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How to Augment Programming With Targeted Isometric Exercise: Isometrics 101

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  1. Introduction
    Opening Remarks
  2. Why To Consider Targeted Isometric Exercise As An Active Intervention In Athlete Progression vs. A Passive Modality
    Isometric’s New Name: PVMC

The beauty of targeted isometric exercises is that it involves ACTIVE ATHLETE PARTICIPATION, stimulating MULTIPLE BRAIN AREAS responsible for planning, coordinating, and executing SPORT MOVEMENT; and that supports MOVEMENT AUTONOMY.

I’m going to be introducing you a new name for what I like to call my isometric exercises. I have coined the term PVMC, which is positional, volitional motor control. Here’s why. The P, the position means that we’re going to work with the existing movement axis and the positioning we need, which means the force angle that you’re going to work with that you desire.

The volition, and this is the most important part of the PVMC equation is that the athlete actively engages in this exercise to oppose force. I’m going to explain a little bit more in a second about why that matters. It’s because there’s a motor control component to isometric exercises that to me is more effective and builds autonomy faster than some kind of passive modality like foam rolling or stretching, or maybe dry needling. We’re going to see in a minute what it looks like in the brain when we do an isometric versus a passive intervention. Again, the M is for motor, and we’re engaging areas of the brain from sensory input processing to motor output. You’re helping the athlete engage in something that is going to build on motor control theory to build autonomy of movement a little bit faster. Finally, the C is for control, and that means we’re just either training or retraining that muscle or group of muscles to support autonomous use in sport movement.

Whenever you think isometric in this presentation, we’re going to call them PVMCs, and now you know what it stands.

Why PVMC? Why do I use isometrics with athletes? Well, I love the safety of isometrics because the joint is going to remain stable and you can adapt that joint position to a pain-free range of motion, which means that it’s highly versatile. You’ll also be able to adapt based on the current force tolerance of the athlete before you. They’re also very versatile. The PVMCs can be adapted depending on your goal with intensity, volume, the duration of the contraction, the direction of force. Whether you use a single joint or multiple joints. Whether you’re doing it unilaterally or bilaterally, and you can change your work to rest ratio depending on what your goal is again. Now my most important thing and what I’m going to try to drive home for you guys today is that this involves athlete participation. They’re actively involved in the changes you’re making, which again is going to support autonomy.

Now, I’ve always said a picture is worth a thousand words, and I know a lot of people have heard that before, but this screen that you see before you is a picture that I pulled from the study below where they showed brain activation patterns. The two, you see CONV down to REST and WPHF down to REST, those are two passive modalities. It’s using a TENS unit. You can see the frequency that they used below. Then far left you’ll see just the 10% of Maximum Voluntary Contraction Isometric. Look at that brain light up when you do an isometric. That’s the important part and what I want to emphasize in this particular presentation today is that you’re going to involve all the areas of the brain that are involved in sensory input, sensory input processing, the coordination, the planning, and the execution of movement. That’s exciting to me. I hope it is to you.

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