How Iso­met­ric Train­ing Works


The most ba­sic way to get stronger is to work against a load that is “max­i­mal” for just one or two rep­e­ti­tions. Train­ing close to one’s max yields the great­est gains in strength, but there is a ma­jor prob­lem: The body can’t take it. Work­ing with max­i­mal loads takes a mas­sive toll on the mus­cles and ner­vous sys­tem, and it also risks in­jury to joints and ten­dons with in­tense rep­e­ti­tion. More­over, re­cov­er­ing from train­ing with heavy weights can take 72 or more hours, whereas train­ing with a more mod­er­ate weight only re­quires about 24 hours to re­cover.

This is par­tic­u­larly true in iso­met­ric (static) train­ing, where the ex­er­cise in­volves hold­ing a mus­cle in a static po­si­tion, like planks, wall sits, or hang­board­ing. Iso­met­ric train­ing sim­ply teaches the mus­cles to get strong in a fixed range, where the mus­cle is not sig­nif­i­cantly length­en­ing or short­en­ing dur­ing the set of work. This is in con­trast to more “tra­di­tional” modes of train­ing, called iso­tonic train­ing, that in­volve con­cen­tric and ec­cen­tric con­trac­tions. Clos­ing the el­bow and bring­ing the weight up in a bi­cep curl, which short­ens the mus­cle body, is a con­cen­tric ac­tion. The ec­cen­tric ac­tion is the op­po­site, where the mus­cle is al­lowed to lengthen un­der load, or open­ing the el­bow in a bi­cep curl. Iso­met­ric ac­tion would sim­ply be hold­ing the el­bow in one po­si­tion, say a 90° bend. Although all three ac­tions are used in most move­ment, climbers gen­er­ally hold the fin­gers in a fixed po­si­tion

Second joint is be­low the level of the first joint on a large edge or sloper; re­quires least amount of ef­fort. once they grab the rock, mak­ing iso­met­ric train­ing the most use­ful for finger strength­en­ing.

Sev­eral stud­ies on iso­met­ric strength have shown that the to­tal vol­ume of load (time hang­ing) is more im­por­tant than the de­gree of load (weight). Us­ing vary­ing per­cent­ages of max­i­mum weight and ad­just­ing the to­tal time each ath­lete worked un­der load, these stud­ies demon­strated that it mat­ters less how hard the mus­cles were worked than how long mus­cles were un­der ten­sion. In one study, the team showed that seven one-minute con­trac­tions at just 30% of max­i­mum re­sulted in a strength in­crease of about 30% in just six weeks. Sim­i­lar stud­ies showed that it’s pos­si­ble to gain just as much strength at slightly re­duced loads (65 to 75% of max­i­mum) as one might gain while train­ing at max­i­mum (more than 90%) ef­fort. Clearly this is the bet­ter method for most climbers, as it pro­vides faster re­cov­ery be­tween ses­sions and min­i­mizes in­jury risk to sen­si­tive fin­gers. Second and first joints are even on a hold; re­quires mod­er­ate ef­fort. Second joint is above the first joint, re­quires most ef­fort.

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