Isometric training has been around since the dawn of time, but never really took off because of some key limitations.
The main issue was that people had no idea whether they were actually getting stronger or not, because they were still pushing or pulling against an immovable object.
This lack of feedback made it very difficult to quantify progress, and so people lost interest.
Dragon Door sought to revive the once super popular practice of isometric training by overcoming this limitation with their Isochain device.
The Isochain is a first of its kind digital bar and chain isometric training device.
The digital handle is able to track and display the amount of force you’re generating during your workout.
For the first time ever, we’re able to track our progress with isometric training and the results people are starting to see are nothing short of incredible!
Exclusive 10% Isochain Discount
Isochains are not particularly cheap…
But I’ve managed to negotiate with Dragon Door a 10% discount exclusively for Jump Stronger readers.
As far as I’m aware, this is the only 10% discount code on the internet right now, so if you’ve not yet got yourself an Isochain and, after reading this article like what you see, remember to use code A1ATHLETE at checkout!
What Does The Isochain Do & How Does It Work?
The Isochain is a piece of training equipment which allows you to perform a massive range of isometric exercises that will track how much force you’re able to generate during each movement.
As I mentioned in the intro, isometric training never really took off because people had no good way of gauging whether they were actually getting stronger or not.
For the first time in history, with the Isochain’s digital display we’re now able to track our isometric progress from workout to workout.
You’re finally able to see, in real time, whether small changes to your technique actually improve your ability to generate force and are making you stronger or not.
There’s three primary modes you can choose between: feedback mode, time mode, and load mode.
By default you’re in feedback mode and you can select either ‘time mode’ or ‘load mode’ using the top two buttons on the right hand side of the handle.
Feedback mode is the default state of the Isochain where the display will simply output the amount of force you’re generating.
It’s not a particularly useful mode because it’s very difficult to read the gauge when using the device.
However, the Isochain isn’t designed to be used in feedback mode really ever.
Time Mode – Best For Hypertrophy
Time mode allows you to tell the Isochain how much time under tension you want to hold each rep.
Usually 6 seconds is the ideal zone for strength development, but increasing the time under tension to 20-45 seconds has been shown to be more effective for hypertrophy.
Once you’ve selected how long you want to hold the isometric contraction for, you then have to choose the amount of weight you want to use.
So if you wanted to do a 70lb bicep curl for 30 seconds, you’d enter in 30 seconds and then the desired weight.
You then start the curl and once you’re exerting 70lbs of force into the bar, the Isochain will start beeping.
It will beep every second so long as you’re maintaining 70lbs of force.
Once you get to the 30 second point or drop under 70lbs of force, the device will make a tone for two seconds indicating the end of the set.
This audio feedback is extremely important because it allows you to focus on generating maximum output without having to worry about looking at the force gauge or a timer.
Load Mode – Best For Strength
Load mode is where you want to be if you’re training for strength development as opposed to hypertrophy.
Load mode simply allows you to pick the desired weight and the device will only start beeping once you match or exceed the chosen weight.
As mentioned earlier, 6 second contractions are ideal for strength.
Since the device will beep once per second in load mode, you can clearly tell when you’ve completed your set.
This is an excellent way to implement the concept of progressive overload with your Isochain.
Think of load mode like loading up the barbell in the gym with a certain amount of weight before you begin squatting – this is effectively doing the same thing.
The ‘Max’ button on the device isn’t really a mode per se, but it simply allows you to check to see what the peak force generated was during your last lift.
This allows you to focus on generating as much force as possible without trying to check the display mid-rep to see where you’re at.
Max mode is ideal for tracking your ‘1 rep max’ in certain lifts, or within the isometric contraction world we’d refer to this as ‘absolute strength’.
If you’re looking to track your progress over time, recording your max force output for your key lifts is an excellent way to do it.
You’ll also need to use this mode to determine your max strength so that when using load/time mode, you know what to use as a baseline for weight selection.
By this I mean, we want to use 60-85% of our max when training for strength and hypertrophy, and 20-40% of our max when training for endurance. So we need to know our max to input the correct targets.
The ‘AVG’ button on the device, like the Max button, can be pressed after the contraction to determine the average force output for the entire lift.
This is another crucial metric to understand if you want to accurately track your development over time.
It’s possible to have good and bad days when training, so if you only track your absolute strength (1 rep max), and have a bad testing day, it might look as though you’ve not made much progress.
The reality is that you might be producing significantly more average force in your lifts, meaning you actually have become a lot stronger.
This is the best metric to use when tracking hypertrophy progress because you’re able to see the average force generated over a certain amount of time under tension.
If you do a 20 second bicep curl with 50lbs of average force, you can try to beat that 50lb target next time you’re doing your 20 second bicep curl.
In this way, we’re combining the hypertrophy principle of time under tension with progressive overload.
Isochain Benefits: Why You Need Isometrics
So why exactly would you want to get one of these devices?
Well there’s an extremely long list of reasons why you should be doing isometrics and definitely no shortage of research.
I’m going to run you through what I believe are the most important reasons for doing isometric training and why the Isochain is the best way to do it.
The Isochain Is Extremely Safe
Ironically, you can generate a lot more force using isometric exercises than you can dynamic lifts like squats or bench press.
One would think producing so much force could be dangerous, but isometrics are quite possibly the safest form of exercise known to man.
Injuries in the gym occur primarily when your muscles lengthen under external loads that are too great for them to handle.
Think of failing a squat: the bar on your back is simply too heavy.
When you’re doing isometrics, there’s no lengthening whatsoever and no such thing as weights that are too heavy for you. By definition, you’re only moving loads which you’re capable of handling.
Low Impact & Great For Your Joints
Isometrics are more kind to your joints than any other type of exercise.
Because there’s no movement at the joint, your muscles are handling all of the load and not your connective tissue.
As far as longevity goes, you absolutely must take care of your joints and isometrics are the best way to give them a break.
Perfect For Deloading
If you’re coming to the end of an intense training block, a deload week will often be in order to allow your body to recover fully.
Doing isometrics during deload periods is a great way to send signals to your muscles that they’re still being used, without interrupting the healing process.
My own deload weeks consist of a massive reduction in volume combined with a shift to exclusively isometric exercises and they tend to work extremely well!
Isometrics Are Super Quick To Recover From!
I did a heavy squat session 4 days ago at the gym and I’m still aching all over…
This never happens even with the most intense isometric workout and you’ll usually be able to bounce back and train the same muscle group as soon as the following day.
There is some research which shows the recovery rate of isometric exercise to be 35% faster than typical isotonic movements.1https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00222895.1969.10734849
No Delayed Onset Soreness, Ever!
One of the best perks of isometric training is that DOMS is virtually nonexistent.
This soreness really only results from muscles lengthening under load. When we’re doing isometrics, our muscles aren’t lengthening at all, which results in virtually no soreness.2https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1113/jphysiol.1989.sp017624
Build Speed & Explosiveness While Resting Your Joints!
When we think of speed and explosiveness, most people think of plyometrics, not isometrics.
It seems particularly counterintuitive to think that isometrics could help generate explosive athleticism…
In fact that’s one of the more common critiques of isometrics, that they’re no good for sports performance.
But there is research which suggests isometric training can be as effective as plyometric training for developing overall athleticism.
Statistically similar increases in rate of force development and jump height were also seen for both training groups.
Plyometric training has been shown to place large stresses on the body, which can lead to a potential for injury, whereas explosive isometric training has been shown here to provide similar benefits to that of plyometric training with respect to the measured variables, but with reduced impact forces.3https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17685695/
Even I didn’t know you could increase your vertical jump with isometrics!
Isochain Exercises Are Easier To Learn & Perform
Squats, deadlifts, Olympic lifts, presses, and rows can be difficult learn for complete beginners and are even tougher to master.
When it comes to isometric exercise technique, since there’s no movement involved, it’s extremely difficult to mess up.
Be sure to check out my full list of all known Isochain exercises!
The Isochain Is The Most Time Efficient Way To Strength Train
A huge number of people struggle to find even an hour a day to give to the gym.
Transport and warm up/warm down each take valuable time from our day and this often causes us to skip on workouts.
Isometrics are a different beast.
Since each rep is virtually max exertion from the second you begin, there’s no need to ‘work up to your working sets’ like we tend to do in the gym.
Since you’re barely resting between sets, you can get a fairly comprehensive Isochain workout in in less than 15 minutes.
Plus you’re going to save on transportation time since you can workout at home!
The Isochain Builds Muscle
Most people tend to think isometrics are only for building strength, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s definitely possible to build plenty of muscle using exclusively isometric exercises.4https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1113/jphysiol.1987.sp016721
As far as training stimulus goes, all you really need to build muscle is time under tension as well as progressive overload.
Isochain’s time mode is the perfect way to get large amounts of time under tension. Aim for about 20-60 seconds per set.
Stack that with the average mode and you should clearly see your average force generated over the same time period increasing from week to week.
Use Longer Muscle Lengths For Maximum Hypertrophy
When training with the Isochain, you get to pick the angle at which you’ll be performing the contraction.
For example, you might perform a bicep curl at a large angle where your biceps are longer (forearms closer to your thighs). This will usually also lead to less overall force being generated.
You might also opt for a smaller contraction angle where you’re capable of producing significantly more force.
Research has shown that you’ll build more muscle when the muscle is in the longer position and more strength when the muscle is in the shorter position.
This same principle is why arm wrestlers (who train mainly for strength) will often use isometric holds with a very tiny joint angle where the muscle is highly contracted.
Aside from the fact that’s the typical angle they arm wrestle at, it also allows them to produce more torque and in turn gain more strength.
The Isochain Works Every Muscle In The Body!
If you’re sitting there thinking, this all sounds well and good for training biceps and maybe shoulders, but what about chest? What about legs?
Fear not! There’s an Isochain exercise for every major muscle in your body, from your calves to your forearms.
And when I say you can train every muscle using this thing, I don’t mean every muscle is somehow tangentially activated during a few core lifts… I mean there’s actually specific, targeted exercises you can do to hit every area of your body!
Be sure to check out my full list of all known Isochain exercises!
The Isochain Produces Rapid Strength Gains
The reason isometrics develop strength so damn quickly is because they allow you to activate significantly more muscle fibers than in standard isotonic lifting.
One study compared muscle fiber recruitment of the quadriceps during eccentric, concentric, and isometric exercise and found the following.
The mean activation levels during maximal eccentric and maximal concentric contractions were 88.3 and 89.7%, respectively, and were significantly lower with respect to maximal isometric contractions (95.2%).6https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/jappl.2001.91.6.2628
There isn’t a ton of data to indicate that isometric training is necessarily better than isotonic training for strength gain, but in almost all research, they produce very similar strength gains.
One study did find isometrics worked significantly better at building strength in arthritis patients, which makes a lot of sense since it’s going to be a lot easier on the joints.7https://jqph.org/index.php/JQPH/article/view/246
I think the takeaway is that isometrics are generally going to produce similar strength results to regular strength training, but are so much easier on your body and can be done in far less time.
Significantly Improves Knee & Elbow Pain
Chris of the NoLimitSquad YouTube channel did a 30 day Isochain challenge after which he reflected on the unexpected benefits he experienced doing isometrics for 30 days as opposed to his regular training.
He remarked that his knee pain reduced from an 8/10 to a 3/10.
He also noted that his elbow tendonitis he’d regularly suffered from when doing heavy shoulder or dumbbell press had been completely eliminated.
This adds to my earlier point about how useful isometrics can be for training when your body is beat up.
The Isochain Improves Muscular Stability
If you’re into strength training or powerlifting, being able to efficiently tense up your muscles during heavy movements is really important to produce the rigidity necessary to output maximal force.
The Isochain is possibly the greatest way in which you can increase your ability to stabilize your body during heavy lifts.
Thus, an isometric training approach was superior in terms of enhancing core
stiffness. This is important since increased core stiffness enhances load bearing ability, arrests painful vertebral micromovements, and enhances ballistic distal limb movement. This may explain the efficacy reported for back and knee
So if you’re looking to max out your deadlift or squat, throwing in some Isochain work to your routine is most certainly going to improve your ability to remain strong under massive loads.
The Isochain Improves Cardiovascular Health
There’s countless studies connecting isometric training with improved cardiovascular and circulatory health.
I won’t bore you with the details since they’re not all that interesting…
Essentially, when you’re maximally exerting force for 6+ seconds per set, even though you’re not actually moving, you’re going to be completely gassed out after each set.
Isochain workouts are intense.
Don’t expect some walk in the park when doing these exercises. Your heart rate will sky rocket and you’re probably going to be sweating all over the place.
If you have blood pressure issues or have been slacking on your cardio lately, getting your isometric work in is a great way of improving heart function.
And it definitely beats running!
Fantastic Customer Service
As an aside, one of the great things about the Isochain is how incredible the team at Dragon Door are.
If there’s ever any issues with your Isochain, they’re super quick to send you a new one.
They’ve put together countless super informative articles on their website which explain everything you need to know about the product as well as isometric training.
There’s also an almost 500 page manual you can get, so if you enjoy learning about this sort of stuff, they’ve got you covered!
There’s also a super helpful Isochain owners group on Facebook where you can get tips and tricks from others who have been using the product for years.
The Isochain has a risk-free, one-year unconditional warranty which means not only will they replace it if there’s any defects, but if you don’t like the product for whatever reason, you can send it back for a full refund, no questions asked!
DIY Isochain? Why It’s Not A Great Idea
So you might really like the idea of the Isochain, but the price tag is still a bit off-putting. The concept is fairly simple, so you could probably manage a DIY job with just a hunting/crane scale and a heavy duty bar and chain right?
Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple…
The whole magic of the Isochain is that you’re able to accurately track your max and average output for each lift using the digital scale.
Without this digital display, we’re back in the dark ages of isometric training and have no way of tracking whether we’re actually making progress or not.
Having the audio feedback is also a crucial part of the system which is another layer of complexity you’d have to figure out.
The R&D that went into designing the technology packed into the Isochain handle is extremely difficult to recreate.
Dragon Door do actually sell the handle separately in case you wanted to try to build your own platform/chain/spring contraption for less, but the handle is $250 so you’re left with only $200 to worth with to design and build your device.
Definitely doesn’t seem like a worthwhile endeavor to me personally.
There’s a variety of workouts you can do using the Isochain, each with their own specific objectives.
Let’s run through a few of the most popular Isochain workouts.
6×6 Workout – Great For Strength & Efficiency
This workout is designed specifically for strength development and involves holding each contraction for 6 seconds.
You’re supposed to train 3 days a week when doing the 6×6.
Each exercise is to be performed a total of 6 times over, with each contraction lasting for 6 seconds.
You should rest for 20 seconds between each set.
Day 1, 3, 5:
- Front Squat 6×6
- Shoulder Shrug 6×6
- Bent Over Row 6×6
- Shoulder Press 6×6
This entire workout should take just 10-11 minutes to complete!
Check out this video from NoLimitSquad for more information on this workout.
Sweet 16 Workout
This workout is also designed for strength development and thus involves holding each contraction for 6 seconds.
This workout can be done everyday and takes just 7 minutes to complete.
Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7:
- RDL 1×6
- Squat (Bottom Position) 1×6
- Bulgarian Split Squat (90 Degrees) 1×6
- Squat (Mid Position) 1×6
- Finger Pull 1×6
- Seated Row (Close Grip) 1×6
- Seated Row (Wide Grip) 1×6
- Calf Raise 1×6
- Shoulder Shrug 1×6
- Squat (Top Position) 1×6
- Bicep Curl 1×6
- Reverse Curl 1×6
- Shoulder Front Raise 1×6
- Shoulder Press (90 Degrees) 1×6
- Scull Crusher 1×6
Check out this video from NoLimitSquad for more information on this workout.
Bruce Lee’s The Dragon Workout
This routine was based on the exercises Bruce Lee did with the old school Isochain (bar and chain).
These 8 exercises are to be held for 12 seconds as opposed to 6 and you should rest for 20 seconds in between exercises.
- Press Lockout 1×12
- Press Start 1×12
- Calf Raise 1×12
- Upright Row 1×12
- Parallel Squat 1×12
- Shoulder Shrug 1×12
- Deadlift 1×12
- Quarter Squat 1×12
This workout takes less than 5 minutes to complete!
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which of these workouts you choose, and there’s no shortage of different workouts you can hunt down online which are geared towards different experience levels and fitness objectives.
What’s more important than which routine you choose, is that you understand the principles behind why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Be sure to check out my full list of all known Isochain exercises!
Isochain Workout Principles
Once you understand the following, you’ll be able to design your own workout specific to your needs as an athlete.
How Long To Hold Each Contraction
As discussed earlier, you can focus on either strength or hypertrophy using the Isochain depending on your goals.
For strength, the ideal contraction duration is 6 seconds and for gaining muscle mass you should hold anywhere from 20-45 seconds.
The former promotes maximum force output whereas the latter is more about time under tension.
You can also train more for endurance by holding for 60-120 seconds
Which Joint Angle To Use
As a general rule, you should cycle through all three joint angles (short, middle, long) over time, so that you’re getting a balanced stimulus.
There’s evidence which suggests that using the long joint angle (where your muscles are maximally lengthened) is better for developing hypertrophy, and the shorter angle is better for strength gains.
Think of a bicep curl: if you start at the bottom of the rep (wrists close to your thighs), more muscle fibers will be activated.
If you start closer to the top of the rep (wrists parallel to your chest), you’ll be able to exert more force which will improve your strength.
There is also some research which saw the middle angle (elbows at 90 degrees) was able to build strength in that position as well as all other positions more effectively than the other joint angles.9https://academic.oup.com/ptj/article-abstract/73/7/455/2729153?login=false
So there’s benefits to using all different joint angles and you should switch it up from time to time so that you’re hitting them all.
How Many Exercises To Do
This one is completely up to you.
Some people choose to use just 5 major compound exercises, whereas others prefer doing workouts like the Sweet 16.
Obviously the more exercises you incorporate, the more different muscle groups you’ll be able to hit in a single workout.
Experiment with 6-7 exercises and different numbers of sets. If you’re recovering well, consider increasing the number of exercises or sets.
You should also switch up the exercises you are doing on a regular basis.
One of the major benefits of isometrics is that you can train virtually every day and recover perfectly fine.
The key is to listen to your body and track your progress closely.
If you’re really sore, maybe you should train only 3-4 time a week.
If you’re not progressing, perhaps training 7 times a week is too often or 3 times a week might not be cutting it.
There’s no 1 size fits all here and you’ll need to experiment with training anywhere from 3-7 times a week to find what works best for you.
How Long To Rest For Between Sets
Again this is your call.
I’ve found that 20 seconds seems to be a pretty nice amount of rest time for 6 second contractions, but I know some people will rest for about half of that.
For longer contractions, you may need to increase your rest time.
It is important to do at least a brief warm up before working out with the Isochain.
Don’t just dive right into a maximal effort 6 second contraction without loosening up a little beforehand.
You can just do some ‘warm up sets’ at a lower exertion using the Isochain if you like. Going for a jog or doing some leg swings/arm swings works great too.
Isochain Price & Exclusive 10% Discount!
The Isochain currently retails for $399 via the Dragon Door website.
They also sell it on Amazon, but you will pay full price so I highly recommend going via the Dragon Door website so you can get the discount.
Clicking on the button below will get you an exclusive 10% discount on your Isochain.
I’ve never seen any other affiliates who are offering a 10% customer discount, so when I say this is an exclusive discount, I really mean it!
Make sure you use the link below and input code A1ATHLETE at checkout!
Still not sure?
Check out my full Isochain review to see some epic Isochain results!
If it’s still too much, check out my list of cheaper Isochain alternatives!