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Isometrics Training Review

Charles Atlas's Dynamic Tension System

Having written my own isometric training progam "Power Isometrics" I obviously have a great deal of interest in this subject. From personal experience I can vouch for how effective isometrics training can be. This inspired me to look into what has to be considered the grand daddy of all Isometrics Training Programs, namely Charles Atlas's Dynamic Tension system. Here's my review.

isometrics training

Legendary Marketing

If you've read a comic book at sometime in your life, you're probably aware of the Charles Atlas Isometrics Training System. A skinny guy is at the beach with his girl and a bully comes along. The bully kicks sand in his face and the girl takes off with him. Frustrated and angry, the skinny guy resolves to become an "Atlas Man" and orders the Atlas course. Over the course's 12 weeks, the skinny guy transforms himself into a buff He Man. He returns to the location of his humiliation, beats up the bully, and gets the girl.

How To Become A Millionaire

The above story was repeated with minor variations over the decades since he released his first isometrics training program, but the basic story remained the same. The course may have transformed 98 pound weaklings into He-Man, but it also transformed Charles Atlas (real name Angelo Siciliano) into a multi millionaire at the height of the great depression. Pretty impressive. The question is, just what is in the course, and does it work?

The Isometrics Training Program

I downloaded this legendary isometrics training program from the Charles Atlas website. As I read it, the book almost came across as a self help manual rather than a fitness book. There is nothing wrong with this, of course. Many of the lessons focus on how you should live, rather than the exercises you should do. This is not uncommon in old time workout books, which often took on a more holistic approach to health than anything else.

The Charles Atlas Philosophy

In general, I really liked Atlas's philosophy and outlook on life. He really emphasizes things like positive thinking, visualization, deep breathing. etc. I can't say I learned anything new from this, but it is always good to hear these simple truths repeated. He also has other ideas which are a bit more unusual. For example, he recommends you take a daily "Music Bath" by which you are supposed to listen to inspiring music while visualizing positive goals you want to achieve. I've never done this before, but I could see it being beneficial to most people.

The Exercises Themselves

The exercises themselves are good, although most of them are not true isometric exercises. A true isometric training program features exercises that are static in nature. Atlas's system, for the most part, relies on exercises which utilize movement. He calls this "Dynamic Tension" (a term he trademarked, I believe). What they really are though are isotonic movements using self-resistance. Whatever you call them, they ARE EFFECTIVE. It wasn't just marketing that sold the Atlas Course. At the end of the day, the program had to deliver the goods, and it does. It wouldn't have been around for as long as it has if it didn't work.

Surprisingly Brief

When you go to the Charles Atlas Website, you can either download a PDF version of the course for $45, or get a hard copy shipped to your for $49.95 plus an additional $10 shipping and handling ($25 outside the United States). The PDF itself is only 91 pages long, and the course itself only goes to page 72. The rest of the book is made up of 5 mini courses entitled "Feats of Strength", "Hand Balancing", "Right and Wrong Boxing Positions", "15 Secrets of Jiu Jitsiu" and "20 Famous Wrestling Holds".  These are all interesting, but I'm not sure how many people really want to learn how to pull an automobile with their neck (Feats of Strength) or learn how to box. In addition, remember that the rest of the course is not all exercises, but entire lessons (chapters) are devoted to things like "Fixing Constipation" (lesson 3) and "The True Tonic of Life "(lesson 7, using water to bring superior health).

The Final Verdict

The bottom line for me is "Do the Exercises Work"? The answer here is a definite YES, which is why I would still recommend this book. I'm not sure I needed chapters on avoiding constipation or music baths, but this course still has a lot of value. However, if you are looking for a modern take on these kind of dynamic isotonic exercises you might what to check out my "Power Isotonics" program. The value pack includes a book and video. It also contains many exercises that are not found in the original Atlas course. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a modern course on true isometric training you may want to get my course "Power Isometrics", which is also now available from Amazon.com. Having said that in gaining new knowledge we all stand on the shoulders of  giants who came before us. Charles Atlas is definitely a giant in this regard. You can hardly go wrong following this program. To check out the Charles Atlas Program yourself, you can go to the website here.

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