There are three different types of muscular contractions: concentric (shortening of the muscle), eccentric (lengthening of the muscle) and isometric (muscle doesn’t change length and the affected joint doesn’t move). Let’s talk about the utility of isometrics during this trying period and how you can implement them into your clients’ training program by using nothing but a towel.
Isometrics are a great way to gain strength, build muscle, and rehab injuries. If you think about when you do a normal set of bench presses (or most exercises) you get maybe a second of tension at any given joint angle performing the movement. When you utilize isometrics you activate nearly all available motor units resulting in a tremendous amount of muscular tension. You can also blast through “stick points or plateaus” by implementing this type of training.
The Towel Workout
Don’t have a kettlebell, TRX, or free weights for your clients to use? No problem, all you need is a towel. This towel workout will cover five exercises that you can do alternating between pulling and pushing exercises. You will do 8 reps at 80% max tension (tension refers to flexing the muscles of the body at a high level that you couldn’t maintain for more than 8 seconds) hold for 6-8 seconds for each repetition. Complete each exercise as a circuit before repeating exercises; do 3 sets.
The 5 exercises are:
ISO Hinge: Stand on towel with both feet and hinge back. You should feel the hamstrings stretch and loaded up. Maintain a flat back without rounding the shoulders. Contract your muscles by pulling up on the towel. Hold for 6-8 sec, relax for 2-3 seconds and repeat. You should be contracting about 80% of your max effort. Do 8 reps.
ISO Split Squat: Remove your right leg from the towel and step back. You want to take a long stride back and bend your legs and keep your butt in. While being in a split squat position (your legs should form two ninety degree angles) pull up and contract your muscles with the towel. You should feel your quads in the front leg burn, secondary muscles are hamstrings and glutes. Hold for 6-8 sec, relax for 2-3 seconds and repeat. You should be contracting about 80% of your max effort. Do 8 repetitions.
ISO Row: Take a seat and bend your legs so you can reach and choke up on the towel. Pull the towel towards you and keep your shoulders down and away from your ears; this will allow you to not only feel your arms but also the lats and rear deltoids. Hold for 6-8 sec, relax for 2-3 seconds and repeat. You should be contracting about 80% of your max effort. Do 8 repetitions.
ISO Chest Press: Lay down with the towel placed around your lower back. Grab the towel with a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and pull up on the towel. Hold for 6-8 sec, relax for 2-3 seconds and repeat. You should be contracting about 80% of your max effort. Do 8 repetitions.
ISO Pull-Apart: Stand up with the towel, shoulder width and your arms straight. Separate your hands while pulling the towel apart. You should feel your shoulder blades retract. Great exercise for posture and upper back strength. Hold for 6-8 sec, relax for 2-3 seconds and repeat. You should be contracting about 80% of your max effort. Do 8 repetitions.
Regardless of your circumstance or equipment available, isometric training has its appropriate place and can make an impact 0n your workouts. The hardest thing for your clients will be employing the mental effort required to create as much force and tension necessary for this to be effective, but if they do they will feel the benefits. Regardless if you are working around an injury, getting stronger during certain angles of the lift, or looking to simply mix things up to get stronger, then give this towel routine a try.