Iso Speed Hammer

In Coaching, Fitness Programs, Reviews by Dale HillLeave a Comment

A tempo training workout that uses speed and isometric holds to create strength and grow muscle 

Building a strong, sculpted body doesn’t require hours spent working out—just an expert approach. And with The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, seasoned trainers Sagi Kalev and Autumn Calabrese have compiled their best, most efficient techniques into 30- to 40-minute resistance-training workouts to help you craft a powerful, perfectly defined physique in just 60 days.

Throughout the entire 60 days, you’ll focus on Stabilization, Strength, and Power to rapidly build, sculpt, and refine your physique. Combine this training with proven portion-control nutrition-the way Sagi and Autumn do in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel-and you’ll build a body that’s strong, chiseled, and defined.

As I  embark on my own 60-Day Journey with The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, I will be reviewing each workout as they present themselves in the program calendar. I will add my own insights and observations about the workouts; the comments I make are my own as an Independent Certified Personal Trainer and do not necessarily represent the Celebrity Trainers or Beachbody. Full disclosure, I am also an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and a distributor of this program and all other Beachbody products. I hope the information I provide is beneficial in your personal fitness journey.

ISO Speed Hammer735x1102You will begin to notice that each workout in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel program is very specific and focuses on certain training concepts. There are a few that incorporate Isometric holds to keep the engaged muscles under tension for a longer period of time. Time Under Tension and Tempo work go hand-in-hand, essentially performing an exercise at a particular tempo, say a 3 count on either the concentric (shortening) or eccentric (lengthening) portion of the move, will keep the muscles loaded longer. This format is particularly useful in developing strength and growth in Type I or Slow Twitch muscles.

For example, if you perform a 10-rep set, and each rep takes you 3 seconds to complete, your muscle experiences 30 seconds of time under tension.

If you were to perform that same set but spend 2 seconds lifting the weight (concentric phase), 1 second pausing at the top, and 3 seconds lowering the weight (eccentric phase), those same 10 reps would give you approximately 60 seconds of time under tension, and you’re going to achieve a greater benefit from that extra time under load.

Fast reps are more power oriented, more explosive and can help increase strength. Fast reps involve the Type II muscle fibers or your Fast Twitch muscles. Reps in this style should be done with a heavy enough weight to tax the muscles while maintaining positive control and proper form throughout the full range of motion.

When you combine tempo work with speed work – you’re targeting both the slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers and getting a great workout.

Iso Speed Hammer follows a very simple training protocol, each exercise is done for two sets of 10 reps each. The first set is the Tempo Set performed on a 3/1/1 tempo: 3 counts down, hold for 1 count, up for 1 count. The Speed set is 10 reps performed as quickly as possible while maintaining form and control. You will also notice that the organization of the exercises moves you between upper and lower body, this gives you micro recovery periods between major muscle groups engaged.

This workout starts off pretty easy with a traditional Push-Up, following the basic format outlined above you do 10 repetitions slow and controlled followed by 10 reps at a fast pace. The first set should really be done as a three count move, pausing briefly at each stage for an isometric hold. If you’ve ever done P90X3, you’ll remember Tony Horton called these “elevator push-ups” – holding briefly at each stage: High, Mid and low. 10 Reps of each is a nice warm up and should start to get your blood flowing for the rest of the workout.

You will definitely work your legs and glutes in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel program, and you jump right into it with two rounds of Static Lunges, the first on the left leg and the second on the right. Each round consists of two sets – the first 10 reps slow with the 3-point isometric hold, followed by 10 reps as fast as you can. I recommend choosing a light to medium weight the first time you do this workout to get a sense of what your limits are, safety is important so you don’t want to go too heavy too fast. This is a 60-Day program, so you have plenty of time to increase your weights as you progress.

The two most important elements of form are leg and torso positioning. When you step into the lunge, your forward leg should form a 90 degree angle with your knee over your ankle, likewise your rear leg should also form a 90 degree angle when in the full lunge position. A slightly wider stance will help with stability, especially if you’re using heavier weights. Lower and lift into the lunge using your muscles – you should feel this in the glutes, hamstrings and quads. If you’re feeling this movement in your knees, really focus on moving the muscles instead of your knee joint. Keep your torso upright, shoulders back and chest up and forward – the emphasis of this movement is on the lower body so your upper body should be quiet.

I believe Chin-Ups are Sagi’s all-time favorite move! The primary focus of the chin-up is the large muscles of the back – not the biceps, focus on activating your back muscles as you execute this one. The 10 slow reps are “negatives”, that is you’ll chin-up normally then lower down in a 3 count move, return to the top in 1 count and repeat. Follow these up with 10 at a fast pace.

Alternative #1 – Chin-Up Assist, set the tension to avoid bouncing up and down, the assist should be just that – an assist. As you progress using the assist, reduce the tension until you’re able to complete natural chin-ups. When I use the assist, I prefer to put both feet in the stirrup, however you may find that one foot in is safer and easier to dismount from.

Alternative #2 – Resistance Bands, choose a band with medium to high resistance, secure it to a door connector or other device slightly higher than your head height, step back into a lunge position leaning your chest forward while keeping a flat back. Pull the bands in, palms up with elbows in tight to your sides. The negative comes from the release, release the band back on a 3 count move. You can add a measure of difficulty by crunching the rear leg up and in as you pull the bands towards you.

Always inspect your bands and connectors before use – look for cracks, splits or frayed handles, trust me…it’s no fun being hit by a resistance band that snaps mid-pull!

The Deadlift has become one of my personal favorite moves in this program and I’ve found that personally, it’s been the easiest exercise to progressive lift heavier on. By now you will have mastered the 3 count tempo of the “slow” set. As you drop down into the deadlift, push your glutes out and really focus on feeling the stretch in your hamstrings, this is one move where the 3 count tempo really pays off. As you come back to the starting position at the top, bring your shoulders back and squeeze your glutes. If you’re lifting heavy, pay particular attention to your form on the “fast” set of 10 reps, it’s easy to break form in the interest of going faster, however you want to protect your low back throughout this move so find the the pace that allows you to maintain form.

The Side Lateral Raise is a sneaky one, deceptively simply on the surface and you may be tempted to pick heavier weights right out of the gate. This is another one of the moves that I recommend going light to medium for the first time through to get gauge your strength and stamina. The tempo comes on the “down” side of this move, so you’ll raise the dumbbells up to shoulder height in 1 count, then return them to your sides in a 3 count tempo – again with a brief isometric hold at each count.

It’s okay to have a slight bend in your elbows as you raise your arms up, however really focus on stopping at shoulder height. When you execute the second set with 10 “fast” reps, take positive control of the weights throughout the full range of motion, don’t throw them over shoulder height or let them bang into your sides as you “bottom out”. Standing astride your bench as Sagi positions you is helpful in maintaining a stable body position for the exercise.

(note: in this image from the DVD Sagi has raised the weights above shoulder height – focus on shoulder height and no higher!)

It’s back to the legs and glutes with the Sumo Squat. This is a great move and really hits the adductors (the primary movers of the inner thigh). Take a wide stance with toes pointed outward, ideally when you lower into the Sumo Squat with your hamstrings parallel to the ground, your knees should form a perfect 90 degree angle. Grasping a dumbbell by the head and holding it upright, close in to your chest, lower down in a 3 count move, pause and return to the starting position. I’ve always used my kettlebells for sumo squats only because I find them more comfortable to hold – but that’s just personal preference, regardless of what you’re using for weight, hold it close to your chest and keep your elbows in tight to your sides. Just as with the fast reps on the static lunges, make sure you’re lifting with your muscles and not putting too much strain on your knee joints.

It always seems like the smaller the muscle, the more challenging the exercises and the Rear Delt Cross Fly doesn’t disappoint. You’ll want a resistance band for this one and you can adjust the tension by 1) selecting the right band and 2) choosing the width of your stance over the band. Study the positioning in the photo below, the wider stance you take, the more resistance you’re going to load on the band and the harder you’ll hit your rear delts. Narrow stance =  less resistance and an easier pull.

Many people think that using resistance bands is an easier alternative to using dumbbells but don’t be fooled on this one. The constant tension on the band, particularly with the 3 count tempo is really going to work your rear deltoid muscles. Just as with the side lateral raises, focus on controlling the full range of motion on the “fast” reps. It’s easy to bounce through this when you’re using a band, but resist that and focus on control.

Pistol Squats are aptly named; in my mind the phrase “just shoot me now” surfaces when I hear Pistol Squat. The single leg squat is probably one of THE best ways to build both balance and strength in your legs, and they ARE a challenge. Initially focus on form and balance as you drop down into the squat, depth of the squat will improve as your find your balance. Heavy weights are both a blessing and a curse in this move, I find that heavier weights actually help my balance because they slow down the move. The other side to that coin is that the heavier weight is just harder to lift on one leg – it’s a trade off and you have to experiment to find the optimal starting weight that works for you. Expect to feel your legs and glutes burning after you’ve hit 10 reps of these on the 3 count tempo.

As with the Static Lunge, you’ll do the left leg first with a set of 10 reps at tempo followed by a set of 10 reps at a fast pace; the second round switches to the right leg to repeat the process.

There’s something about the name of this one “Curl – Face Down”, it conjures images that just don’t belong with the move! This is really an isolation bicep curl and using the bench set at a 60 degree angle helps position you for the move. The modification using the stability ball more closely resembles a preacher curl, so if your bench is equipped with a preacher curl attachment you may find that easier to use. The benefit of following Sagi’s positioning as shown in the photo below is that it forces you to hold your elbows in place without outside support. The key is to isolate the movement in the biceps.

I found that my bench was more stable if I sat on the bench and leaned my chest against the back, the sitting position allows me to lift heavier weights without worrying about the bench tipping forward.

I love Calf Raises, plain and simple. They’re like deadlifts and shrugs – you can just go crazy heavy and get more bang for your buck. If you choose to do your calf raises with weights and use a raised platform to maximize range of motion, make sure your platform is stable. In the DVD Sagi uses the frame of the bench as a platform for doing calf raises without weights, and this is fine – however 10 reps without weights, even with a 3 count tempo, may not give you the workout you want. Don’t hesitate to pick up some dumbbells and do these on the floor as an alternative. If you want to progress this one step more, change your foot position: toes pointed at 45 degree angle outward, toes pointed 45 degree angle inward – that help hit the calf muscles from different angles.

You’re going to wrap up this workout by hitting the triceps with a compound Tricep Kickback Twist. In a traditional tricep kickback, you’re focusing just on extending the arm back from a 90 degree bend to full extension behind you. This move increases the range of motion by adding an outward twist of the dumbbells as you fully extend out, then you return and curl the dumbbells in towards your chest. This simple tweak on the standard kickback will have your triceps pumped and feeling every bit of the move. As with all other speed sets, be sure to maintain positive control of the movement through the full range of motion.

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