After all, Adam Archuleta was quite the physical specimen.
Most discussions that pop-up are centered on long duration extreme isometrics, as they were at the forefront of Evosport after Jay said that the five minute holds were all anyone needed.
It’s a shame, really. One outlandish claim dismissed the entire method.
Even though I disagree with some of the smoke around LDISOs, they do have great uses. Maybe not to the extent of the hype. But definitely worthy for a space in the ol’ toolbox.
1. THE ULTIMATE MOTOR REPROGRAMMING TOOL?
After having done extreme isometrics, I can honestly say that most modern activation theories, concepts, and exercises suck. Like Deadly Towers kind of suck. (If you’ve never played Deadly Towers, conceive the worst video game with your imagination. Got it? Good. That’s Deadly Towers.)
Let’s take the glutes for instance. Everyone wants to activate their glutes these days anyway. Hearing the activation hogwash, most people do glute bridges. But during a bridge, the glutes only get a strong contraction for *maybe* a half-second. Three sets and ten repetitions later, and your glutes were only “on” for twenty seconds.
But a one minute LDISO lunge has the glute “maximally” contracted for sixty seconds. (By the way, speaking of glutes, by virtue of “pulling” into position, LDISOs are all about deactivating the quads and getting the posterior chain and hips up to snuff.)
Alex Vasquez also notes that in some positions, like the lunge, there are other movement specific goodies to learn, like how to drive weight from the big toe. But even with something like the bench press, the LDISO push-up solidifies the concept of keeping a tight back.
Most of the concepts, specifically with activation, in An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain are adaptations of lessons learned during my Evosport stint. At some point, you have to learn how to use the hips from an upright position by learning how to drive vertically driven movement with the posterior chain. Or, as I like to call it, turning up and down movements into back and forth movements. This, in my opinion, is the holy grail of eliminating chronic knee pain.
2. THE FOUNDATION FOR EXPLOSIVE MOVEMENT?
Activation is at the foundation of Evosport because explosive moments happen so fast that there’s no time to think about turning on and off certain muscles. So to repattern movements, the new patterns have to first be learned in slower movements to the point of unconscious activation.
Since extreme isometrics involve little-no movement, they are the ideal candidate — especially because they are specific to upright movement. So you learn how to activate the muscles from an upright position, then learn how to absorb force holding the same recruitment patterns, then lean how to output the same way.
But there’s also the nature of isometric contractions themselves. An often underappreciated part of explosion is the isometric contraction that happens during the amortization phase of movement. Even during the most explosive of explosive things, there’s an isometric contraction.
Building up eccentric strength ensures a safe transition into shock training. Again, this is the foundational theory behind An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain, which follows the same motor reprogramming ladder as Evosport. Drive movement with the right muscles, and then incorporate it into explosiveness.
3. THE ULTIMATE STRETCHING METHOD?
Each position is an active pull into a range of motion, making LDISOs great for flexibility.
There’s an offshoot theory that the active-ness and duration of the holds also adjusts soft tissue, delivering a benefit similar to self myofascial release (foam rolling.)
Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD often says that tissues need two minutes of mobilization for meaningful change, so this might actually have some street cred.
4. THE GATEWAY TO INSANE MUSCLE AND PERFORMANCE?
LDISOs prime for explosive movement and “teach” force absorption. This can means more potential for force output. More force output means more strength. More strength means more muscle. (And while purely anecdotal: Archuleta was one strong mofo for his weight and height.)
A few years ago, Christian Thibaudeau’s launched a program called, “I, Bodybuilder.” The jist of the program was teaching bodybuilders how to exploit maximum force potential. Coincidence?
For performance, Jay once said that LDISOs improve nervous system function via increased parasympathetic dominance. This is a concept I talk about in many articles, including my recently released “The Myth of HIIT.” Having a parasympathetic dominant nervous system allows for relaxation in times of stress, which delivers better performance. Alex Vasquez said his golfers noticed this phenomenon.
I’m not quite sure I believe this one though. Gymnasts hold intense isometric contractions too, and we don’t hear much about this from them. But I will say that trying to hold a position of any sort for five minutes requires you to go to a happy place and become “numb” to feeling.
5. THE ANSWER TO RECOVERY AND INJURIES?
Active recovery methods are commonly used to circulate blood flow through damaged tissues because blood flow promotes healing. By nature of the isometric contraction, LDISOs shut off the blood pumps to the muscle. When the contraction is released, however, the muscle becomes engorged with blood that built up during the occlusion.
Lactic environments also strengthen tendons better than other forms of training. As I’m sure you can guess, the longer a LDISO is held, the more lactic the exercise becomes.
6. THE ULTIMATE WARM-UP AND COOL-DOWN?
From personal experience, I’ve noticed that holding a LDISO for a short time early in the day greatly reduces the time needed to warm-up and negates overall stiffness prior to exercise later in the day.
They’re also a great cool-down tool as they do wonders for flexibility.
====>WHAT TO TAKE HOME <====
I don’t hold LDISOs for five minutes, nor do I recommend it. Likewise, I don’t — or recommend to — hold all seven positions. You can say that I simply use the term “LDISO” to mean “pulling” into a position for a certain amount of time.
Truthfully, my perception and implementation of Jay’s method aren’t die-hard Evosport. I simply took what I found useful and adapted it within my belief system. Here’s a summary of that usefulness.
- The two LDISOs everyone should do are the lunge and the push-up. They deliver the greatest bang for your buck and also are great for posture and learning how to move correctly.
- I don’t think LDISOs need held longer than one minute per set. Two minutes max if you think they adjust soft tissue. If you wanted to hit five minutes and adhere to the mystique, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s a negative thing. But I’d break it down into smaller sets through out the day. When it comes to reprogramming, frequency is your friend.
- LDISOs are nothing more than a motor reprogramming tool.
- Any time you’re trying to reprogram the body, start with an isometric contraction of some sorts. They give you time to think.
- The ultimate reward of LDISOs isn’t necessarily in the duration of the hold, it’s in the action of the hold. Once you understand how to “pull” into position, you’re 90% of the way there.
- There is power in eccentrics.
- If you want to learn how to get explosive, follow these steps. First, activate the right muscles. Second, integrate that activation into motor patterns. Third, develop endurance with the activation within the motor pattern. Fourth, teach those muscles in that motor pattern how to absorb force. Fifth, teach those muscles how to output force.
I’m not denying that Jay Schroeder is a little over-the-top with his claims. But Evosport is constructed around old soviet sports training. There are some good things about it. But I wouldn’t see it as an all-or-nothing venture. Experiment with pieces, and integrate the useful ones into your belief system.
But overall — and ironically enough — Archuleta himself closed the book on Evosport.
“You could jump and you could exercise all day long, but that doesn’t mean you are going to get any better. Everyone squats and everybody runs and everybody jumps and everybody benches, but it’s the way that you do it. There’s no secret exercise. It’s the way it’s applied.”
When it comes to everything fitness and athletics there’s one huge secret. The only real secret is that there is no secret.
CONFUZZLED? MAYBE THE 242 METHOD WILL HELP
It’s not really my style to throw out a training method that makes you question the foundation of your current program. When I first stumbled upon Evosport, I got started with isometrics and slowly abandoned my normal lifts. While I don’t regret it, I wish I had a way that let me experiment with new things and still somehow progress on the lifts that were going to have the biggest impact on my success.
Luckily, with the 242 Method, you can do just that. Experiment away and still make progress. If you want to get the eBook for free, enter your name an e-mail address at the top of the screen and sign-up for my newsletter. This eBook will be blasted off tomorrow for free to everyone on my list. That’s two free eBooks in one week. It’s like the treasure chest shop. Only you didn’t have to pay me any rupees.
But in all seriousness, I put a lot of time and effort into both of these eBooks. I’m truly a shitty writer, so I revised these things a million times over and they are likely still filled with errors. They are culmination of years of my own failure and what I learned from top notch coaches. Thanks to everyone that piloted both books and to those that have given me great feedback.
Read Part One of this series here: Evosport and Extreme Long Duration Isometrics.
….lastly….shoot me your questions about either the 242 method or Evosport below. I’d love to hear from you. (And don’t forget. Sign-up for the free eBook, The 242 Method.)