Our guest today is Dr. Mark Wetzel, chiropractor and neurology expert based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Mark has been a guest on the show several times before, speaking about the physiological and neurological elements of the training method of “extreme isometrics” as well as the fantastic results that he achieved from using the method with a high school baseball team.
Isometric holds of all sorts have become very popular in training in recent years, and for good reason. Where typical “up and down” lifting is a bit of a shotgun approach to performance, isometrics can isolate very specific elements of our physiology, and allow us to devote the body’s resources to these specific elements, rather than a wider array of general elements that we find in more traditional strength methods.
One of the things you may remember Mark talking about on previous shows is the idea of “cycling through the energy systems” while performing a long isometric hold, and if one can make it through all of these energy systems, then a large benefit can be derived by the athlete. In recent conversations with Mark, he has been taking this further by teaching me how training maximally in one “energy system bracket” can optimize your performance in another “energy system bracket”.
For example, most people in track and field are familiar with the idea of feeling more “warmed up” to do an explosive jump after running a 100 or 200-meter dash maximally. In the team sport world, playing a pick-up game of basketball is often a better warm-up for explosive jumping than doing basically any sort of “traditional” warmup that you might find. On the podcast today, Mark and I dig into these concepts, as well as reinforcing many important elements of the isometric hold itself, such as breathing, intention, posture and much more.
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Timestamps and Main Points
5:05 Why do an “extreme isometric” for 5 minutes, instead of just 2-3 minutes in length
17:40 What Mark sees in the midst of fatigue in an extreme isometric hold and how this resonates with what happens in sport and life itself in uncomfortable circumstances
26:00 The role and sequence of breathing in isometrics and exercise in general and how it contributes to one’s results and recovery from other bouts of training
33:00 Staying in a parasympathetic state, and letting the body choose when it wants to go sympathetic
35:00 The role of intention and focus in isometric lunges and beyond
43:50 Thoughts on the idea of using one energy system to recover another, and how a longer duration burst can improve a lower duration burst and vice versa
“The last 2 minutes (of a 5 minute extreme isometric) is when you can really tap into that Cori cycle”
“When we lose focus during (those last minutes of an extreme isometric lunge), we have to restart the (energetic) process”
“It’s not so much like, I need to grunt it out and hold that 5 minutes because it’s going to make me better at what I’m doing. It’s more about how much can I stay focused and how much can I hold the intention of what I’m doing in that 3-5’ window is going exponentially make you more successful at whatever you are trying to accomplish outside the isometric”
“When you talk to yourself (positively) you release dopamine; and dopamine is going to help you hold on (to the isometric) slightly longer. Changing how you view yourself is going to help you hold on to that isometric”
“When visual people start to suffer (in an isometric) their eyes start wandering… if you are an auditory person, you are going to yell a lot, and if you are kinesthetic, those are the figety ones”
“Isometrics will teach you to keep calm through real life situations”