I’ve been consistently exercising for a few years, now, and in that time I have made a lot of progress in strength and movement-capability, but I have also tried a lot of different ideas in terms of how I work out. Pull-ups and calf-raises are pretty much the only exercises I started off with that I still do; everything else has at least altered a little. It’s interesting to me, though — finding new movements that challenge my body and exploring new paths towards getting into better shape.
While seeking out a simple exercise plan for a friend who found basic bodyweight workouts boring, I was reintroduced to the concept of isometric training, and while it was something I’ve been familiar with for years, this time around it simply piqued my interest in a whole new way. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, isometric exercises are performed by the tensing of muscles in a static position, as opposed to using them in motion. Think of holding a plank (static) vs a crunch (motion). That’s a simplistic definition of the method, but it’ll do.
My interest in isometrics really stemmed from an admiration for the control of yoga movements. I started following a yoga gal on Instagram mainly because it’s fascinating to me to watch just how slow and concentrated she is when moving. She’s also cute, but that’s irrelevant here ;). I’ve been practicing my handstands every time I work out, but I still kick up into mine. The level of strength that she displays below, though, is something I aspire to:
A new friend of mine expressed an interest in learning yoga, herself, and I’m very game to join her in a class, but as to my own exercise efforts, I wanted to see what I could do to improve my everyday fitness methodology towards this more deliberate, even static, strength.
My first venture into a purely isometric workout came today in the form of a towel-routine. Working with nothing but an old towel and my own self-resistance, I went through the exercises as presented on that blog post, adding a few more for lower-body concentration, and I tell ya — it was just about the hardest I’ve worked in some time. I have tried running sprints, I’ve lifted my own body up while hanging from a bar, and I have moved heavy weights, but this seemingly simple routine kicked my butt in a very exhilarating way. There was so much testosterone flowing through me that I could’ve lifted a darn mountain. I felt a little gym-bro-ish, as after some of the exercises I was so pumped up I offered a few growl-grunts and paced my room a little. Nobody had to watch, though, so it was okay ;). Self-resistance training is really interesting, though, in that it scales with one’s strength-level. I’m not necessarily weak, so with my right hand pulling hard on the towel in one direction and my left pulling hard in the other, I was able to put all of my effort into the movement against myself. It felt great!
I won’t say that I’m entirely shifting my routine completely to isometric exercises, but by golly am I interested in seeing where I can go with them for a while. I like bodyweight exercise because as I gain muscle-weight, it’s like very slowly adding how much weight I can lift, but the intensity of isometric resistance really feels like it’s a whole new ballgame.
Plus, all I need is my own muscles and a towel, and that’s about as simple as it gets :).