Isometric Training for boxing and MMA is a popular area within Boxing and Combat Sports, however there are many considerations and adaptations to make when implementing them into a S&C programme.
In this article, we will explain the benefits, limitations and practical applications of Isometric Training for Boxing and MMA.
5 BENEFITS OF ISOMETRIC TRAINING FOR BOXING AND MMA
- Increased Neural Drive
- Recruitment of High-threshold motor-units
- Develops fast-twitch muscle fibres
- Increases Rate of Force Development
- Increases effective mass, and the ‘Snap’ of the punch
FAST TRACK YOUR LEARNING BY WATCHING THIS WEBINAR / ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION LEAD BY S&C COACH DANNY WILSON
Including contributions from Dan Lawrence, GB Boxing S&C Coach Gary Hutt and Boxing Science’s Tommy Munday. Watch the video.
WHAT ARE ISOMETRICS?
An isometric contraction of the muscle occurs when the tension developed within the muscle is equal to the external load imposed upon the muscle but the limb that attempts to produce the movement remains motionless.
Despite the external lack of body movement, the muscles are contracting and the body is producing force.
TWO TYPES OF ISOMETRICS – OVERCOMING VS YIELDING
Force is developed with the intent to overcome the external force. E.g. Working against an immovable object such as the pins of the Squat Rack.
Increased rate of force development, activates and develops fast-twitch muscle fibers
HOW TO PERFORM
Work at low-, mid- or high-points of lift, perform 3-5 second holds with short recovery, 3-5 repetitions.
We can also perform these with ZERO EQUIPMENT …
… well, a Towel or a sturdy wall!
Check out the YouTube video below for an example of how you can utilise Overcoming Isometrics away from the gym.
Performing a movement then holding with the effort to maintain a position
Eccentric strength and increased time under tension will simulate mTOR signaling pathways for muscular strength and hypertrophy
HOW TO PERFORM
Perform by slowly descending sub-maximal load to mid-point, hold for anywhere between 20-60 seconds (some go 2 mins)
We would normally go for OVERCOMING ISOMETRICS to improve Boxing Performance
Tight and overactive areas will look to take over – found mid-thigh pulls work the back
LIMITED EXPERIENCE IN MAX STRENGTH TRAINING
Will limit their awareness in producing maximum force safely and effectively
TRUE MAX EFFORTS
Limited feedback how are maximum efforts achieved
SOLID COACHING CUES
Use cues such as ‘Drive through the floor’ and ‘Body like Concrete’
WARM-UP / PERIODISE
Don’t expect your athlete to produce max force straight away, use sub-maximal efforts to warm-up, and gradually build up their tolerance to it
CUE ACTIVATION PATTERNS
Work on and assess athletes lower-body activation patterns – long and short term.
ISOMETRIC TRAINING USED AS ASSISTANCE EXERCISES
Effective mass is a term given to the ‘snap’ of a punch. This requires the whole body to stiffen up upon impact. The snap requires whole body tension, however, the main contributors are the arms, shoulder joint and the core.
This is mostly dependant on skill. The ability to tense upon impact takes years and years of practice.
However, it’s much easier and quicker to make physical adaptations to help improve punch force. Changing someone’s technique may take time, and sometimes hamper a boxers progress, especially for more experienced boxers.
Effective mass can be improved through general strength and conditioning methods, such as heavy compound lifts, Olympic lifting and core training.
All of these training types can improve the strength of the muscles targeted, but also require a ‘double-activation’ pattern, similar to a punch.
There are some specific exercises that can be used for boxers focussing on developing ‘effective mass’ such as Landmine punch with Isometric hold.
CORE HOLDS – POTENTIATE OR STRENGTHEN
Manual or Wall holds to strengthen, or fire up the core prior to heavy loaded compound lifts or explosive exercises
LM PUNCH ISO-HOLDS
This will encourage maximal tension at end range of punch increasing ‘Effective Mass’
This will encourage maximal tension through a variety of punches – a fantastic warm-up tool.
Isometric Training for post-activation Potentiation
Contrast sets consist of a heavy lift followed by an explosive movement that mimics the mechanics of the heavy lift.
This is based on a phenomenon called post activation potentiation (PAP) – which can enhance the RFD during explosive exercises following heavy resistance exercises.
Physiological Responses of PAP
- Phosphorylation of the myosin regulatory light chains (RLC). This increases the sensitivity of the myosin-actin interactions, which may lead to an increase in the cross-bridge cycling rate
- One finding found that this happened more in Type II muscle fibres
- Increased high-threshold motor-unit recruitment
- Increased Calcium in muscles
There are several studies that have found that multi-joint overcoming Isometric exercises can stimulate potentiating responses to improve performance in lighter, more ballistic actions.
This can make it a great tool to improve impulse and rate of force development for Boxing.
3 x 3-5 SECOND HOLDS
Isometric contractions can lead to neuromuscular and peripheral fatigue, therefore potentially over-masking the potentiating effects.
STRONG EXPLOSIVE ATHLETES
Effectiveness of potentiating responses vary between individuals.
FEEDBACK TO SEE IT WORKING
Use velocity / height feedback to see whether you’re having a positive effect on performance.
Isometric training can be a huge benefit for Boxing and Combat Sports athletes.
However, due to low strength training history and under-developed activation patterns, strength and conditioning coaches should approach Isometric training with caution.
By taking precautions and making careful considerations, Isometric training can be a safe and effective method to improve strength and speed for Boxing and MMA.