Maybe you don’t like lifting heavy. Maybe you don’t like the idea of chasing a pump or chasing personal bests. Maybe you’re just too busy to spend 45 minutes per day in the gym.
I understand that. Fitness instructor Alby Gonzalez says he has the perfect solution – dating back to the 1930s… Seems a bit too good to be true.
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
- About the Creator – Alby Gonzalez
- Isometrics Mass Overview
- Isometrics Mass Program Details
- 5 Pros of the Isometric Mass Training Program
- 4 Cons of the Isometric Mass Training Program
- Alby Gonzalez’s Isometrics Mass – Final Thoughts
About the Creator – Alby Gonzalez
Compared to other coaches or fitness instructors we’ve covered on this site before, Alby doesn’t really fall into the same ranks as the scientists or world-famous athletes. First off, finding factual information on Alby is harder than it sounds.
He’s not featured on any fitness sites or published in fitness magazines. And it appears his presence is only felt via his YouTube channel (which has more than 30 thousand subscribers) and this Isometrics Mass program.
He’s clearly into fitness, and the pictures floating around do show he has a decent amount of muscle mass – but nothing life-changing. Other than that, there really isn’t much about him online…
In the program itself, he opens up slightly more … but not terribly so.
He mentions how while growing up, he was always doing sports or engaged in some form of activity. Then, he became a dad, and his priorities changed. From there, he started reading and doing the research before finding this “lost form of training,” which he used to create this very plan.
He doesn’t mention any qualifications or certifications in fitness or physiology at all.
Isometrics Mass Overview
The introduction to Isometrics Mass is a rather interesting one. It’s a lot of marketing mumbo-jumbo, and if you didn’t know the ins and outs of marketing, you’d be hooked.
Luckily for you, I’m going to be breaking down how they get you and if the plan is actually worth your money.
- Fitness level: Beginner – advanced
- Duration: Perpetual
- Workouts per week: 4 workouts per week
- Average workout duration: 30 – 45 minutes
- Equipment needed: Full gym
- Goal: Build muscle
So, without further adieu, the “secret idea” behind this program is isometric exercises. There are three main parts of a lift – well, four if you’re being anal:
- Concentric Phase: This is the part of the lift where you move the weight, which is mostly going to be shortening the muscle. Imagine pushing a barbell up or picking a weight up off the ground.
- Isometric Phase One: Once you’ve moved the weight to its peak position, you’ll ideally hold it there before lowering it. Most people have awful forms and ignore this, but this is called the first isometric phase. The muscle is simply in a tense state but doesn’t shorten or lengthen anymore.
- Eccentric Phase: This is the opposite of the concentric phase, where you’ll move the weight away from the peak position to its original starting position. For example, lowering a barbell to the chest or lowering your body during a pull-up.
- Isometric Phase Two: This phase is only applicable to some exercises – this is the other stationary position of the lift. Your muscles don’t shorten or lengthen, but they simply hold their position/tension. Lifts this phase is applicable to our pressing movements, hip hinges, etc.
Each of these is pretty important. However, most lifters focus on concentric and eccentric motions. That said, there’s a whole group of people in the fitness community that brings a focus to the isometric phases.
Christian Thibaudeau, a legendary coach in the fitness world, wrote an article for T-Nation in 2014 called “Isometrics for Mass!” where he made some interesting claims:
“While probably not as effective as yielding or overcoming training, isometric training can still be of significant benefit to most athletes.”
“However, understand this doesn’t take the place of regular training. It should be seen as a supplementary training method only, but with the proper application, it’ll make your training more effective than ever!”
Of course, the words of one coach don’t immediately negate the efforts of another. So Alby better has his scientific evidence together to support the idea of isometrics being the hidden key to making massive gains.
So let’s finally delve into the world of isometrics and look at three distinct aspects:
- An in-depth look at the program
- What Alby claims to be true about isometrics and his training
- Compare his claims to the science – can it really build muscle?
Isometrics Mass Program Details
Compared to other programs, this one doesn’t have a specific time frame and can essentially be used indefinitely – meaning you can (technically) follow it as long as you’d like.
Whether you’d need deloads or not remains to be seen and will depend on the individual.
How the Program Looks
The program has a lot of reading and a few videos of Alby going through the workouts himself.
Included in the program are the following:
- Main Program PDF
- Supplement Guide PDF
- Sample Meals PDF
- Mass Quick Start PDF
- Printable Workout Logs
The main program PDF is going to be encapsulating the entire workout program and everything you’d need in the gym. He starts off by breaking down what he defines as isometrics, which can be summarized as:
“The term “isometric” combines the Greek words “isos” (equal) and
“metria” (measuring). With isometric exercises, the length of the muscle
and the angle of the joint does not change, though contraction strength
may vary. “
Alby then breaks down the different types of Isometrics you’ll be doing in the plan:
Overcoming is referred to as “In overcoming isometrics, subjects can safely do 100 percent effort and continue with 100 percent available effort as strength is depleted.”
Yielding is simply described as being progressive. A big reason why Alby initially thought of developing this plan is that, according to him, heavier weight tends to injure folks more.
The three major reasons he prefers isometrics are:
- Isometric training recruits the largest amount of motor neurons/units.
- This type of training increases the time under tension.
- It also increases strength dramatically, according to some studies.
(Remember these three, we will delve into them later on.)
The Training Schedule
Moving onto the actual program, you’ll be doing four workouts per week, split into certain body part combinations:
|Monday||Back and Triceps|
|Tuesday||Shoulders, Traps, and Abs|
|Thursday||Quads, Hamstrings, and Calves (so… legs?)|
|Saturday||Chest, Biceps, and Abs|
This is a very effective split that doesn’t really have anything, particularly worrying about it. The only problem I can see is training shoulders after the triceps wouldn’t allow for the triceps to recover fully. That said, the volume is really quite low.
See, every single exercise will follow the same rep and set scheme. Every single session will be the same from one to the next … but with one key difference from every other program you’ve done before – each set has a name and a different purpose.
The Types of Sets You’ll See
The first set is called the “interconnection set.” With a rep range of 12 – 15 reps, this set isn’t only to warm up the muscles but also to help you build a stronger mind-muscle connection. After this, you’ll rest for only 30 – 45 seconds.
The second set is called the “iso-mass set.” The reps fall to 10 – 12, and your goal now is to increase the number of motor neurons firing as well as the time under tension. After the last rep, you’ll hold the weight in suspension (isometric state) in the middle of the range of motion for 10 seconds. You’ll then get another 30 – 45 seconds of rest before the last set.
Set three is called the “breakdown set” and has the overarching goal of breaking down the muscle fully. You’re to use the same load as set 2 (iso-mass set) and go to complete failure on this one.
To progress on the interconnection set, you’ll only increase the weight when you can take the current weight for 15 fully controlled reps. After this, you can add weight incrementally. The same holds true for the Iso-mass set. However, remember you still need to stay in the isometric position for 10 whole seconds as well.
Other Things in This Program
The program PDF mentions the seven deadly sins that are killing your gains, like sleeping too little or doing too much cardio. General information, really.
And then, finally, we “meet” the person who inspired Alby to create this plan – a Russian spy named Alexander Zass. The problem is that Alexander was actually a Russian strongman and physical entertainer… Alby fails to mention that.
According to some articles online, Alexander was indeed a big fan of isometric training and practiced on branches and such growing up. He eventually bent and pulled open the bars of his prison cells to escape captivity.
The program then takes a turn to another sport completely – fighting or MMA. It doesn’t really hit home, unfortunately, as he claims the reason a person taps out in submission is because of isometrics and not serious injury…
He then mentions a few other athletes who’ve done good in history because of isometrics. Alby then closes with a lot of “if you think about it, it works!” statements.
The supplement guide is actually pretty good, naming a few supplements – like creatine and whey protein being great for those engaged in physical activity. Unfortunately, he also mentions BCAAs as being essential… and there’s very little research to back that up.
So what else does Alby claim?
What Alby Claims To Be True
Obviously, there is a lot to break down. The workout program PDF is around 40 pages, and there are a bunch of claims being made on those pages. Not only that … but working through the website and the supplement guide is also a big task.
So, let’s create a comprehensive list of all the claims he makes and go over whether or not they’re true:
- Isometric training recruits the largest amount of motor neurons/units
- Increases the time under tension
- Increases strength dramatically according to some studies (up to 80%)
- You run a lower risk of injury compared to normal lifting techniques
- “A recent study revealed that isometric training increases muscle growth by just over 12% after a 10-week training period” – no reference
- Holding a weight (isometric) is better than reps, as “the longer the muscle is active, the more muscle fibers it will recruit”
- “A recent study shows the difference in the level of muscle activation during isometric, concentric, and eccentric muscle actions. Isometric exercises recruited 95.2% more muscle fibers. The eccentric movement of an exercise (lowering) recruited 88.3% and the concentric (lifting) movement recruited 89.7% of muscle fibers. This gives isometrics a 5% advantage in fiber recruitment.”
Is it becoming obvious that the claims would make any reasonable person want to do this plan ASAP? I would!
However, just like my ex’s claim that she didn’t steal my meal-prepped food that one night, this claim is probably false.
He doesn’t include any references, yet, he’s eager to claim that studies support his claims.
Let’s look at each of these claims individually, shall we?
- Isometric training recruits the largest number of motor neurons/units is the first claim on the list and refers to the muscle fibers being active when doing exercise. When looking at most studies available online, more motor units are recruited when you use high loads and get close to failure.
- Increasing the time under tension is true, yes. However, to what avail? The resistance doesn’t change week to week and so the muscle doesn’t need to adapt.
- Dramatic strength increases of up to 80% supposably were found in the “Nautilus North Study,” which was never a real and published study. It was an article on a site and is, therefore, not a real reference.
- Lower injury risk depends, but for the most part, is true.
- The study finding a 12% increase in muscle size over 10 weeks had no reference, nor was I able to find this study anywhere.
- Isometric training recruits more muscle fibers due to increased time under tension is a bold claim. The reality is that muscle growth is driven due to mechanical tension, and while time under tension does play a role, think about holding a squat position for 60 seconds 50 times a week vs. two brutal leg sessions… Who do you think will have bigger quads?
- The muscle activation study had no reference either.
This is beginning to sound like a bunch of big words and claims to get someone excited about a plan, yet there’s basically no evidence that it works.
Does It Really Build Muscle?
After looking over his whole plan and his training methods, we can finally look at studies (and reference them) to see exactly how effective isometric training is.
- A paper published in 2019 found that when Isometric training was compared to regular training, the regular training group not only gained slightly more muscle but they also gained more insulin sensitivity. This, in turn, would lead to more lean mass over time.
- A 2014 paper found that eccentric training would be more beneficial for hypertrophy and could even use less energy compared to isometric training.
Could You Build Muscle on This Plan?
The biggest driver of muscle gain is (and always will be) progressive overloading mechanical tension over time. What this means, in normal terms, is you have to place more stress on the body or muscles over time in order for them to adapt.
Mechanical tension is literally a description of how intense a certain set is. A set could be light in load, but you’d do a ton of reps, causing high tension. A set could also be higher in load with fewer sets and equally give you the same amount of tension.
That said, we know from studies that eccentric training provides more stimulus than isometric, and isometric training provides more than concentric.
Eccentric > Isometric > Concentric
However, if your overall goal is to build as much size as humanly possible, isometric isn’t the best to focus on. Even the athletes mentioned by Alby were all strength-based, not large in muscularity.
Concentric and eccentric-focused training is for size, and you’d use isometric training to break through strength plateaus. Also, you’d face these plateaus while training for size since you’ll still be using strength as a means to increase mechanical tension.
In week one, you might be doing 12 reps of 200lbs, and by week 15, you’re doing 14 reps of 260lbs. That’s a massive jump – that’s an extra 1240lbs that you’ve just moved! And if you were within 3 – 4 reps of failure on each set, you’ll have recruited the most amount of muscle fibers.
Oh, you still don’t really know why those are important or what that even means? Let me break it down for you.
A motor unit has control over various muscle fibers. When the motor unit is activated, the fibers contract. More units, more muscle fibers. And so, you come to the conclusion that the training that recruits more motor units would recruit more muscle and therefore cause more adaptation, right?
Well, let’s listen to what Chris Beardsley – the Chris Beardsley who’s the Director of Strength and Conditioning Research LLC – has to say:
“Muscle growth is not determined by the degree of motor unit recruitment, but by the mechanical loading experienced by each muscle fiber.
This state can be achieved by either (1) lifting heavy weights, or (2) lifting light weights to muscular failure.
Recruiting high-threshold motor units does not work if the velocity is not slow (like when lifting light weights quickly, and not to failure), as the mechanical loading on each individual fiber is insufficient because the cross-bridges detach too quickly after forming.”
Basically, you need to expose the muscle to really heavy weights or just bring the muscle very close to failure with a lighter weight. Personally, I’d ask why not do both, but that’s just me.
Note: if you want to read some really interesting scientific data on training, Chris is widely respected in the community.
And so, we come back to the question: can you build muscle on this plan? Absolutely.
But It’s Not Because of Isometric Training
There are virtually zero professional bodybuilders or other athletes that base their entire training around isometric training.
Isometric training has its place – don’t get me wrong. But that place is very specific, and it’s actually two places, not just one.
Firstly, you’d use it to recover from injury because an active range of motion isn’t possible. This will allow for some muscle growth while not aggravating an injury.
The second place is breaking through strength plateaus. By doing a loaded isometric set at the harder part of a rep, not only could the muscles and joints be overloaded, but the mind gets to undergo some training, too.
Why is this important? Well, remember motor units?
They get their orders from the brain. And if the brain is “stronger” in a situation, it’ll make the muscle stronger as well. This is widely known by strength athletes and, funnily enough, all men.
Men have higher levels of a hormone called dihydrogen testosterone or DHT. DHT has directly been linked to more force production via greater activation of motor units. This is one of the reasons men are stronger than women, along with carrying more contractile tissue.
Even those athletes who are using performance-enhancing drugs use DHT-based drugs because it literally makes them stronger.
So, a stronger brain = more motor unit firing = more strength.
Yes, isometric training can be used to gain muscle, and you certainly can gain some muscle on this plan. Most of the sets aren’t isometric, there’s plenty of rest time, and if you get enough sleep and food – yeah – you’d gain muscle.
Is this the most effective way possible? Not in the long run. There are methods of training that aren’t mentioned that could yield better results, such as intensifiers, loaded stretches, etc.
It’s up to you to decide what you like more.
Overall, if you like this style of training and you’re more inclined to stay on track if you were to follow this plan, then go right ahead and do it! Just know that the guy doing heavier weights for 10 – 12 sets, close to failure, and using more load week to week is going to outperform you.
Again, isometric training has its place. That place just isn’t the foundation of your entire workout program.
5 Pros of the Isometric Mass Training Program
- It’s easy: A rather boring pro, I know. But a lot of training programs aren’t that easy to do. Some younger coaches would just give everyone 40 sets per workout and call it a day. I respect and commend Alby for taking the more realistic (and better) route of creating something that someone could actually do.
- Progression is advised: And with great enthusiasm, I might add. He wants you to get stronger, he wants you to use more weight week to week, and he wants you to do more over time. This is the number one way to grow more muscle tissue.
- Rest is a big ‘ol factor: Tying in with pro number one, he prioritizes rest from one session to another. This is because there are only four training days per week, and that gives you three glorious days to sit back and grow. After all, you grow while you recover.
- It really is time efficient: He boasts very proudly about how his workouts are a lot faster than the typical “get stronger over time” scheme for reps and sets. I spent 20 minutes warming up for a 22-plate leg press today. I understand what he means, and it’s a legit benefit to this style of training.
- It’s fun and different: While this isn’t really a “big” pro, some people prefer excitement over monotony. Some folks prefer mixing set types over doing more load week to week. While these people may not progress the most, they’re still able to remain consistent, which is the most important factor after all.
4 Cons of the Isometric Mass Training Program
- Missing science: When you make a claim, you back that sh*t up – at least in science. You can’t make claims about studies showing this and that and then have no reference. Alby is neither a scientist nor a scholar, so I could cut him some slack, but his claims are pretty insane. It’s about equally as bad as Visual Impact Kettlebells on this front, which butchered science with nonsense to make sales.
- It’s just not as good as he claims: Contrary to what Alby claims, this style of training just isn’t as efficient as he says. You can grow more muscle by prioritizing the other parts of the lift. That said, isometric training does still work, just not as good as he says, and not for what he says, either.
- Timing: Because of the perpetual system of the plan (you can do this forever), a normal person would never even think about doing a deload. When you do progressive overload training, you’d eventually need a deload. Unfortunately, more time is spent trying to convince you isometric training works rather than giving you tips on how to do it for a very long time.
- Rest time: While the 3 rest days per week are all fine and dandy, he’s very strict on only having 30 – 45 seconds of rest between sets. However, studies have found the opposite to be true – that longer rest periods of 120 – 180 seconds are better for strength, hypertrophy, and avoiding injury.
Alby Gonzalez’s Isometrics Mass – Final Thoughts
My final thoughts are that Isometrics Mass is a really hard plan to digest. It jumps all over the place. One minute, he’s on the money, and the next minute, he’s so far off course that you begin to think this might be a pyramid scheme.
Jokes aside, the plan does have a few benefits. These benefits are hammered down your throat the whole time, but when you only have a few, you probably want people to take notice of them:
- Isometric training is great for breaking strength plateaus.
- Isometric training could potentially be safer, but a person who lifts with good technique and adequate load would be safe as well.
- The workouts could be faster than the regular workout.
- There’s some truth to this style of training helping you gain muscle.
While these benefits are all good, they kind of fall short of the wild claims he makes about the plan. Alby seems way too excited about this plan and uses marketing terms to get you – the reader – hooked. He makes massive claims and then uses “personal” tones to help convince you – like your buddy might over a beer.
Unfortunately, he flew too close to the sun. The plan will surely not help you gain more muscle than a plan that prioritizes progressive overload and mechanical tension in a low-volume fashion.
Name one professional athlete that makes isometric training the center of their training. I’ll wait.
There are none. Professional athletes focus on concentric and eccentric motions and use isometrics when needed. The idea that you could design a whole plan based on what one person – a Russian spy – did 60 years ago is ridiculous.
It’s somewhat a good plan and somewhat effective, but it’s not as good as he claims it is. This is a decent program for those looking for something new or exciting or perhaps looking to break strength plateaus.
Otherwise… it’s a dud.
Make sure you pick movements that are stable, eat enough, sleep more, and get really strong on those. Choose reps schemes you like, and if you’re looking for the best results, aim for 6 – 12 reps. This seems to be what most professional coaches and athletes are doing anyway.
Rating: 3.0 out of 5