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Isometric Strength Training for Grapplers


Isometric Strength Training is where you contract your muscles without any external movement.


By contrast, dynamic strength training is where you’re moving through a range of motion. For many sports, dynamic training translates to dynamic sports performance.


But is this relevant for grapplers? What's the point of wasting your time on isometric training if dynamic training is better?


Isometric Training and Grappling


Grappling has both dynamic AND isometric movements (think about grabbing and holding your opponent, or taking a gi grip).


Research on MMA athletes has revealed interesting findings about isometric strength training. They’ve shown that you can determine the level of an MMA fighter based on the athlete’s isometric lumbar strength and maximum upper body strength.


This is interesting as it shows both isometric strength and dynamic strength are important for MMA and grappling.


(If you missed last week’s article, I discussed the importance of power training which you can check it out here).


3 Types of Contractions, 2 Types of Isometrics


There are 3 types of muscle contractions:

  1. The concentric contraction phase

  2. The eccentric contraction phase

  3. The isometric contraction phase


Our focus today is on isometric contraction.


There are 2 types of isometrics you can add to your training program "yielding" and "overcoming".


Yielding Isometrics


Yielding isometrics is when you’re holding a position and resisting movement, like holding a plank.

The advantages of yielding isometrics is:

  • It’s safe on your joints: This can be useful while you’re injured, fatigued or experiencing joint pain from grappling.
  • Teaches movement patterns and form: Isometric training requires a greater mind-muscle connection which can then assist you in dynamic movements.
  • Eliminates momentum and “cheat reps”: This is most relevant for pause reps. Imagine a barbell bench press with a pause at the bottom of the lift. Now think of a rep where you bounce it off your chest. Which rep do you think is more beneficial for strength and hypertrophy?

Here are some examples of yielding isometrics I like to include in my training programs:

Overcoming Isometrics


Overcoming isometrics are where you’re trying to move an immovable object. The goal is to exert your maximal amount of force possible.


These movements can be difficult and are not beneficial for everyone (particularly if you have an injury or joint issues).


By training overcoming isometrics you can:

  • Create maximal muscle activation
  • Train specific grappling centric movements
  • Break through strength plateaus
  • Cause a “different” stimulus to your training
  • Train maximal contraction without handling heavy loads.

Here are some examples of overcoming isometrics I like to include in my training programs:

How to add Isometric Training into your Program


You can add isometric training to your program in many different ways and for different reasons.


Today I'm going to discuss some common scenarios you may find yourself in:


Scenario 1: You’re fatigued from grappling, are experiencing joint pain or have an injury.


In this situation, I recommend replacing your ballistic exercises with isometric variants. For example, you may replace your barbell back squat with a quarter squat and hold or your overhand pull-up with pull-up and hold (flexed arm hang).


Scenario 2: You’re looking to add more “grappling specific” strength training into your program.


Add overcoming isometric exercises like the med ball squeeze to train your gable grip and squeeze in the “bear hug” position.


Scenario 3: You're trying to break a plateau or 'mix-up' your training.


Add isometric exercises as superset with your primary dynamic strength exercises of the day. Or add in isometric supersets at the end of your workout as a "finisher".


Try out some of these movements in your next session and let me know how you go.


And if you want a done for you grappling program strength & conditioning program check out BJJ Strong Online.

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