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Using Static Holds

Coach Andy speaks about why isometric holds (or pauses) can be a great way to build strength and tendon health with very little equipment.


By definition, during isometric exercises, your musculature doesn't noticeably change length, and your affected joints do not move.

Here are some of the reasons I find Isometric holds useful:

When you include Iso holds in your programming, the strength gains tend to be joint position-specific (plus or minus 15% on either end).  

This means you can get very specific and target your sticking points.

  • 3-5 sets of a 45-second hold at the bottom of a push-up (with your chest 1 inch off the ground) can be great to improve someone's push up capacity.

Another cool thing about Isometric holds is that you can hold more weight than you can overcome. So in a way, this can be considered supra max training.

  • 3-5 sets of a 6-10 second hold at the bottom of a difficult push-up variation may be great for someone who is still working towards being able to complete a full rep.

You can also play with odd angles with isometric holds. Because there's no movement, these exercises can be considered reasonably safe.

  • 3-5 sets of a 10-second hold of a doorway lateral raise (Stand in a doorway, and extend both arms to the sides of the door frame). Press hard against the door frame with the back of your hands and ramp-up to a max contraction.

Iso Holds can be held for varying durations. From a fraction of a second burst to a super endurance suffer-fest.

  • 5min in a low split stance hold (left knee a few inches off the ground). Switch stance and repeat.
  • 3-5 sets of burst isometric hold of a doorway pec fly (In a staggered stance, stand to one side of a doorway. Bring one arm out to the side, elbow at shoulder height and forearm vertical. The top of the bicep should be on the door frame and the forearm on the wall beyond. Your positioning should look like you're about to throw a softball). With your chest and shoulder musculature, do 4-5 burst contractions against the immovable door frame. These contractions should ramp up and then relax as quickly as possible (less than a second each).

If we include increasing skill acquisition and movement control, and preparing the body to better redirect forces, to the list above, you've got a pretty strong argument to include Isometric elements into a well-designed program.