Over the last 18 months I’ve become an evangelist for isometric training. If someone wants to talk training then the first thing I tell them is about the amazing experience I’ve had and seen others have with this marginalized training method.
Increases in strength and endurance with far fewer training related aches and pains, all in less than and hour of training a week. It sounds ridiculous until you try it and then you wonder why more people don’t know about them.
The truth is that Isometric Training is nothing new. There has been a lot of research done on them for 50+ years and the other day I was digging around seeing what I could find about their benefits.
And while there was a lot that you would expect, there were a few things that really surprised me. Here are 3 benefits of isometric training you may not have known about…
1 – Isometrics improve your cardio.
One study I came across found that isometric training increased not only strength but the endurance of the muscles being trained. When biopsied, the muscles showed increased levels of the enzymes needed for oxidative metabolism.
This means that isometric training isn’t just good for strength but it also improves how well you body can process oxygen and fuel your efforts. Plus, it does it in a very specific way that has a lot of transfer to the High Tension Cardio efforts you need on the trail.
2 – You need Isometric Training to improve Isometric Strength.
One thing that I found over and over is that nothing improves isometric strength like isometric training. In fact, one study found an increase in muscle size but not in isometric strength from a training program that didn’t include any isometric training.
To me this says that isometric strength is very specific and can’t be optimized without specific isometric training. And this is important for us because of how much we rely on isometric strength to pedal our bikes.
When your pedaling hard your legs are moving like crazy but your upper body is working too. Your core and arms are locking down, trying to minimize movement so that all of the leg drive goes down into the pedals and not up into an unstable core and upper body.
The stronger you are with resisting this force the more force your body can create and put into the pedals. The legs are only as strong and the platform behind them and the isometric strength of your core and upper body is that platform.
If you need more power or find that laying down power really taxes you then you may need a stronger, more efficient isometric platform. And because of the specificity of them, you need to have isometrics as a part of your overall program.
3 – Isometrics can decrease blood pressure.
I came across three studies – here’s the link to one – looking at the impact of isometric training and blood pressure and they all found a reduction. Granted, none were done on athletes but it seems that there may be something going on there.
Some of you reading this could use a general reduction in blood pressure or use medication to help control it. And while you should always consult your doctor, if isometric training can help you improve your blood pressure then that is a huge step forward towards a goal bigger than any performance goal on your bike…being healthy.
And even if you don’t need it now, keeping on top of things like this as you get older is easier than having to fix it down the road. Don’t forget that while we love to ride bikes, keeping our meat sack functioning is important as well.
Until next time…