There is a popular myth in the bodybuilding world that weightlifting is the most effective way for building the muscle mass. As a result, most of the people end up focusing all their time and effort on weightlifting and completely ignoring bodyweight isometrics, which are also equally and in some cases superior for muscle growth since these exercises also force the smaller stabilizer muscles to come into play.
Isometric exercises are a method to build up muscle, where the angle of the joint and the muscle length do not change. This unique method results in maximum intramuscular tension, allowing apex recruitment of muscle fibers. This fact coupled with a smart workout routine can actually help maximize muscular growth and push through plateaus.
I say smart workout because isometric bodyweight workouts performed on a whim can either maximize muscle endurance or strength, both of them without inducing almost none muscle hypertrophy. If you do not put your muscles under sufficient tension long enough, the body starts optimizing for maximum strength per unit muscle fiber. On the other hand, if you put your muscles under insufficient tension for a longer duration of time, the body starts optimizing for maximum endurance. None of the above workout principals promotes hypertrophy.
So the question arises, how to build muscle with bodyweight isometrics?
The answer is actually much simpler that it seems, by taking the best of both principles. What it essentially translates to is putting muscles under maximum load for the maximum duration of time. This coupled with the high efficiency of isometric exercises can provide a much-needed boost. Going by this routine means that the target muscles are always to be overloaded for enough amount of time, but that is where the perfect plan seems to hit a snag. Your body weight can not be varied as per the need of the exercise. This is where the idea of uneven bodyweight distribution comes in.
Suppose, you are doing a pushup, and you realize that you are now used to it, the first thing that would come to the mind would be to increase the repetitions, but we now know that doing that will maximize endurance without promoting any muscle growth. The solution to this problem would be Angular Training. The body can be inclined or declined at an angle to increase or decrease the amount of strain on the target muscle group. Let’s take an example of an isometric push up. If you are used to regular isometric pushups then you can use a chair to decline your body to create maximum load on the chest muscles or perhaps even go with the one hand variation, depending on the requirement. Similarly, two legs isometric squat can be changed to one leg with progress in strength.
Another way to get more out of bodyweight isometrics is to squeeze the target muscle at the top of concentric contraction. This forces the body to put more load on an already loaded muscle and recruit more muscle fibers causing hypertrophy. Yet, another excellent way to force maximum growth is to do drop sets. You start with the most difficult of the exercise and finish with the easiest one. What happens here is that the muscles not recruited during the first isometric exercise are forced to work during the second and third set, thus maximizing muscle involvement.
Some of the best exercise based on the workout principles above would be:
1) Biceps/ Upper back: Single arm hang
2) Calves: Single leg standing calf raise
3) Hamstring: Nordic Hamstring
5)Triceps: Dip Contraction
6) Chest: Push Up Contraction
The only thing that is remaining to take the muscle gain to its extreme peak is to decrease the rest periods between sets. If the body is given enough time to heal in between sets, the focus starts to shift towards strength and hypertrophy is minimized, since the body can heal and re-use the torn muscles eliminating the need for larger muscle fibers. Now that you know how to maximize and optimize gains, the next and perhaps the most important things come into the picture, balanced nutrition, and enough sleep. So now that you know how to build muscle with bodyweight isometric exercises go ahead and give the principles a try to start building some serious muscle, with nothing more than your body weight.
Wanna learn from the pros? Check the video below: