In Rock, Iron, Steel: The Book of Strength, Steve Justa dedicates a whole chapter to isometrics. You never really hear anyone talk about isometrics. Have you ever seen anyone do isometrics? Have you ever done them?
I remember seeing pictures of Bruce Lee training isometrically. He was a real fan of isometric exercise. After doing Steve Justa’s program, and experiencing what isometrics can do, I suspect that isometrics were a huge contributor to Bruce Lee’s strength.
Steve Justa takes isometrics to a whole different level. His program consists of four days of isometric training, two days off, and then sprints on the seventh day. In the program, you vary how long you hold the tension for, how quickly you turn the tension on for, and what percentage of effort you use to hold the tension.
And then, there’s that seventh day when you do 30 sets of quarter block sprints, rest six hours, and then do a two mile run. I was sore for days after that one.
Steve Justa describes how he felt when doing the isometrics:
The isometrics made me feel like a steel shaft. They burned the fat right out of the muscle from the inside out. They made my muscle super dense and super efficient. They gave me super-speedy quick movements. They made me feel light as a feather afoot. They gave me great endurance.
Isometrics let you train at any conceivable angle, using any possible device. You can walk up to a corner in a building and pretend like you’re trying to press it apart. What a weird angle of strength. You can walk up to two poles and try to pull them apart. You can get under your car and try to press it off of you. Or, you can just press your fingers against your thumbs individually.
Isometrics give you tremendous body control. The best way to say it is when you want it, it’s there, and without effort. When I was doing the isometric program, I always felt ready.
One exercise in the program is doing a squat where you try to lift the weight 100 times, in half-second bursts, in sets of five, using 90% power. You learn to turn your muscles on and off very quickly. The real trick of that one is when you stop pressing against the weight, you’re still holding yourself up against gravity. When you relax and stop pressing against the weight, you still have to maintain tension against the bar so you can be ready for the next rep. You learn some serious control.
Doing the program in his book, you’ll most likely feel stronger than you ever have before.
Isometrics are good for anyone at any age. You don’t have to do them as intensely as Steve Justa’s program, but when you do them you have to be detailed. Think about all the angles you want to work out, think how long you want to hold the contractions, and don’t do it more than 4 days per week.
While you’re doing them, make sure to practice any sporting movements (if you have a sport) while you’re doing the isometrics. Isometrics teach to use more of your muscles. If you don’t practice your sport while you’re doing them, and then six weeks into the program you decide to play your sport, you’ll swing/throw/punch with more power than before and you’re likely to hurt yourself.
If you want more information about Steve’s program, get the book, Rock, Iron, Steel: The Book of Strength.
- Deeper information on isometric stretching (video)
- How to Perform Isometric Exercise
- The Benefits of the Embedded Static Protocol