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Implementing Isometrics: Do They Transfer to Sport?

Many (most) of our clients here at Made 2 Move have some sort of performance goal outside of just getting out of pain. This is one of the reasons we love coming to work every day! Y’all motivate us with your enthusiasm for your sport- whether than is running your first 5k, hitting that snatch PR, or getting back onto the soccer field. 

A previous blog delved into the implementation of isometrics for rehab when trying to train around pain. But what about using isometrics to stimulate strength and performance gains? Let’s dive in! 

How Can Isometrics be Used for Performance?

An important question to ask when utilizing isometrics to train athletes is, “What qualities are you trying to target/train in context of athlete’s sport or goal?” (Madden). This is a question we ask ourselves with any client, not just the athletes we treat. 

Isometrics can be a great way to load an in-season athlete without causing too much soreness. During the sports season, there is a delicate balance of trying to maintaining current strength in the weightroom while not sacrificing performance in their sport. Doing exercises like plank or squat holds allows us to load and strengthen without taxing their system too much or causing too much soreness. As noted in an article on isometrics for youth athletes,

“Isometric training can increase the duration of training by simply holding a significant position for a prolonged period. Isometric training is rarely associated with soreness or noticeable fatigue, so we can prescribe it as a frequent training stimulus” (Madden). 

Why Isometrics?

Now 4 blogs deep into  isometrics, people are probably wondering why we are so in the weeds about isometrics. At Made 2 Move, we believe the cliche “knowledge is power.”  The more our clients know about the methods behind the madness in rehab and training, the more valuable it becomes. 

Many will argue that isometrics aren’t directly transferable to sport because how often are you in a static position in any sort of sporting or real world endeavor? And they’re right in this regard, as we are rarely in static positions for extended periods of time in real life. Sports + human movement + LIFE is dynamic in nature. 

BUT, there are moments that require static muscle efforts. In everyday life, picking that heavy box up off the floor and there’s that “sticking point” where you pause?  This is an isometric muscle action. Thus, training isometrically can make this easier. In sports, sprinters or swimmers coming out of the start from an isometric hold. Thus, training joint specific angles in these positions can improve our proficiency in them. 

And because we couldn’t sum it up more beautifully than this 2019 review on isometrics: 

“...Indirectly, isometrics can have a positive effect on overall muscle strength, hypertrophy, and tendon qualities which undoubtedly transfer to dynamic performance in life and sport. physiological adaptations such as increased muscle mass and improved tendon qualities are beneficial in a variety of contexts…While it may require specific training in a movement to optimize neuromuscular performance, it is clear that producing and maintaining muscle mass and strength should be a priority for athletes and special populations alike. For this reason, isometric contractions are regularly used in rehabilitation programs and during specific training phases where dynamic contractions may be contraindicated” (Oranchuk et al. 2019)

What Now?

Isometrics are great but the concept of training specificity still stands: the things you are doing in training should look similar to the targeted skill you are trying to improve in. Ie- if you want to get better at muscle ups but you just do isometric holds in the dip portion of your muscle up, you aren’t going to get better at muscle ups. You may improve positional strength, but unlikely will your ability to execute the full muscle up improve.

You are struggling with back pain and want to get stronger in your deadlift but are only doing exercises on all 4s? Unlikely that your deadlift max is going to shoot up. 

Isometrics can help with tendon springiness/stiffness and muscle growth, so may indirectly impact your muscle up or deadlift in a positive way but direct transfer is unlikely. So in order to evoke true adaptation of the skill or movement? You have to do the dang thing. Isometrics just serve as a killer complement. 

Want to work with a PT who specifically tailors your rehab using principles like training specificity? Reach out to today to set up an initial evaluation at any of our 4 locations!


han gu
han gu
Jun 18

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