In the quest for carving out huge, imposing slabs of muscle there’s plenty of training methods to choose from. But chances are you probably don’t have static holds in your arsenal.
Done right, building up muscle tension without moving your limbs is actually one of the secret keys to unlock some goddamn holy swolism that’ll have you going up a t-shirt size or three in no time.
Pulling or pushing against immovable objects, or even resisting loads at specific joint angles is a surefire way of getting bigger and stronger.
And here’s how to do it…
Different Muscle Actions – Physiology 101
Most guys like to lift heavy and get jacked. That’s it.
They’re the basic bitches of the lifting world.
But true bros invest time brushing up on their muscle physiology too, because they know that the more you know, the more you grow.
That’s why it’s important not to skip this section and go straight down to the sexy realm of this training system just yet.
Because learning the how most definitely improves the outcome when it comes down to lifting strategies.
Muscle contractions and tension
When you lift weights, your muscle fibers have to contract to cause movement.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a deadlift, squat or tricep extension, movement only takes place because your muscle fibers contract and ‘pull’ against each other.
The actual contraction is initiated by your brain, which then pings electrical messages down your nervous system, across various neuron pathways and eventually arrives at the muscle in the form of a chemical signal.
This then slaps your fibers around the face and tells those muthaf*ckers to get out of bed and get some work done.
The result – muscle contraction.
Within each muscle are two protein filaments that wrap around each other like strands of string that make up a length of rope. They run throughout the muscle and live within compartments called sarcomeres.
These sarcomeres stack up side by side and above and below each other to make up your muscle.
When the signal arrives at the muscle to contract, the two filaments pull against each other. This shortens each sarcomere one at a time, and as such, the whole muscle contracts… like a boss.
The degree of contraction is dependent on how heavy the load is
The number of muscle fibers and degree to how aggressive they contract depends on how heavy the load is, and how much tension is needed within the muscle to lift the weight.
When muscles contract against a load, the fibers have to pull against each other. This causes the muscle to shorten and generate force at the same time.
It’s this movement that results in the load being lifted (unless you’re a little bitch and chose weights that were too heavy of course).
But once crossed, these fibers have to lengthen to allow your muscle to return to its original position. If there’s still tension within the muscle, these fibers will still be ‘loaded’ with resistance.
That’s right, there’s tension during the lowering phase of weightlifting too.
And if you were to neither lengthen nor shorten your muscle fibers, but hold a weight statically, there’d still be tension from the contracted fibers because each sarcomere is still active.
There are different types of muscle contraction
When it comes to muscle physiology, there are 3 main types of contraction:
- Concentric – where a muscle shortens under tension
- Eccentric – when it lengthens under tension
- Isometric – the muscle is contracted but no movement takes place at the limb
Take the bicep curl for example.
As you lift the bar upwards, your biceps bunch up. This is a concentric action as the muscle fibers pull against each other to move your forearm upward.
When you lower the bar back down, the biceps are still active even though the movement is reversed. This is called an eccentric action and is a big part of gaining muscle as it’s where most microscopic muscle ‘tear’ takes place.
Finally, if you were to stop half way through the rep and just hold the weight there, your muscle fibers would still have tension passing through them even though no joint angle changes are taking place.
This is an isometric contraction or ‘static hold’.
Gaining Muscle and Strength with Isometrics
We all know that lifting a weight that’s heavy enough to cause mechanical tension, and/or long enough to build up metabolic stress (and therefore growth factors and anabolic signalling pathways) is the key to gaining muscle.
They are the key players of muscle growth.
If you didn’t know that already why are you here? Are you lost and thought this was a lifestyle magazine for metrosexuals?
The thing is that all three contraction types involve mechanical tension.
And static holds have been shown to elevate time under tension, hypoxia (this kicks off metabolic stress) and muscle damage too in numerous studies.
Isometric contractions also help to build mind-to-muscle connection too which is an important part of gaining muscle.
So there is potential for static holds to build muscle, simply because there is a muscle gaining trigger in place when you perform them.
Isometric contractions build angle-specific strength
Stepping away from muscle gain for a moment and looking specifically at static holds for ramping up strength, research shows a clear relationship between the two.
Static holds for given periods of time do get you strong.
They increase joint torque and dynamic strength too when you return to traditional lifting, and even elevate peak contraction when compared to both concentric and eccentric actions.
(95% for isometric versus 88% for eccentric and 89% for concentric).
Here’s the kicker though – static holds only make you stronger at the joint angle you perform the lift at, plus or minus around 10% either side.
So if you’re performing a static hold squat at the bottom of the movement, it’ll get you strong as hell down in the hole, but not at the top of the lift.
Different Static Hold Methods to Get Jacked Fast
Used in the right way, isometric protocols build high amounts of muscle tension and flood your body with the hormones and enzymes needed to lay down brutal mass and strength.
You don’t see static holds that much in commercial gyms, but they’re used loads in strength and conditioning rooms up and down the US pretty frequently.
However, it worth pointing out that these protocols are strange looking.
You’ll most definitely be getting more stares than usual. But f*ck the haters because we’re all about gains right here.
If you can see past the fact that you look like you’re having a stroke mid-set, throw these bad boys in and receive plentiful gains that’ll get you not only swole, but strong as f*ck too.
Here are our favorite static holds for gaining muscle and strength…
Yielding Isometric static holds
Used by elite strength coaches such as French Canadian Christian Thibaudeau, yielding isometrics involve holding a weight for as long as you can without letting it change your joint angle.
This has a huge effect on your eccentric strength and also muscle mass.[infobox]
Try this workout: On the leg extension, hold your 8RM weight at full extension for 3 x sets of 20-60 seconds. You will wish you were dead by the last set bro.[/infobox]
Overcoming isometrics static holds
Another static hold training protocol used by weightlifters for years, overcoming isometrics sees you trying to lift an immovable object.
The idea is you either push or pull a weight that is too heavy to move, for only a short period of time (or you’ll pass out bro) with solid form.
If you try and do it with a deadlift for example and your back is rounder than the BBW category of your favorite porn site, you’ll f*ck up your sh*t for sure.
Keep it strict or this one will eat you alive.[infobox]
Try this workout: Place a barbell on bench press safety stands an inch above your chest. Put a weight on the bar that’s higher than your 1RM and complete 3 x 3-6 second presses (obviously the bar won’t move) with maximal effort. Rest 30-60 seconds between attempts.[/infobox]
Even posing can build muscle too
Having a great posing routine can also help build muscle.
Being able to hit a solid double biceps pose or most muscular isn’t just about showing people what you’ve got – it also has an effect on gaining muscle too.
Firstly, it really helps you zone in on your mind-to-muscle connection. This helps you ‘feel’ the muscle working during traditional weight lifting and is a huge factor is gaining muscle.
Secondly, the actual act of ‘no load’ posing triggers growth purely because it increases muscle hypoxia.
Some studies even show that it improves strength too.[infobox]
Try this workout: Practice your posing routine 2-3 nights per week in front of a mirror. Contract each muscle hard and hold it there for a good few seconds. Build your mind-to-muscle connection and really try to throw out some good angles.[/infobox]
Static holds are the unused key to gaining muscle and strength.Pulling or pressing against an immovable object, or even resisting a load over extended duration are great ways of triggering large amounts of mechanical tension and metabolic stress.
They’re brutal, they’re hard.
But hell will they result in muscle growth.