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Overcoming Isometrics

Overcoming Isometrics (OI) involve trying to push or pull your body against an immovable object with MAXimal effort.

An OI is different from your typical isometric, also known as a yielding isometric when the athlete performs a pause at some point during a movement (like performing a brief pause at the bottom of a squat). OI exercises involve pushing or pulling against an immovable resistance or object. During the exercise, there will be no external movement; however, the intent will be to move the resistance.

OI training methods WILL help you lift heavier, jump higher, and gain explosiveness. If any of those reasons apply to you then continue reading for the scoop.


One study (1) looked at muscle activation levels during different phases and variations of the same movement. Muscle activation was found to be at 95.2% during an OI movement. In comparison, a maximal eccentric was found to be at 88.3% and a maximal concentric at 89.7%. This study shows that you can recruit even more muscle fibers by recruiting more motor units. This can result in more central nervous system adaptation and greater potential for strength and power outputs.

Another study (2) looked at a maximal knee extension movement. During the movement hamstring activation decreased by 20 percent resulting in less antagonist for the movement. This will increase the knee extensor mechanism and results in even power contraction of the quadriceps muscle groups.

One final study (3) looked at muscle growth when using OI’s versus regular yielding isometrics. Due to the greater metabolic demand that overcoming isometrics results in, average cross sectional area increased by 12.4% versus 5.4%. Remember, with isometrics you don’t have mechanical breakdown. Thats one of two ways your muscles grow, alongside metabolic adaptations. Another benefit of OI: muscle growth without the mechanical breakdown causing soreness and fatigue.


If we break this down into five different zones it will make things easier.

Zone 1: Max Strength (90-100% 1RM)

  • Force Production against very high loads

  • Lift will be heavy, as will force production

  • Velocity will be very slow.

This area will test and target an athletes max potential for force production. Strength is the vehicle for all things performance. If you want to move more explosively, get stronger first.

Zone 2: Strength Speed (80-90% 1RM)

  • Force production against high loads

  • Lift will be heavy

  • Force output will be high

  • Velocity will be slow, but not as slow as max strength

This area combines both strength and speed. Because the relative loading intensities are still quite high, work in this zone targets power development with an emphasis on force production which is why this is termed ‘strength-speed’.

Zone 3: Peak Power (30-80% 1RM)

  • Force production against moderate to high loads

  • Lift will be light

  • Force output will be low

  • Velocity will be be high

This area addresses peak power output. Power is equal to force X velocity. For best results to increase power train on the lower side of 30-80% 1RM. This is all about speed.

Zone 4: Speed-Strength (30-60% 1RM)

  • Explosive power against low to moderate loads

  • Lift is light

  • Force output is low

  • Velocity will be very high

Since relative loading intensities have decreased from zone 3, velocity and power output will increase. There is a trade off as you see trending. Force and velocity have an indirect relationship. As one increases, the other decreases.

Zone 5: Speed (<30%1RM)

  • Velocity biased output against very low loads

  • Lift is very light

  • Force output is very low

  • Velocity is extremely high.

This zone is designed for the highest amount of movement velocity and lowest amounts of force production. It all just depends on your training goal.

Understanding each segment of the F-V curve helps inform and guide how to train based on an athletes unique needs or activity demands.

Overcoming Isometrics would fall into zone 1 when performed correctly. The movement speed is literally zero, therefor maximal force production is achieved and targeted.

Split Squat

Calf Raise

Bench Press

Overcoming Isometric: Conventional Deadlift at Home Set Up

Overcoming Isometric: Split Squat at Home Set Up

For each movement you can change the position of the pin or towel slack to target any sticking points or length-tension relationships of a movement. These are extremely adaptable and specific to your unique needs.


Training Frequency: Two days per week.

Intensity: 100%. This is MAX effort. Nothing left in the tank

Volume: 3-5 sets for 5-10 seconds each set.

Rest: 10-20 seconds between each set if performing in isolation. If perform as part of a superset or triset for potentiation a recommendation of 45-60 seconds of rest is adequate.

Selection: Choose one exercise per body weight OR movement pattern. One upper body PUSH, one upper body PULL. One lower body PUSH, and one lower body PULL.


  1. To load a region that typically has pain associated with load or movement.

  2. To target and train certain sticking points of a movement.

  3. Great method to use as potentiation sets for developing power output.

  4. Address maximal force production without mechanical breakdown and soreness.

  5. More efficient way to recruit the nervous system to recruit motor units and muscle fibers.

  6. Low energy cost compared to traditional higher intensity training methods.


  1. Activation Of Human Quadricep Femoris During Isometric, Concentric, and Eccentric Contractions. Nicolas Babault-Michel Pousson-Yves Ballay-Jacques Hoecke – Journal Of Applied Physiology – 2001.

  2. Adaptations in Coactivation After Isometric Resistance Training. B. Carolan-E. Cafarelli – Journal Of Applied Physiology – 1992.

  3. Effects Of Resistance and Stretching Training Programmes on the Viscoelastic Properties Of Human Tendon Structures in Vivo. Keitaro Kubo-Hiroaki Kanehisa Fukunga – The Journal Of Physiology – 2002.



Dr. Bryan Keith

Myomuv PT

We help active adults and athletes return to the activities they love without pain, without taking time off, and feeling more confident and capable than ever before.