In the past few columns I’ve been sharing with you some of the best but little-known advanced techniques that can net you enormous rewards in growth and strength. They’re not techniques that you’ll see very much of in the neighborhood gym, unless you luck into watching someone who’s working with an intelligent bodybuilding or strength coach.
In my one-on-one coaching program, we use these techniques to give our clients incredible results. They are able to realize serious gains in the shortest time span, much faster than they expected, and with no plateaus. The reason for those results is variation.
As with the constant-tension timed sets and functional hypertrophy clusters described in previous installments, the key to blasting plateaus is to present new stimuli to your body on a regular basis. Once you’re past the beginner stages of bodybuilding, those stimuli can’t come from the standard three or four techniques that you have been using. They simply lack the needed intensity. For that reason we use as many as three dozen different advanced techniques with our clients, changing them as needed.
This month I want to introduce you to an advanced technique that’s been a game-changer for many of the most well-known and respected bodybuilders in the in dustry. It’s called isometronics, but you may have also heard it referred to as static-contraction training or auxotonic training.
What is Isometronics?
Isometronic training combines the principles of isometric and isotonic exercises to reap the benefits of both. It provides a very high-intensity workout, but the rewards are huge. In isometronic training, you use heavy loads (often heavier than you’ve been lifting) in a power rack—but in a very specific way.
Isometronics is used with movements that require either pressing or curling. For instance, you can do it with barbell squats, bench presses, barbell curls, incline presses and so on.
To perform an isometronic movement, you place two pins in the rack, anywhere from four to six inches apart, limiting your range of motion to the top one-third. Then you prefatigue the muscle by doing several of the partial reps—usually six if you normally do eight—and then finish with an isometronic lift: Stop at the top of the movement, and press as hard as possible, as though you were trying to push through the pins, for six to 10 seconds. After lowering the weight and resting for a very short period, try to do one more regular rep. For many guys that last partial rep is a no-go. After you rest again, do two more sets.
Why is Isometronic Training So Effective?
Isometronic training gets massive results in terms of both hypertrophy and strength gains because it prompts so many different responses from your muscles, your hormones and your central nervous system.
First, your muscles can exert 10 to 15 percent more force during an isometric contraction—pressing the bar at the end of the movement—than they can during the concentric movement. Exerting that force, though, adds tremendous intensity to the set. Because of the prefatigue reps followed by the isometric rep, you can achieve maximum intramuscular tension, far more than you can with a regular movement.
That intensity has a number of positive benefits. First, you recruit more of the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which stimulates myofibrillar growth. In most protocols it’s difficult to work past the point where you’ve fatigued the slow-twitch fibers so that you can stimulate the fast-twitch fibers; however, because you prefatigue the muscle and then exert a tremendous amount of force before asking the muscle to do one more rep, your central nervous system sends in every gun it has. Myofibrillar hypertrophy means growth in both size and strength.
That CNS stimulation sets off an important cycle. It prompts more efficient neuromuscular communication, which just means that your muscle fibers get messages from your brain much more quickly. Every time you do the workout, that communication gets better and better—along with the responding muscle fiber recruitment. You’re able to increase reps and/or load every three or four workouts, as opposed to every three or four weeks.
Another very important response to this training is hormonal. Because isometronic training is so incredibly demanding, it stimulates your body to release more insulinlike growth factor 1 than it would with your normal workouts. IGF-1 stimulates the satellite cells in your muscle fibers, which are basically the concrete your body uses to repair and build new muscle.
How to Do It
The above example shows how a set looks when you’re doing isometronic training, but there are a few other guidelines, and they’re important ones. Isometronic work is extremely taxing to the central nervous system. If you try it, you’ll probably find yourself shaking like crazy after doing three sets of an exercise—because your central nervous system is completely shocked. That’s a good thing, for all the reasons discussed, but it can be overdone very quickly.
Isometronic training is not for beginning bodybuilders, and it’s not a protocol for training five or six days a week.
For a few of our advanced one-on-one clients, we suggest using isometronic training at every other workout. By that I mean every other biceps workout or every other chest workout and so on, not every other full-body workout or even every other upper-body or lower-body workout. The last thing you want to do is fry your central nervous system by using isometronics on every bodypart in a workout. In any event, the supporting muscles wouldn’t be up to it.
Because of the huge demand on your central nervous system, you also need to cycle this type of workout very carefully. How often you should cycle it out will depend on your fitness level, your workout and your CNS.
What to Do Next
If you have a personal coach or a very experienced mentor who’s familiar with isometronics, then by all means talk to him or her about incorporating it into your regimen. Because you can very quickly overdo it and wipe out your CNS, however, I strongly urge you to work with someone who has the information when it comes to isometronics.
If you don’t have that resource, I encourage you to check out our personal one-on-one coaching program at www.VinceDelMonteFitness.com. It’s very affordable, and you’ll have careful training and guidance in all of the advanced training techniques that I’ve discussed her over the past few months. Keep lifting and living large.
Editor’s note: Vince Del Monte packed on an amazing 40 pounds of muscle in 24 weeks. He’s known as “the Skinny Guy Savior” and offers a number of courses to help you go from twig to big, including No Nonsense Muscle Building. For more information or to sign up for his free-tips newsletter, visit www