Working out at the gym can be a humbling experience. There is always going to be someone who is bigger, more chiseled, who is pushing themselves further every day. Then there are the people at the gym who don’t seem phased by anything. They crank out the reps, and furthermore, they take time out of their workout to pose in the mirror, as if imagining themselves in the next Mr. Universe competition!
What you may not know is that they are not posing to impress the ladies, or even to impress themselves. They are using a technique called isotension, which could be one of the most effective ways to reach maximum muscle definition. Isotension involves the contraction of isolated muscles without the use of external weight. During bodybuilding competitions, posing involves flexing large groups of muscles simultaneously, while the type of isotension you would build into your workout helps you concentrate on feeling and controlling very isolated muscles.
Isotension is not just a workout for the body. Learning to isolate and ‘feel’ individual muscles is an important skill to develop to isolate muscles during regular weightlifting. Once your brain can link to an isolated muscle or group of muscles, it is easier to isolate those same ones and engage them while lifting to build strength and mass. It also promotes control of these muscle groups.
When you incorporate isotension into your workout properly, it will help you to attain the ripped appearance you are looking for, with striations, cuts, and popping veins. What follows is the science of this technique.
Science Of Posing
There are three primary reasons why isotension helps you to develop more defined muscles that “pop.” The first leads to an effect on the shape of your muscles. The effects of isotension on the shape of your muscles can be both short term and long term. The stretching process that is involved in isotension expands connective tissue and bulks up intracellular muscular density, which leads a growth in the circumference of muscles.
One of the biggest difference isotension makes is an increase in blood flow and, therefore, vascularity in the muscles. This has several effects. First, increased blood flow reduces water retention under the skin. Increased blood pressure in the area leads to blood plasma pushing excess water from the between blood vessels and muscles cells, into muscular cells. This promotes a hard-bodied appearance.
The increase in blood pressure in the area also, obviously, will increase the flow of blood to subcutaneous veins, giving your body that vascular look sought by most body builders. The more consistently you have blood rushing to these subcutaneous veins, the likelier it is that it will lead to a long-term increase in vascularity.
Finally, isotension helps you to build the mind-muscle connection. Because it is such an isolated ritual that does not employ extra weight that your body might bring in for ancillary help to lift, the process of isotension helps your mind isolate muscles so that when you go to the weightlifting portion of your workout, you will be better able to focus on the muscles you should be using, targeting them for more specificity.
When you are looking to incorporate isotension into your workout, there are several factors to keep in mind. First, as a part of your workout, isotension is most effective for improving the look of your physique. It helps develop more definition and hardness in existing muscles, and helps to isolate and separate muscles in your workout. Do not approach isotension as a tool to build bulk, or even stamina. Its place is improving your definition.
In terms of how to insert it into your workout schedule, isotension is most effective when it is incorporated into your regular workout. In fact, most trainers will encourage you to perform isotension during your rest-periods between sets. This not only allows you to work the muscles to fatigue, it also incorporates a stretch right into your workout.
Doing cycles of weights and isotension lead to a workout in which your muscles are constantly contracted. You will notice that the constant tension will cause your muscles to be engorged with blood, which will produce a powerful pump.
If you are too self-conscious to perform isotension at the gym, feeling as though who do not understand the principles of isotension might simply mistake you for being arrogant and completely vain, you can easily develop an at-home workout. While this might not be as effective as incorporating it into your weight training, if it makes you feel better, then by all means, do it at home.
For a beginner, like any exercise, it is best to start out with a low-intensity isotension workout, gradually increasing reps as you gain more control and stamina. As an example, assume the posture for a double bicep pose, take a beep breath and flex, concentrating in isolating your biceps and holding them in contraction for as long as you can. In the beginning, expect to feel some cramping in the muscle.
When this happens, simply extend the muscle slightly, reducing, but not letting go of the contraction. At first you may be able to hold the contraction for two to three seconds, but your endurance will build. When the muscle starts to cramp, slowly let out the contraction, stretching the muscle as you do. Try to work every muscle, and isolate them as best you can, starting with six to ten reps for muscle.
If you are doing your isotension workout at home, follow techniques that you use to lift weights. For example, for biceps, mimic the movement of a bicep curl; for the pecs, mimic the movement of a fly curl; for triceps, mimic the movement of a rope pull-down, and so forth. This process will support your workout not only physically, but it will also help develop the mind-muscle connection for increased control.
Understanding the place of isotension in your workout is important. It is not necessary to incorporate isotension into every single workout, and in fact, if you think about it, doing so could be detrimental to some of your other goals. Performing isotension between your weightlifting reps will speed up your muscle fatigue, as you are expending a lot of energy on constantly holding a contraction. Since isotension itself does not build bulk or strength, but merely improves definition, choose carefully when you want to insert it into your routine.
If you are building mass or strength, isotension can take away from your ability to conserve your energy for that purpose. But when you want to look good, whether in competition or in the beach season, a little flexing can go a long way in developing the cut physique you are after.