WHAT IS IT?
An Isohold is a variation of static hold that is meant to maintain a position against a sub-maximal load and with sub-maximal contraction strength, thus differentiating it from an Isometric or EQI. As an intensity technique, Isoholds are performed after an initial set to, or close to, failure where the hold should be maintained in a position of relative, mechanical strength. The additional tension generated is beyond what would be theoretically achievable with just a straight set to failure.
HOW TO TRACK PROGRESSION?
Progressions with Isoholds can be measured through duration of the hold and/or load used.
WHO SHOULD USE IT?
Isoholds can be used by anyone due to lower prerequisites for intensity generation, coordination and recovery. Used as an intensity technique, Isoholds offer the unique ability for even beginners to slowly titrate intensity into their training without increasing risk.
WHO SHOULD NOT USE IT?
There are few contraindications with Isoholds when it comes to hypertrophy work. Outside of this primary goal, this technique tends to have more limited utility such that power and strength athletes would be better served sticking with dynamic means of intensity progressions.
WHEN TO USE IT?
Isoholds can generally be used at any point in a training cycle (macro and meso) as well as within a single session. Due to its bias towards increased blood-flow and metabolite accumulation, blocks in which metabolic stress is the primary goal will tend to have a higher ROI for Isohold inclusion. Additionally, Isoholds are used clinically as a rehab tool which creates another interesting use case for us: generating intensity while working around injury.
WHEN NOT TO USE IT?
When power generation (i.e. max force and speed production) is a training goal, Isoholds should be limited if not completely avoided as an intensity technique.
HOW TO USE IT?
Isoholds as an intensity technique can be maximized by focusing on variables that will increase the ability to generate metabolic stress and a pump. This includes using movements that have are intrinsically stable (or have an outlet for extrinsic stability), moderate loads and rep ranges, limited points of failure, minimal axial loading, and an uneven strength curve. Ideally, the execution of the Isohold should be directing tension to the target muscle group (and it should be limited by such). As a rule of thumb, Isoholds should be held for at least 10 sec otherwise the load is too heavy or the variation isn’t accommodating.
The most important variable to consider before choosing a variation for Isoholds is whether the movement can be failed safely and easily. For this, machines and cables tend to be the best options (with specific caveats).
1)DB Bulgarian Split Squats (Holding load in one hand and using the other to provide stability)- Take a set to 1RIR with ~15RM then perform an isohold in the mid-position of the rep for ALAP
2)Lying Leg Curls- Take a set to concentric failure with ~12RM then perform a 15 set isohold at the 3/4 position of the rep
3)Cable Curls- Take a set to 1RIR with ~20RM, rest for 5 deep breaths, then perform an isohold with elbows bent at 90º for ALAP
HOW NOT TO USE IT?
Because the Isoholds are, by definition, being performed after an initial set near failure, fatigue is going to necessitate risk aversion when choosing which exercise to use. More axial loading is going to create a higher potential for injury. Instability will shift the tension away from the primary muscle group. Loads that are too heavy or too light will negatively take away from the overall effect size. Missing the mark on the position within the ROM that is conducive to the Isohold will also severely limit the efficacy. Failure should be safely achievable.
The variations used for Isoholds should have a strength curve and consistency that allow for mechanical overloading within specific portions of the ROM after near-maximal fatigue has been generated.
1)Barbell Squats (High axial loading)
2)Barbell Bench Press (Unsafe failure)
3)Standing DB Laterals (Ill-suited modality and poor stability)
BENEFITS OF THE TECHNIQUE:
-Increases intensity while working around injuries (joint, tendon, and muscular)
-Transferrable across all training demographics
-Relatively low systemic fatigue generated due the static contractions and sub-max effort
-Low risk of injury
-Can be performed in a wide variety of training cycles even if the primary effect is metabolic
-Can teach beginner and lower-level intermediates how to generate intensity
-Easy to track progression
DRAWBACKS OF THE TECHNIQUE:
-The magnitude of stimulus isn’t as large as some other intensity techniques
-It can be somewhat challenging to find the right variations and loading parameters to maximize the technique
-Free weights tend to be sub-optimal thereby broadly minimizing the technique’s effectiveness
-Even within each suitable variation, there will be a suitable range of the ROM for loading and this can be difficult for some trainees to find