View Full Version : Bob Hoffman and Isometrics

Greg Newton
07-10-2010, 04:57 PM
On another thread, Gordon linked to one of Bob Hoffman's books on the Sandow site. I've been reading it on and off today. In this book Hoffman was promoting Isometrics with his Isometric Rack and an isometric device involving two bars and a chain. There was a lot of good information on isometrics and some good pictures of some of the York weight lifters from the early sixties.

However, the book itself was somewhat confusing if you didn't know what Hoffman was talking about. He was definitely a self-promoter and he kept droning on and on about his Isometric course.

Well known now, not so well known back then, the great results Bill March and Lou Riecke had increasing their weight lifting poundages had to do with the steroids Hoffman was giving them, not just because of the isometric power rack.

Too, Hoffman took a few potshots at Charles Atlas, although he didn't mention him by name. You have to wonder what Hoffman had against Atlas. Perhaps it started back in the thirties when he got the FTC involved in scruntinizing Atlas. You have to wonder if Hoffman didn't do it for publicity for York Barbell. You could tell, even years later, there was a bitterness there.

Hoffman disparaged the idea of doing hundreds of reps in pushups and other calisthenics, claiming it produced ordinary results. As well, Hoffman said you couldn't become strong by resisting limb against limb. You had to resist against an immovable object.

That leads to the three types of isometric contractions that Hoffman recommended. Rather than self-resistance, you did exercises against a doorjamb or a portable chinup bar. Or, you used the above mentioned isometric device.

The problem I see, is that those portable pullup bars were none too sturdy when fastening them between a doorjamb. The isometrics against the doorjamb itself would have been fine, but limited. I suppose Hoffman's reluctance to talk about self-resistance had to do with it seeming similar to the Atlas course.

The second method, which Bill March used, had you lifting a bar with weight against the pins a very short distance in a power rack. You would hold the bar against the pins for time. Bill March became incredibly strong from this. However, this is an extremely nerve depleting and physically draining form of exercise. Other than being young, and using Dianbol, I am not sure how March was able to train four days a week like this.

Better was the tactic Louis Rieke took. Rieke was the strength coach for the Pittsburg Steelers for many, many years, so obviously he knew something about strength training. He would perform isometric contraction against an empty and immovable bar.n the rack. Then one day a week he would perform standard weightlifting movements. You could extend your lifting career a long, long time by doing this, which I believe is what Rieke did.

Hoffman got hung up on a phrase about exercising one minute a day, but what he was really talking about was a few exercises done with a 12 second contraction. Actually he was talking about a 20-25 minute workout that left you feeling a sense of energy and strength and that didn't deplete you. The actual time of tension was where he got the minute.

All in all there were things to be learned from this book. Rieke and March may have been guinea pigs for steroids, but the isometrics did play a part in their success. Some of the athletic teams using Hoffman's methods built their own stationary racks where they pushed and pulled against stationary bars.

More than ever I am convinced you can build great strength using this type of device. Hoffman was convinced you built muscle as well. You don't need a rack however, you can use something as simple and portable as John's Isometric Power Belt and you can duplicate the same things you'd do in a rack.

Greg Newton

07-10-2010, 06:38 PM
Greg excellent review! And logical and thoughtful and I am in agreement with you. Why use a rack and an immovable bar that weighs a load, coats more and you can carry a Gym in a small bag with you, light weight, can take tons of resistance, easy to use, portable and as modern as the 21st. century, the Isometric Power Belt. I haven't tried VRT with the Belt but that seems like a cool use, John, Greg Mangan and Big Jim have reduced a Gym into mere ounces to zip, nothing, the power of your mind.

07-10-2010, 06:52 PM
The thing that I think is really important concerning the relationship between Bob Hoffman and Charles Atlas is that Bob Hoffman's father was a student of Alois P. Swoboda; the man who Atlas credited with "teaching him everything that he knew". Bob Hoffman said that his father had the best build that he had ever seen. Therefore, Charles Atlas and Bob Hoffman's father were both students of the same man and Charles Atlas patterned his Dynamic Tension course based on the principles that Swoboda had taught him. You can't find a more influential connection than that!