Spartan WOD for Tuesday, 11.20.12 brought to you by Gaspari Nutrition

By James Villepique CSCS

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.

—Abraham Lincoln


This week’s WOD is going to be something different for all those Spartans out that that supplement their outdoor conditioning inside the gym. I’m going to throw a workout at you that’s actually rare to find anymore, despite the facts that isometric training is a great plateau buster, and rewards those who do it regularly with big gains in strength.

The first thing many Spartans new to isometric contractions realize when they’re first exposed to them, is that they’re metabolism goes through the roof and their heart rate shoots up but they’re not actually moving any muscles!

Typical rep based exercises take time to tap into all of your muscle tissue, but isometric contractions cause the brain to engage them all at once. We’re going to hit every part of the body, and I mean every. Because when you think about it, there is a ton of isometric type challenges in obstacle racing. Here’s what we’re going to do:


-  Isometric Seated Rows
-  Isometric Bench Press
-  Isometric Core Exercise
-  Isometric Pull Ups
-  Isometric Squats

While I only listed one core exercise, in truth, most isometric contractions incorporate tons of musculature, including the core, so they’re actually all going to tax your abdomen. The work to rest ratio is pretty simple with these.

 6 x 10 second holds each = 5 Minutes Isometric Contraction

30 Seconds of rest between each rep

2 Minutes rest between each exercise


Let’s Do This…

1) Isometric Seated Rows

What you’re shooting for here is to be able to maintain perfect form while holding onto really heavy weight. This means your back is up straight, core engaged, head up tall, shoulders back and squared, and knees bent.

Furthermore, at no time during this exercise should your knees lock out.

Experiment with the weight first, and find something that’s challenging to hold onto for 10 seconds, but not so heavy that you might lose grip and smash the entire stack of weights. Push it though, find a weight that’s on the edge, and that will cause your brain to tap into everything you got, from your hands, through your entire body.

The type of handle that works best is one that keeps the hands closer together rather than really wide.

Once the weight is where it should be, grab the handle, lean back to get the weight up, and then slowly come forward until you are in a good kinetic posture. Hold for ten seconds, then set the weight back down, rest, and repeat.

2) Isometric Bench Press

This shouldn’t be done without assistance. Even if you’re a complete loner, there’s bound to be someone in the gym that will spot you for a couple minutes. I would! Chances are this will be something new, and they may even want to try it themselves.

Here is why you need help: you need to have more on the barbell than you can physically bench even once. Yes. For a minutes worth of time, you will be telling your body that you need it to adapt and become stronger than it currently is.

Make absolutely sure the other person has both hands on the bar 100% of the time. But don’t go crazy, it just needs to be more than you can bench press, not 500 lbs.

They should help you lift off, and then lower the bar a few inches so that your elbows aren’t locked out. Now you just hold for a solid ten count. As you approach the sixth rep, it’s going to be hard, and as long as you’re ever so slowly lowering the bar, that’s fine.

If it gets to the point where the weight is likely to drop down quickly because of muscle fatigue or failure, then stop and lighten the load.

3) Isometric Core Exercise

You can do these either with your hands alone, on some bars, rings, or with your hands up on some dumbbells. I like to use the dip machine, but facing out. As you can see by the picture, your hands should be directly below your butt around your hips.

You’ll know what muscles it’s going to take within seconds. This is one of those core workouts that show you what you’re made of. Remember to breathe! Once you master the ability to fully flex your abdomen and breathe from the diaphragm, you’re in good shape.

It’s ok to lock out your elbows on this one. It becomes challenging when you begin to mess around with the leverage your hip position creates. For example if you shift forward, and have a completely straight back vs. a quasi crunch pose.

4) Isometric Pull Ups

I’d like you to mix it up between over and underhand positions with these. The idea is to get your chin above the bar, and hold. When I first started these I was actually shocked by how much my body shook. I’m trying to think, and I don’t know of a single upper body muscle that isn’t fully engaged.

Once you master these guys and can sit up there like that for a while before feeling any real tension, begin messing around with your lower body. As you add movement, things will pick up intensity. Why not add in a mid-air L-sit position?

These are a great first stepping stone on the way to solid regular pull-ups and muscle ups.

5) Isometric Squats

I advise you to use the squat cage with safety measures in place. You’re only going to go down a little bit and then hold. It’s fine not to go back up and put it on the pegs, just slowly lower it onto the safety bar and back away.

I looked all over for a better picture but couldn’t find one. So picture yourself in the squat cage and only go about as low as you see there. You should pick a weight that is very challenging to hold, but not so heavy you can’t.

Boom, the second you engage every strand is working and tensed. You’ll get the same amount of metabolic work done as you would if you did three sets of ten reps with a more typical weight.

Keep Going!

James Villepigue CSCS


One Response

  1. avatar

    Hello Spartana!

    I luv what youve done with the website! I enjoy all these exercises and sharing them with my friends!

    The variety aspect of these workouts are amazing and the results show

    Luv the food sections! Keeps my fat ass from feelings bored with my diet!


    <3 -Pete

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