Functional Isometrics

by Strength Training, Second Edition
Kinetic Select March 2020

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This book excerpt reviews functional isometrics as a way to build strength at the weakest point in the range of motion.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Strength Training, Second Edition, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

The functional isometrics system attempts to take advantage of the joint angle specificity of strength gains from isometric training. Training usually is performed in a power cage, and the pins often are placed at the sticking point of the exercise being performed. However, functional isometrics also can be performed by a partner holding a weight at a certain angle or by two individuals pushing against one another. Functional isometrics entail performing a dynamic contraction for four to six inches (10.2-15.2 cm) of a movement; at that point, the resistance hits the pins in a power rack. The lifter then continues to attempt to lift the resistance with maximal effort for five to seven seconds.

The objective of this system is to use joint angle specificity to produce increases in strength at the weakest point in the range of motion. The maximal resistance for any exercise is determined by the amount of resistance that can be moved through the sticking point or weakest point in that movement. The use of functional isometrics in conjunction with normal resistance training (i.e., dynamic and constant) has been shown to cause significantly greater increases in 1RM for the bench press compared with normal resistance training alone.

Many powerlifters use this system without a power rack during the last repetition in a heavy set (e.g., 1-6RM). They attempt to perform as much of a repetition as possible, and when they cannot move the weight, they continue to produce force isometrically for five to seven seconds at the exact angle where the sticking point occurs. This type of training requires very attentive spotters. To optimize this training, you must know where the sticking point is in the range of motion. These sticking points can change with training. This system is appropriate when the major goal of the program is to increase 1RM capabilities for a particular exercise.

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