Saturday, September 28, 2013

Effective Isometrics With The Power Rack - Leslie Carson

Photos 1 - 8
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1) The low position of the isometric deadlift using the unweighted bar without movement. The bar is pinned to move neither up nor down. The lifter is expected to lift "his limit" upward against the pins for 10 seconds. This article skips a description of this method because it is impossible to know how much the athlete is actually exerting himself. This article instead recommends the limited movement method with maximum weights.

2) The lower position in the isometric deadlift with about four inches of movement from the lower pins to the top or knee-level pins with maximum weight that can be held against the upper pins for 10 seconds. Read the text for a clear explanation.

3) The isometric pull from the low position. See text for details.

4) The isometric pull from the middle position. Refer to text.

5) The isometric pull from the high position to develop strength for the two-hands snatch.

6) The middle position for the two-hands curl. The small platform for the feet is to adjust the height if the holes of the power rack are not the exact height needed. The regular curl is being illustrated but we suggest the reverse curl for reasons given in the text.

7) The middle position for the bench press. Note that a lower barbell handle is placed on the rack to support an abdominal board to form the bench.

8) The lower of two positions for the floor press.

Photos 9 - 16

9) The middle position for the isometric incline press.

10) The isometric calf exercise. Full details in text.

11) Pushing up from the low position in the squat when using the split style with the weight on chest.

12) Pushing up from the low position in the squat when using the split style with the weight on back.

13) Pushing up from the halfway position in the squat with the weight on back.

14) Pushing up from the low squat position in the arms-overhead snatch position using the split style.

15) The low isometric press position.

16) The middle isometric press position with limited maximum weighted movement. Read the text for the third position.

Effective Isometrics with the Power Rack
Leslie W. Carson 

Take our word for it, do not try to get the benefit of this article from reading the picture captions alone. The text, photos, and photo captions are all essential to a proper understanding of the whole.
This article is one of the power rack series which started with the July 1968 issue of Iron Man. The series would not be complete without an article on isometrics. Isometrics-Isotonics and the power rack are inseparable. They are made for each other.

We all greeted the first news of isometric training when it was publicized a few years ago as the great hoped for "breakthrough" in our quest for more strength. But the publicity died down, owing to other factors. We heard little more about it and many resigned themselves to the feeling that isometric training had been over-advertised. However, it would pay each of us who are seeking strength to take a second look at this conclusion.

Why has isometric training failed to sweep the country by storm as we were led to expect? The answer may be found by studying the parable of the sower and the seed in the Bible. Isometrics was the seed sowed by the sower. Much, very much, of the seed fell on stony ground, some of it 100% stone. The stoney surface here represents those with closed minds. They refused to even give isometrics a trial. Some of the seed fell on shallow soil. It sprouted quickly during the initial enthusiasm and then withered away. Many of these people were self-rated authorities. They roused themselves long enough to go to the gym and master the essentials of the system. But, twenty weeks, the minimum trial period of sticking to the system was too much for them. But, some seed fell on fertile soil and some phenomenal gains resulted.

Many books could be written on the subject of isometrics. Our space here, however, requires that we give the subject the briefest treatment. First of all, isometric training as variously practiced has merged with isotonics. Worst of all, technical terminology has beclouded the subject. Let us skip the cloudy terminology and talk about how to achieve phenomenal gains in strength by using isometric-isotonic exercises in the power rack. For the sake of brevity, and also for strength gains, it might be best to combine the two fields and call the result "metro-tonic." Skipping technicalities, let us accept the fact that metro-tonic exercises include three fundamental types. First there are those without movement, just resistance. Second, there are those with limited movement with maximum resistance. This method is best practiced on the power rack. Each exercise has a starting point on the power rack and a definite stopping point. The distance between the starting and stopping points varies with different individuals and different exercises. The distance usually ranges from one to six inches. A third method has a definite starting point and uses heavy weights but leaves the stopping point largely to the judgement of the lifter. Each of these types of exercises or methods have from one to four movements, for each exercise.

I shall here discuss the system of method that seems to be the most widely used. I feel that it is the best. It is the second method mentioned, the limited movement with maximum weights. We shall further confine our description of this method's application to only five exercises most needed by the Olympic lifter. The techniques and methods described here can be used on a vast array of other exercises as well. The five basic exercises for Olympic lifters we shall describe are the squat, the pull, the press, the curl, and the calf exercise. I recommend three starting points for each of the first four and only one for the calf exercise.

1) The Squat

Place the lower set of pins of the power rack about three inches below the level of your back-and-shoulder bar-rack position when your thighs are parallel with the floor. Place the barbell on the pins and load it with about 50% of your best squat. Pad your neck, get under the bar, and rise to your full height for 4 repetitions. Return the bar to the pins and load it with about 75% of your best squat (you will have to experiment a little to find the correct weight). Get under the bar and do 2 reps to full height. Return the weight to the pins, get from under the bar and place a second set of pins about four inches above those on which the bar rests. Get under the bar, raise the weight and hold it "solidly" against the upper set of pins for 8 seconds. Exert all the push you possess against the upper pins. Authorities differ from 4 to 12 seconds on the holding time.

For the second movement, place the lower pins about three or four inches below the level of the back-shoulder racking position when in the starting position for the half-squat. Load the bar with about 75% of your best full squat and do 3 reps to full height. Now load the bar with about 85% of your best full squat and do 2 reps. Get from under the bar and place a second set of pins about four inches above the lower ones. Get under the bar and hold it "solidly" against the upper pins for 8 seconds.

For the third movement, place the lower pins about three inches below the level of the back-shoulder racking position for the quarter-squat. Load the bar with about 90% of your best full squat and do 3 reps. Get from under the bar and place a second set of pins about four inches above the lower set. Get under the bar and hold it "solidly" against the upper pins for 8 seconds.

You have now finished the squat exercise with its three, three-place movements. Let us take a second look at the exercise. The weights and percentages are for experienced lifters, strictly suggestions for starting poundages. Experiment and determine your individual needs. In any case, it is better to start with weights which are too light and increase the poundages from week to week until you have reached your maximum, rather than to start with weights that are too heavy. Even seasoned lifters have hurt themselves starting with overly heavy weights at first. However, don't forget, you must exert all the push you possess when holding the bar against the upper pins for 8 seconds. Less than your best won't get results. For this reason, a heavily loaded bar is better than pushing against an empty one. You can fool yourself too easily with an empty bar.

If you do not like to rise to your full height when doing the warm-up reps, then place the bar on the lower pins and load it at first with the suggested poundages, and place the upper pins 6 inches above the lower before your first attempt. Get under the bar and lift the weight from the lower pins to the upper pins 5 times, then the 6th time hold it against the upper pins for 8 seconds. The preliminary 5 reps will probably warm you up sufficiently for the 8-second hold on the sixth rep. However, I feel that the method first described is much better because it is a complete movement of the muscles involved. This gives a better warm-up and injury is less likely to result. There are various ways of warming up. Just be sure that the method which you use is effective. Some lifters find it sufficient to warm up with 5 six-inch reps, or 5 full-length reps on the first position of a given exercise, 3 reps on the second position, and 1 preliminary rep for the third position.

Some may criticize the beginning percentages which I have suggested. If the weights are too light, this defect will remedy itself because you will be adding additional plates from week to week until you reach your maximum. After a time a seasoned lifter is expected to use as enough weight to demand all his strength when pushing against the upper pins.

What is the best way to gauge the holding time? One way is to place an electric clock with a sweeping second hand plainly in view. Another is to count one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, and so on. This second counting method can, however, easily become deceptive.

Make up a chart and keep a record of the weights used each week. Try to add some weight each week. This is important. A systematic, progressive plan is necessary to make gains. A record of the plan followed is essential. A guess and by-gosh plan will get you exactly nowhere.

The squat, done as described, is the most difficult of the five exercises presented here. This is because you are forced to start "up" from the low point whereas in the traditional squat you start "down" from the highest position. For this reason, you may become discouraged. You will adapt quite quickly to bottom-starting, so do be patient and keep increasing your starting strength.

2) The Pull

Use the three-position system for the pull and the same general principles used for the squat. The lower pins for the first position should be at knee height, the second position at crotch height, and the  third position about four inches below the arm pits. The warming-up preliminary reps, the percentages of your best pulls, and the placing of the upper pins should follow the same general guidelines mentioned for the squats.

3) The Press

Use  three starting positions and three holding positions and the same general principles described for the squat. The lower starting position should be at the level of the base of the neck when standing erect and the holding position at eye level for the first movement. The starting position for the second movement should be at eye level and the holding position about three inches above the top of the head. The third starting position should be about eight inches below the lock-out position of the hands, and the holding position about three inches below the lock-out point.

4) The Curl

Some men leave out the curl and instead substitute the shrug. I feel that the shrug may be left out because the same set of muscles as a whole are used in the pull exercise. This is especially true if the shrug is performed with the elbows bent. The curl exercise, especially the reverse curl, is valuable in all the Olympic lifts. Too many lifters seem to overlook the value of the pulling power that may be obtained from a strong set of biceps and forearm muscles which are developed by the reverse curl. The reverse curl exercise will improve the pull more than practicing the shrug or pull alone.

The lower pins for the first position of the curl should be near the lowest position of the hands in the usual free-from-the-rack curl. The lower pins in the second position should be a few inches lower than the position of the hands when the forearms are at right angles to the upper arms. The lower pins for the third position should be about 6 to 8 inches below the position of the hands at the highest position of the free-from-the-rack curl. The higher pins in each of the three positions should b e about 2 to 4 inches above the lower pins. The percentages of weights used and the warm-up reps should correspond to the guidelines described for the squat.

5) The Calf Exercise

Support the weight on the back of the neck rather than in the hands. This is to centralize the pressure on the feet rather than on the hands and back. Place the lower pins level with the base of the neck when standing erect with the heels on the floor and the balls of the feet on a 2x4. Place the upper pins about 2 inches higher. One position level for the calf exercise is sufficient. However, if a two-inch latitude between pins is too little or too much for you, or if you desire more than one position movement, various heights may be had by using, instead of the 2x4, multiple number of thinner boards.

You may want to add other exercises, but the principles followed should be similar to those described. Some exercises may profitably be confined to a one position movement, others to two positions, and others three, depending largely on the length of the motion in the normal version of the exercise.

To summarize, make a chart of or charts of your metro-tonic programs. Line off a large cardboard and tack it to the wall. A good plan is to place the dates across the top, and the names of the exercises in a column at the left edge of the chart. Draw a horizontal line for each exercise and a vertical line for each date. This will result in squares in which you may record the weights used. The chart or charts should cover a period of 20 weeks.

The originators of the isometric system reported that people doubled their strength in 20 weeks. However, these people had apparently done no previous exercise. Do not expect such gains from a seasoned lifter. The gain will depend on how near his peak the lifter is before starting the program, his motivation, consistency, and other factors. If you add only 10 pounds to your lifts in 20 weeks, that may be better than you have done when using other methods. Set goals for yourself. "They should be so much each week or month and the total gain to be reached within 20 weeks. Stick to it for the full 20 weeks.

But wait a minute. Nearly everyone asks how much other exercise should be done while on this program. The answer will depend upon the circumstances. But, you should definitely not try to carry on your regular weight training while practicing metro-tonics. Again, you don't have to confine yourself to metro-tonic training alone. If you are not a weight man but are engaged in other athletics, then you should carry on your other athletic activities moderately while on this program. To weightlifters, I suggest that you do your metro-tonics four days per week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, follow a well rounded weightlifting routine, using perhaps 75% of your best. On Saturday practice the three competitive lifts and try to make higher totals. Record these results weekly. This will be the most important record of your progress, of course, more important than your records in metro-tonic style practice.

One final word. Some lifters work out more efficiently if they start with the exercise that requires that the weights be highest on the rack and work their way down with each succeeding exercise. Others prefer to start at the bottom and work up. In either case it is best follow each exercise with the next lower or higher, depending on which way you are going, rather than skip around on the rack. This is especially  true when  training alone. Two lifters working together, each changing pins and plates at opposite ends of the bar can save a lot of steps which one man working alone would have to make.

Results by noted lifters give us faith in this system.
Your belief in any system you are using is highly important.    


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