Strengthening the Weakest Link – Maximum Effort For Maximum Gains
The feel of rough chalky knurling on a barbell. The sound and vibrations of weights clanking the gym floor. Look around and see everyday people chasing their fitness goals and dreams. This is just part of the atmosphere and culture in most gyms.
Weight lifting, power-lifting, medicine ball throws, and speed/agility training are exciting. These tasks and activities are challenging yet fun to most athletes and they should be! But just like the links of a chain, an athlete is only as strong as their weakest link.
An often overshadowed aspect of training relative and absolute strength is the incorporation of isometrics strength training. Isometrics are a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. Isometric exercises are done in static positions, rather than being dynamic through a range of motion. The muscles are contracted in a fixed-joint position or against an immovable object.
Isometrics: Performance Over Appeal
The valuable benefits of isometrics strength training for diamond sports athletes include: an improvement in muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular function and athletic performance. While minimal stress to the body’s joints, tendons, and other supporting structures. They are also generally very safe, effective and convenient if done correctly.
Studies show that it can be an important addition to injury prevention programs. One such study suggests that maximum isometrics strength is likely to have a strong role in weightlifting performance. Other notable beneficial effects consist of an increase in muscle bulk, upper and lower body strength. Along with an increase in bone density and a decrease in bone fractures.
The intensity of isometrics strength exercises should be performed with maximal, or near maximum, contractions and effort. Because of this, they can offer convenient benefits to athletes. Such as neurological changes, tendon adaptation, and analgesia or the inability to feel pain.
In a diamond sports athlete neurological changes may include neural adaptations in the motor pathway. Thus, improving the athlete’s ability to activate and fire their muscles much faster when the brain tells the body to react or go.
Research on tendon adaptation has since highlighted the duality of tendon functions. Enabling muscle power, amplification and protection against muscular damage. Hence, tendon adaptation to changes in mechanical constraints seems essential. Helping athletes to maintain movement efficiency and reduce the risk of damage to their body.
Also shown to manage pain in soreness in diamond sports athletes who have reported elbow soreness. Giving pain relief for at least 45 minutes after a training session that included “elbow-joint” specific isometrics exercises. These analgesic effects are highly beneficial and make for a great addition to warm-up and arm-care routines.
You Get What You Give
When performing isometrics strength exercises, it is best to remember that you will only get out of it what you put in. If you can hammer out an effort that is primal, with pure maximum effort, you stand to gain the most benefit. By going all out with your intensity, you are firing up your bodies motor units and neurological pathways. The harder you go, with proper form, the more isometrics strength training can benefit you.
There are two types of isometrics strength training that can complement a diamond sports athletes training program. Yielding isometrics and Overcoming isometrics.
Yielding isometrics involve holding a position. Exercises such as a wall sit, planks, or split squats with a pause at the bottom are examples of yielding isometrics.
Overcoming isometrics exercises include Overloaded Deadlift (weight should be so heavy that you can not move it), Mid Thigh Pulls (against the squat rack pulls) and Squat Through the Pins (done at parallel, just below parallel and just above parallel). These exercises help strengthen the body at joint-specific angles.
Properly programmed isometrics strength training has even shown to improve the effectiveness of both rehabilitation and strength training. But as always, it is important to remember, it is still only part of the equation that makes a total package athlete. Isometrics training should be performed to compliment a more dynamic exercise regimen, but should not be overshadowed by the appeal of weightlifting and cardio machines.