibly effective.

Do any standard weightlifting move- try a curl!  Stand on the strap, and grasp it so your arm is below parallel- curl upwards as hard as you can.  Do one rep of 5 seconds, another of 6, and then a third of 7.  Then, step off of the strap, and let it extend to just parellel- do the same thing.  Next, do the same thing, but with your arm up above shoulder height.  Do this same thing with both arms- your biceps should be totally stimulated to build muscle, along with your tendons and ligaments, which conventional weight training ignores!

Do the same thing, using your strap: military presses, bent over rows, squats and deadlifts; even pushups (holding the strap behind your back).  It really doesn’t take all that long, and addresses all the major muscle groups of your body!  You can also add in tricep extensions and side extensions for the shoulders… 

Congratulations- you have strengthened and improved all of the muscle groups of your body, along with your joint connections of tendons and ligaments, in a short, relatively painless workout that would make Bruce Lee proud! 

And you are building, and maintaining, a body that anyone would appreciate- not only when they are young, but as they age- a taut, muscular body that is not only resistant to joint problems, and problems of muscular weakness (sarcopenia)- you are creating a body that will be vital, strong, and free from pain…

For the rest of your life!

Check out this episode!