With the Weider Iso-Tension Training Principle, work your muscles without weights
July 7, 2008
Written by FLEX Staff
Muscles are comprised of fibers composed of myofibrils that make contact with each other during muscle contractions. The strength of the contraction depends on the number of fibers and the tension within each fiber. Among the codification of training theories collectively known as the Weider Principles is the Iso-Tension Training Principle, which was formulated because prolonged periods of intense flexing, such as posing, is a strenuous form of exercise in and of itself. You can train a major muscle group by holding three or four different flexed positions for 10 seconds at a time.
As you become more accustomed to this style of training, you should increase the number of "sets" or the length of time the position is held. You may find that it is a procedure that you can add to your training alternatives to stimulate your muscles when you just can't get to a gym.
Here is a short summary of how you can use iso-tension for major bodyparts.
Biceps can be stressed together in a double-biceps pose or alone by mimicking the movement of a one-arm dumbbell curl. Follow the path of a triceps pushdown for triceps, and tense your forearms with your hands in various positions from bent backward to bent forward.
You can tense each deltoid head by flexing them while doing front, side and rear laterals. The lower half of a behind-the-neck press is also good. For your traps, squeeze the top position of shrugs.
The best iso-tension movements for pecs come from mimicking a most-muscular pose or a pec-deck flye. By positioning your hands higher or lower, you can emphasize the upper or lower chest more. Depending on whether your hands are close together or far apart, you can put more stress on either the inner or outer pecs.
The upper back can be iso-tensed by holding lat spreads and mimicking the movement of rows and pulldowns. You can exaggerate the weightless pulldowns by keeping your elbows back.
You should sit or lie on your back. Flexing your abs throughout the day will help to firm this area and remind you to maintain proper posture.
Tense quads one at a time while standing with your targeted leg slightly forward. To iso-tense your quads while seated, mimic leg extensions. Hamstrings should be flexed during no-weight leg curls. Calves can be flexed in various positions, seated or standing. Iso-tension is especially effective for the lower legs, because they are accustomed to constant flexing in day-to-day activities and can be surprised by intense stationary work.
Although it may seem odd to go through the movements of training without weights, iso-tension can improve shape, definition and hardness. It also improves the mind-muscle connection that is so crucial to efficiently getting the most out of training. The improved mind-muscle connection should also result in better workouts with weights, as you will be thinking about how the muscles should be maximally tensed during the iso-tension training.
An added benefit for competitors is that it will improve your ability to hold poses for extended periods. Frank Zane, a three-time Mr. O, spent entire sessions holding each compulsory pose for 30 to 60 seconds. Since he knew what to expect onstage, Zane used iso-tension to his benefit to attain his best condition.
Even if you aren't a competitor, the iso-tension technique can tone your muscles at home or in the gym between regular sets of an iron-pumping workout. Give iso-tension a try, and you may be surprised that you can get in a stressful workout without any weight at all. FLEX.