Implementing Extreme Isometrics

By: Rob Assise

I have written about my personal experience with extreme isometrics in the past (here and here). I also conducted a webinar where I discussed the numerous whys behind the method as well as what I feel are the best ways to teach the extreme isometric lunge, push-up, scap hang, and standing glute-hamstring. The teaching piece is the result of a huge amount of conversation with my mentor and colleagues, hours of research, and quite a bit of trial and error. What I have yet to do is create a resource which addresses how I program them for the athletes I work with. This article will lay out some possibilities, but as mentioned in the linked resources above, having personal experience will help you decipher your way through the programming and make better decisions for the athletes you work with. According to my mentor in extreme isometrics, who prefers to be anonymous, “There are things that could be measured on the extreme isos that have yet to be measured. Who knows if that ever gets researched? Regardless, there is a synergy that comes from the things that you can’t measure, and that synergy HAS to be experienced. There is no way around that.” I also want to emphasize the importance of holding a high standard of position, action, and intent within the exercises. This can certainly be a challenge, especially if you are working with large groups, but it is necessary in order for the stimulus to create the largest bang for buck. The linked webinar goes into extreme (pun intended) detail on teaching progressions of the four exercises mentioned. I truly hate self-promotion, but not at the expense of failing to provide people with a resource which will save them time and make their implementation more effective.

Before we dive into programming:

  • Extreme isometrics are really “extreme slows” which technically means “extremely slow eccentric.” In using the lunge as an example, an athlete would typically pull into an extreme position, but as the duration of the exercise continues, he or she would be pulling into an even more extreme position. During that time, numerous muscles would be lengthening. In reality, isometric is a poor name as there is movement happening within this style. However, I will call them extreme isos or just isos in this article.

    • One should note that the range of movement can vary based on the coach’s intent. In the example above, the athlete could pull into an extreme position in 10 seconds, and then have a very small amount of movement from that point forward. Another option would be to take 5 minutes to pull into the extreme position. Both examples are “extreme slows,” the range of motion during the extreme slow portion is what makes them different.

  • Within my coaching circle, this style of isometrics was brought to our attention by Jay Schroeder. It is essential to state that this is just a phase of the entire program. According to my mentor, energy absorption (altitude drops), energy redirection (rebounds), and rebounds at high volume are the other pieces. There will be reference to these types of exercises throughout the programming. Links to videos of most of the exercises can be found here.

  • Part of the aura of mystery concerning extreme isometrics is the five minute duration. I do not know if anyone has ever been given a clear answer from Schroeder other than the best physiological response occurs from what happens between three and five minutes. After my own personal experience, and implementing isometrics with athletes, what I have found is that the five minute duration will challenge everyone. If it does not, then they are simply not “pulling into position” hard enough. More on that later.

  • For exercises given a duration, the intent is to accrue that amount of work in the position. For example, if I was performing an extreme isometric with a target of five minutes of work, and I failed after three minutes, I would stop the clock, take a couple belly breaths, and then get back into position and start the clock back up. I would repeat this process until five minutes of work was complete.

  • The programs presented will go from general to specific, but I will be more specific about the general program. Not all exercises are extreme isometrics. I will provide additional insights regarding the exercises as needed.

  • Programming articles are a challenge as everyone has their own situation. The intent of this article is to provide some ingredients, but you will have to choose how to cook based on your situation. I am going to emphasize again that I feel my programming choices for the athletes I coach have been greatly enhanced by having experienced the items being discussed. I know this because I dabbled in their programming prior to having personal experience, and it was hot garbage.


I have heard Dr. Tommy John state that the beauty of long duration isometrics is they hit the sweet spot every time. External alterations to items such as load, volume, and intensity found in other forms of exercise are taken care of internally with extreme isos. The exercises meet you where you are, and like all exercise, the key is showing up. I feel the following program has the right amount of stress to yield noticeable results while keeping it sustainable. I joke that this is a program which can benefit anyone with a heartbeat.

The cross crawl superman is a huge bang for buck exercise. It is a space friendly way to get repetitions of the cross crawl patterning that the brain craves while reinforcing the proper sequencing for hip extension (glute, hamstring, contralateral QL). Furthermore, with emphasizing the chin on the ground, time is spent with the neck in an extended position. I think we all agree technology has caused us to spend too much time in neck flexion! The time duration of five minutes is initially a huge challenge for most people, but I think the importance of teaching the body to execute proper hip extension while under fatigue cannot be overstated.

The extreme iso lunge is the granddaddy of them all, and in my opinion, the best (and true) version of it includes the action of pulling into position. The action of trying to move the front foot backwards (and/or down into the ground) to engage the front hamstring and pushing through the ball of the big toe of the rear leg has numerous benefits:

  • Gives the athlete two specific tasks to focus upon. It is a cognitive challenge to be dialed into this. I’ve spent hours in the position and have yet to be perfect. Just because the “movement” is not complicated does not make it simple. I have really come to appreciate the enhanced awareness of my body that this exercise has given me (now 40 years old). I know that awareness is something which is lacking in the high school males I coach!

  • Engages more tissue. When more tissue is engaged, there is a greater hormonal response post-exercise.

  • By consciously contracting the agonist, the antagonist will experience greater lengthening. For the lunge, think of the quadriceps and hamstrings of the front leg, and the hip flexors and glutes of the rear leg.

Simply put, in my opinion, performing the lunge as a yielding isometric (just hanging out until failure) is a B minus exercise. There has to be intent in contracting the opposite of what you think you should be contracting. My go-to phrase for extreme isometrics is, “If you aren’t pulling, you are fooling!”

Video 1: Pulling into the extreme position properly sets the table for maximizing the isometric. Here, I emphasize the action of the front hamstring pulling me down. Once I get into the extreme position, I keep this going and begin pushing through the ball of my big toe in my rear foot. I then attempt to maintain these actions with maximum intent throughout the duration of the exercise.

I have no personal greater love-hate relationship with an exercise than I do with the scap hang. While I do not want my own personal experience to bias your own, the best experience I have had with it is toggling between active and passive within the same rep. One place to start would be a 1:2 ratio of active and passive. I just personally prefer accessing the extremes of scapular motion multiple times within the work time. That being said, do your own experimentation. Remember, the active version does engage more tissue, so be sure to include it!

When done properly, the extreme iso push-up engages tissue from head to toe. The best version of it is when both hands and feet are elevated from the floor. Cinderblocks are the cheapest route for this. Emphasize pulling with the muscles of the back and biceps to get into an extreme position. With my ankles in a neutral position, I like to attempt plantar flexion (pushing backwards with the balls of my feet). This engages calves and glutes, and creates a solid human from top to bottom. Remember, once the integrity of the position falters, stop the clock and reset!

Video 2: In this version, my hands are elevated, and I am pulling down into position with my back and biceps. Once in an extreme position, I maintain this action and start pushing through the balls of my feet. Emphasize elbows out at a 45 degree angle. Once the elbows begin to track in towards the body, I would suggest having the athlete reset.

One analogy that my mentor used which I found to be very helpful with the leg “action” of the iso lunge is attempting to close a pair of scissors, but failing. The leg action of the standing leg raise is to attempt to keep a pair of scissors from closing. The intent to make this happen is keeping the “swing” leg as high as possible the entire time, while attempting to drive the stance foot backwards. I found these cues enhance the contractions of the hip flexors (swing leg) and glutes (stance leg), and also provide additional stability, which is very helpful as there is a balance challenge to this exercise.

Foundation Thoughts and Extensions

My advice on the frequency of the Foundations Program is simple - perform it every day for 8 weeks. A day off should be inserted periodically (one every 7 - 10 days) to keep the athlete mentally fresh. An additional wildcard to play to ward off mental fatigue is to periodically shorten the duration of work. One option is to utilize a day where all exercises are done the same amount of time, such as three minutes for each (I rarely go under three minutes of work). Another option is to rotate where one of the exercises in each session is done for three minutes, and the rest for five. The key is finding the Goldilocks Zone for each individual - taking one step back so the athlete can take five steps forward certainly beats grinding an athlete into burnout! Coach the athlete in front of you!

Some athletes may not need a full 8 weeks, but I have yet to see harm from them fulfilling the cycle. By the end of the 8 weeks, the athlete’s capacity for handling stress will be fantastic, from a physical and psychological perspective. Preseason would be ideal for the Foundations Program, but I also think it can be done if an athlete is in-season. In-season sessions hold significant value as most sports are dynamic, which emphasizes tendon stiffness. Long duration isometrics address tendon compliance, which is often an afterthought, but critical in keeping athletes healthy.

Speaking of compliance, is it realistic to expect all athletes to comply? This gets tricky. In general, the athletes I work with will complete the task which is laid out before them. This is due to the trust we have built working with one another, a portion of which is the result of explaining the “why” behind everything we do. That being said, the athletes I work with show up to track practice to sprint and jump, not to perform long duration isometrics. If we spent 50-60 minutes each day performing the Foundations Program for eight weeks during practice, my guess is we would have a much smaller team. I have heard Dan Fichter say you can “go broke” with excessive isos when applied to a large group. To combat this, we perform some isometrics during our training session (more on that later), and additional items are given for homework. Here, I take on the role of an honest salesman, explaining the advantages to them of completing their homework. The athletes who are committed to becoming their best comply, and it is noticeable during our in-person training sessions.

Many athletes thrive off variety, and that is something the Foundations Program does not have. Here are some suggestions to assist with this:

  • If the athlete is in-season, the sport and/or traditional weightlifting should provide a nice contrast of variety. If the athlete is out of season, encourage them to partake in pick-up basketball, soccer, hopscotch, wiffle ball, flag football, etc.

  • If an athlete is facing a time-crunch, the extreme iso wall squat and the extreme iso standing glute-hamstring are nice options because they are bilateral and cut the work time down by five minutes. They can be utilized in place of the extreme iso lunge and the standing leg raise.

    • If an athlete has access to a glute-hamstring machine, there are variations at the top and bottom of the movements that are also a nice change of pace. The perk of these and the standing glute hamstring is stressing the hamstring at length. I will say that I am not a huge fan of assigning these for homework because they involve a high degree of nuance and CONSTANT reminders of intent. When done well, however, they are a hell worth going through.

  • Another option are long duration glute-bridges. Athletes can start bilaterally and progress to unilateral. Initially, a high degree of knee bend can be used, progressing to minimal. My favorite variation comes from David Grey - the long lever supine unilateral posterior isometric. Say that fast 10 times!

  • The isometrics found in the Foundation Program are primarily big ticket compound exercises. There are many additional exercises for the biceps, shoulders, and abdominals that can be used as a change of pace for those who crave variety. I suggest Dr. Tommy John’s book, “Minimize Injury, Maximize Performance” for options and explanations, and a ton of other great information. His YouTube Channel Playlists are also a great resource.

  • In our program, we utilize Cal Dietz and Chris Korfist’s Spring Ankle Model to train the lower leg. If we did not, I would include an isometric calf raise two times per week in the Foundations Program. The foot position and knee angle in the lunge does a nice job of targeting the soleus. The iso calf raise would emphasize the gastrocs. Be careful with it! The first time I accumulated five minutes on each leg produced some gnarly after-effects!

Derivatives and the Big Picture

One concept which has been reiterated in working with Chris Korfist is that a stimulus is introduced so one day it can be de-emphasized. If your situation allows you to follow the Foundations Program perfectly, awesome! However, reality often gets in the way. Hours of conversations with my mentor revolved around how to accumulate enough volume of long duration isometrics to reap the rewards when progressing into their dynamic derivatives. My preferred minimum standards are for athletes to be able to perform the following in a single effort:

  • Extreme Isometric Lunge - 3 minutes

  • Standing Leg Raise - 3 minutes

  • Extreme Isometric Push-up - 2 minutes

  • Scap Hang - 2 minutes

Athletes who do their homework tend to hit these standards with ease. Athletes who do not struggle, but can eventually get there. The nice part is we do enough in practice where they still have the ability to handle the derivatives (drops and rebounds). I will also point out that this does not mean that the derivatives are not present while the Foundations Program is taking place. They just are not emphasized as much. Drops involve dropping from a height and stopping the fall to absorb energy. Rebounds involve dropping from a height and redirecting energy in another direction. Dr. John’s YouTube Playlist is the best place to familiarize yourself with the derivatives, divided nicely into a list for the upper and lower body. The programming I provide moving forward will be biased to the lower body because that is where the greatest return exists for the sprinters and jumpers I coach. It does not mean that I completely ignore the upper body (sprinting and jumping is a full body movement). I just point this out because I would probably emphasize the upper body more if I coached a field or court sport.

Image 1: Here is a general outline for our 19 week 2020 track season. The column to the right represents the percentage of absorption and reactive activity (absorb = drop, reactive = rebound). This is specific to when we are utilizing the derivatives of isometrics. Since the sport itself is a rebounding activity (sprinting and jumping), my current programming extends the 70 / 30 split through Week 10. Another item my mentor was correct about when I showed him this in 2020.

Image 2: Here is how we classify drop and rebound derivatives. The Greek letters refer to positions in Cal and Chris’ Spring Ankle Model.

Image 3: Here is how we organized our speed development (warm-up), isometrics, and drops/rebounds through our first five weeks. The row with the week number addresses activity done in the warm-up. The row with the 80/20 or 70/30 are activities done during the remainder of practice. At this time, we tended to do acceleration on Monday, lactate (speed endurance) on Tuesday, regeneration on Wednesday, and maximum velocity on Thursday.

Narrowing the Scope

Probably the most common question I get is how do we incorporate isometrics within an individual session. I think the beauty is that they can fit anywhere. They can be done all at once or inserted throughout. I know this answer is maddening, but I hope the following options stimulate some thought on how they can be programmed. I will give options for the theme of the training session. Most are structured in a circuit style. This is our management strategy for having a group of 70+ spriners, jumpers, and hurdlers. I will also include some specific to jumpers. Due to our numbers, athletes get adequate rest when they move from station to station. There will be wait time at some of the stations. We also emphasize not being in a rush to ensure high quality. For clarity, pre-workout will mean immediately following the warm-up, and post-workout workout means immediately after the workout.


  • Pre-Workout

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 30 seconds each leg

  • Circuit x 3 - 5

  • Post-Workout

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 60 seconds each leg

Maximum Velocity

  • Pre-Workout

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 30 seconds each leg

  • Circuit x 3 - 4

  • Post-Workout

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 60 seconds each leg


  • Pre-Workout - 3 cycles

    • Wicket Run

    • Hurdle Mobility

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 30 seconds each leg

  • 23 Second Run

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 30 seconds each leg

    • Rest 8 minutes

    • Repeat

  • Post-Workout (homework if necessary)

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 2 minutes each leg

Regeneration (not circuit style, 3 - 5 minutes each)

  • Cross Crawl Superman

  • Extreme Iso Lunge or Extreme Iso Wall Squat

  • Scap Hang (toggle active / passive)

  • Standing Leg Raise or Hip Circles

  • Extreme Iso Push Up

  • Extreme Iso Standing Glute Hamstring or Long Lever Supine Unilateral Posterior Isometric

Technique - Jump Circuit #1

  • Pre-Workout

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 45 seconds each leg

  • Circuit x 4 - 5

  • Post-Workout

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 60 seconds each leg

Technique - Jump Circuit #2

  • Pre-Workout

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 45 seconds each leg

  • Circuit x 3 - 5

    • Russian Lunge x 3 - 5 each leg, Lunge Bounce x 15 each leg for younger athletes

    • Band Resisted Sprint x 15 m

    • Approach Rehearsal x 1

    • Rest at least three minutes

    • 10 m Fly (30 m run-in, only first 2 or 3 cycles)

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 30 seconds each leg

  • Post-Workout (homework if necessary)

    • Extreme Iso Lunge x 2 minutes each leg

Derivative Circuit

  • Complete cycles until disinterested. Extra credit for doing all cycles on one leg, then all cycles on the other.

  • Jump to Lunge x 3

  • Drop Lunge (weighted) x 10

  • Lunge Bounce x 20

  • Extreme Iso Lunge (weighted) x 30 sec

  • Rest 1 minute

Parting Thoughts

Part of the fun of implementing a program is taking what you have learned over time and creating a system which best fits your situation. However, I do think there is danger in crossing the streams of numerous systems. This becomes more dangerous as the level you coach increases. Coaches at the youth level can get away with almost anything. Coaches at the elite level have a microscopic margin of error. I do think the versatility of isometrics makes them able to fit well within numerous systems. I have personally found viewing them as the glue which holds the system together as an effective perspective (besides sleep, diet, mental health, etc). Here are my parting suggestions:

  • Embark on your own personal journey for at least 8 weeks. This is the way….to a better understanding.

  • Put in the time with the Foundations Program to reap the greatest reward.

  • Hold the highest possible standard for position and pulling into position. Do not compromise!

Good luck and enjoy the experience!

**Thank you to my mentor and colleagues who have gone through this journey with me. Thank you to Dr. Tommy John, Dr. Alex Lee, Cal Dietz, and Alex Vasquez for sharing quality video and explanation!**