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Isometric Holds

Hey all,
I have been “reading” up on isometric holds. You know where you hold a heavy weight motionless for a few seconds at or near lockout. So for eg in the bench this would be when you unrack the weight. My question is who here has tried them? Did they work? How long did you hold the weight stationary for? Did it result in any strength gains?

I tried this for a while, actually. A program by Pete Sisco, called “Static Contraction” can be found at precisiontreaining.com I did this for about 10 weeks, and noticed no size gains whatsoever, but great “static” strength gains, which translated to overall dynamic strength gains to a lesser degree. Hope this helps.

Started doing this for abs a few weeks ago. Do several sets of crunches then do sets of 20 sec static holds. Hurts like like but actually has had a negative effect on strength.

I have tried them for several different things. In the bench press position I did it a little different though. I used a power rack and simply pushed against the pins with an empty or lighly loaded bar. You have to make sure the power rack in bolted down or you’ll move the whole rack. You can do it in any position, I used the low position just off of the chest because it was my sticking point. It worked good for strength gains. I used 7 second holds. While there is some carryover in the strength gained it will mostly be in the position you use for your static holds.

I have done this during times I have tried Super Slow routines. Although in the Super Slow routines you work to failure first, then once you reach the point that you can no longer move the weight up, you keep trying for 15 seconds. Pure torture, but I did add some muscle after I had hit a plateau. In fact the last time I got really good gains. Not a workout that should be performed too often though.

My strength increased continuously. But trying to switch back to a normal routine after four weeks with this type of workout takes some adjustment. At the end of the four weeks, I was doing almost as much as I was at normal speed.

There was a system published in Strength and Health magazine in 1965. The idea was to use a power rack with two pins. You then trained Monday holding the weight against the top pin for 10 seconds. You picked a weight that made this just possible. Then you rested for about 3 minutes and repeated the same weight. Then another rest and a third set for another 10 seconds. You would pick a position in the first third of the movement.

You would pick several exercises to do. Bench, squat, press, curl, triceps press, row.

Wednesday you would hold at the mid position for each exercise.

Friday you would hold the position near the top of the movement. On each day you have to adjust the weight to just be able to hold for 10 seconds.

I tried this method for a week in the York Barbell Gym and gained a half inch on my arms in that week! Some of that gain was regaining lost size, but I was very impressed. Because I lacked a power rack I never embraced this method. It is a very taxing method and will have you straining and sweating before you are finished.

On the Saturday you can test your improvement with actual barbell movements. I was very happy with my standing barbell curl and did 185 pounds strict while weighing 175 pounds on the Saturday!

Yes, they can be utalized effectively but one needs to realize is that the strength gain only comes in a 10-15 degree range of motion from the angle of the hold.

Isometric holds can serve several useful pruposes. The workouts outlined above are great for strength and muscle growth. You can also use them to:

  1. Prime the nervous system for either strength or dynamic work. By holding a supramaximal load for a few seconds (for example a walkout with a supramaximal squat or a lockout of a heavy bench), resting a couple of minutes and then dropping back down to a lighter weight you’ll usually be able to knock out more reps then you would otherwise. I tried this out a couple of months ago with the bench press. After a normal wave loading session that ended up with my 1 rm effort I rested completely and added 50 lbs to the bar and held this lockout for 8 seconds. I then rested completely and attempted another 1rm which ended up being 10 lbs heavier than my first. You can also improve power and/or speed/strength by using movements such as speed squats/bench or plyometric drills after locking out and holding a heavy load. For bodybuilding purposes isometric “stops” can be used at the end of a set to prolong the duration of intensity. For example you do a set of pull-ups, on your last rep you stop 3 times on the way down and hold each time for 8 seconds.