A friend needed some help getting old appliances out of the house. Found myself on the bottom side of the washer going up the basement stairs. The dude on top was pulling up with a dolly. On the last step, something happens. Who knows what. But the washer came falling into me and the other guy was down on the ground.
I could feel my back arching backwards, going the wrong way. Immediately I lowed my legs and got my back in the correct position, contracting hard with all the supporting muscles—shoulders, triceps, back, butt, and legs.
Naturally, after anything like that happens, you assess to see if anything happened. A kind of body test. Are you alright my friend asked? — Not sure, but I seem alright, I thought. Quickly I could tell I was fine.
In Rock, Iron, and Steel, Steve Justa wrote: “The isometrics made me feel like a steel shaft. They burned the fat right out of the muscles 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 feature afoot. They gave me great endurance. Speed strength is the ability to tense muscles strongly, densely, and quickly in coordination, and that’s what these isometrics will do for you.”
I don’t know about you, but I hear that kind of thing and get fired up. And I tell ya what, on those stairs today, I think the isometrics played a book role in my reaction.
The thing with isometrics is they seem weird. It’s easy for people to approach them in a weird frame of mind, not understanding how to do them and what to feel and how the whole thing goes.
I like doing isometrics without any music on. There a few ones I really like:
- Isometric curl @ 90 degrees one arm pull away
- Overhead press against I-beam, 70 degree angle
- Horse riding stand @ 90 seconds – 2 minutes
- Standing pulls, arms at 90 degrees
So you get the idea. Essentially, you can do with the isometric any portion of any big exercise you want (squat, bench, press overhead, curl, deadlift, pull up, and so on). Then you can add limitless other exercises. Pressing down while seated at a table. Pressing against the side of the car while you drive. Holding a side step and moving your body into an object, as you lock out your arm and tense all your side muscles.
It’s a different mindset. And you just focus, focus, focus. You close your eyes and feel every fiber of muscle working. If you hold the contraction for a long portion of time, you begin to feel some muscles turning on and others off and and the burning, especially in horse riding stance. You get this incredible awareness. You really have to feel it to believe it.
Steve Justa said that isometrics kind of put the whole package together. You do the weights and endurance stuff and then the isometrics tie it all together. Lately I’ve enjoyed bodyweight stuff—pistols, hindu push ups, pull ups. Joint mobility.
But today on the stairs, it’s the isometrics that I really appreciated.
To get started on this kind of isometric training, I definitely recommend the Justa book. In How to perform isometrics, I talk about the Justa program and give the parameters. I don’t give you all the exercises you can do–there’s way too many. Screw around with these isos and do holds and weird positions. Good stuff.