245 – Brian Murray – The 20-Second Isometric Workout

Brian Murray
Brian Murray

Brian Murray (brian @ strongwomenrock.xyz) is the founder and owner of Strong Women Rock. He holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology from Auburn University and has spent the last 25 years in getting further and further outside the exercise box studying about the effects of brief and intense muscle contraction on body composition change with age. As an expert in strength training and fat loss, Brian, has been featured in Fox News and CNN. 

He is the Director of Clinical Research at ViiV Fitness working on the revolutionary ViiV Isometric Machine. Brian also wrote the best-selling book, Stop Trying To Lose Weight — You’re Making Yourself Fatter, which presents evidence of the health benefits of properly performed, maximal isometric contractions.  

In this episode, Brian Murray talks about the ViiV machine and isometrics, the 20-second isometric workout, why he thinks isometrics is the next evolution of health and fitness, and much more.

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Show Notes

  • 2:58 – The ViiV machine and isometric workout
  • 20:01 – Benefits of doing isometric exercises
  • 29:27 – HIT community reactions about isometrics
  • 34:30 – Isometric vs. Isotonic contractions  
  • 42:44 – Scientific studies about isometric training 
  • 47:46 – Correlation of isometrics to dynamic performance 
  • 53:51 – ViiV machine vs. gravity based machines

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People Mentioned

Comments 28

  • I like exploring the unknown even if I don’t see that this method is something magic although it will sound cool to many……..a few seconds a month of exercise. Yeah, the rest of us doing “more”must be stupid or not “open” enough.. But, IMO there can be some evidence of some results that again shows that intensity is the factor to stimulate the growth mechanism and that recovery is needed on a broad spectrum of time. That clients show results that improves their lives shows (as with many other very short and infrequent methods-coocky cutter) that their conditioning was very supra before. Many activities could solve that.Feeling good after a few seconds of contraction is something I confirm, I do this every morning after awakening for all my large muscles……..as a extension of that stretching after directly awakening. I can not and will not argue the comments of the clients. I do doubt though the safety of a maximal contraction within 1-2 seconds if done as a REAL max contraction. That I think will be certainly the case in the already strength trained person with a obviously greater capacity to generate force compared to their initial baseline.Regarding the growth mechanism I think that it is multiple facotered and repetition density is one as well as a huge buildup of metabolic byproducts. If one did everything with proper intensity on the mentioned Medx machines and would not be stronger with bodyweight exercises something is wrong, maybe more a factor of coordination. But then, how the hell could someone do better on the BW exercises with a few static contractions? Besides this, many people get stronger for daily life with other methods of regular exercise too.Regarding the nervoussystem I know for myself that the key is the brain………what does it allow on a given day regarding exercise. And that is something that fluctuates and influenced by many factors. Just a few thoughts and IMO. As said before, respect for the walk on this path.

  • Lawrence

    There is some near anecdotal evidence for “hysterical” strength, lifting cars or tractors off of people. The nervous system in supreme emergency activating more muscle fibers than normal.

    Perhaps the time limit, nonmoving resistance, and visusl feedback somehow factor into allowing for a more limited increase in fiber recruitment.

    But I’m not cashing out my retirement account for one of these machines.

    All the best

  • Interesting machine but I couldn’t find answers to the following questions on the website:

    -What produces the resistance by the machine? With the ARX it’s a motor which actually produces movement that the client resists against; but I don’t see one with Viiv–does it not need one because you’re not moving anything? (or is it just hidden really well)?
    -Is there a monthly maintenance fee after you buy the machine?
    -how much force would you need to break or warp the components of the machine?

  • David,

    This is an isometric machine so no movement occurs. The foot platforms and handles you push and pull against are immovable. As you push and pull harder the load cell registers that force and displays this on a bar graph in real time on the ipad in front of you. Your goal is to make the NOW bar go higher than your BEST bar.

    there is no additional monthly fee. the software is an app that is automatically updated as we make improvements to it. doesn’t make much sense to me that you have to pay for the car in full AND continue to make car payments for the life of it, if you know what i mean. this is one of the many beautiful things about ViiV.

    don’t worry about breaking it, unless you are capable of producing 5,000 lbs of force.

    contact me directly for more discussion: [email protected]

  • This is the first time I have to characterize a guest on this show as an apparent charlatan. Brian is a talented salesman and I hate to be a detractor, but what he is peddling is more suited for late night television infomercials. Add the ViiV to your pet rock collection.

    • John,

      thank you for the confidence boost. I had no idea I was a talented salesman. i’ll keep peddling.

      seriously though, please remember to think rationally instead of emotionally. i understand that this is threatening, but is it possible that what i’m proposing is a good thing, or an even better way to do things? is it possible that most of what we think we know is wrong? i think these are fair questions that everyone has to be willing to ask themselves.

      it’s easy to stay tucked away within the safety of the pack, but man the view is so much better on the outside. everything i talk about can be backed up hundreds and hundreds of times over.

      i’ll be here for you when you are ready to jump on board. all the best to you and continued success.

  • Brian – I wish you the best in this endeavor, I really do. I just have a hard time accepting the proclaimed benefits of such brief training that does not include exercise which takes one through a full range of motion. Prove me wrong and I’ll be the first to admit it. I also am not speaking from emotion, but rather from knowledge and experience as I am someone who holds a master’s degree in exercise science and am a former two-time National bodybuilding champion. As Director of Research, can you cite one study which you are serving as the Principal Investigator of a clinical trial to test your theory, or even identify peer reviewed studies that support your claims? It seems like a money-grab opportunity to me, but again, prove me wrong and more power to you!

    • John,

      thank you for the well wishes.

      If you remember from the show, i repeatedly stated “this is MY exeperience,” and “if you like what you are doing please keep doing it.” I also stated that I’m not trying to sway anyone. Doesn’t matter to me if anyone accepts or doesn’t accept what i say. I’m just here to challenge status quo and help advance the knowledge base.

      I’m not here to prove anyone wrong. This isn’t about right or wrong. For me it’s about what is most efficient and what appeals to the largest segment of our population for making a living. This is after all the High Intensity BUSINESS podcast. Only you can prove it to yourself.

      Full ROM strength training is easy to dismantle. Please look at a Force vs. Joint Angle curve. Force produced in your most efficient joint angle for producing maximum strength and power can be as much as 7 times greater than force produced in the weaker part of your range of motion. I get to witness this all the time.I can measure it.

      Do you know how much force you produce when you lift weights through a full ROM?

      When you lift weights you have to start with a weight that you can move through your weakest part of the range of motion and that weight does not challenge you through the strongest part of your ROM.

      Principal investigator of clinical trials? I can cite hundreds of individual studies (many of them longitudinal over a minimum of 4 years up to 17 years!). These studies are all of the individuals I have personally supervised over the past 17 years. Is there any better evidence than that which works in real life? I’ve been paid a lot money year after year because it works.

      You can find tons of peer reviewed studies on isometrics, however, you will have a hard time finding anything studying what I have done over the past 17 years. It’s too far ahead of it’s time. I don’t need peer reviewed studies to prove what I have seen occur over and over and over again for 17 years, however, a good case study was done by Marks R J in Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1994. The effects of 16 months of angle-specific isometric…

      Money grab? I’m not forcing anyone to buy this.

      If you would like further discussion please contact me directly at 770.508.0850 or at [email protected]

  • So what is the cost of one of these machines?

  • 12K is a bargain, Biodensity is 45K.

  • I’m with John on this one. I love the podcast Lawrence, but come on. We have a BS radar for a reason.

  • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • Osteostrong has an entire business based on these concepts.

  • Short duration isometrics will increase your ability to exert force in short duration isometrics. As for it being a complete replacement to full range movement, I’m skeptical. Hard to imagine that it does anything for the cardio vascular system, other than spike your blood pressure briefly.

    As for cost, this gadget will be a lot cheaper than a ViiV-Rx:


    Basically a strap and platform with a load cell built into the handle. I am somewhat curious about the inclusion of a spring to defeat the “zero load reflex”. I can’t find much literature on that phenomena. But it does make some sense to me that introducing a small amount of movement into the application of an isometric might improve the effectiveness via better proprioceptive feedback

  • So…. 3 to 5 exercises, done once every one to two months, with each exercise involving a single contraction that is 1 to 5 seconds in duration, will provide ALL the benefits that you can possibly get from exercise? Skepticism is insufficient to describe my reaction.

    If you want to do isometrics with feedback, there are several choices.

    Ken Hutchins has several machines, which are expensive.

    Others have mentioned Osteostrong/Biodensity. They have data too. But their big selling point is improvements in bone health, where loading that is a high multiple of body weight MAY be important. (Doug McGuff would probably argue otherwise, and talk about signaling between muscle and bone). But that machine is $45K.

    ViiV-RX is cheaper at $12K.

    The one-rep gym also has feedback build in, and comes in at under $4K.

    For the bargain hunters: Dragon Door is planning to release a chain and handle device (like Bruce Lee used) which has a load cell built into the handle. It is called the Iso Chain. It will sell for $400 – $500 dollars, which is a lot for a chain, handle, and platform. But the load cell for feedback is unique and might make it worthwhile.

    Re the Dragon Door device: They incorporate a spring in the movement, to defeat something called a loading reflex that supposedly inhibits you from exerting force against immovable objects. Perhaps this is the same as the golgi tendon reflex? The slight movement allowed by the spring is supposed to improve recruitment and development of force. It is presented as one of those Eastern European strength training secrets that Pavel likes to talk about. I’m curious what folks think about that idea.

    • Greg, this is awesome! Thank you for spreading the word about isometrics and isometric devices. The podcast was a great vehicle to get everyone thinking and the fact that you have taken the time to help educate the audience shows that you are thinking too. Keep it up. Like I have said, this is where everyone is going they just don’t know it yet.

      At least we know great aesthetics are possible with isometrics since dragon door uses bruce lee as an example, but i’ve already documented excellent body composition changes in my book. if you want more please check out a short video i made on the STRONG WOMEN ROCK facebook page titled “13 years younger in 6 weeks.” (facebook.com/STRONGWOMENROCKGA.

      The cardiovascular system? read my book. laid it all out. a non-issue.

      yes, for strength improvement isometrics makes weight lifting optional at best (unless you want that pumped sensation). the need for full ROM is a myth that will die hard. i’ve had many clients over the years quit lifting weights because everything they were lifting became lighter. they figured, why bother anymore if i’m getting so much stronger from this? again, weight lifting will never get you anywhere close to your true strength capability. you can only do this by getting into your most efficient joint angles.

      Short duration, maximum effort isometrics carries over very well to everything else you do in your life. I’ve seen this occur hundreds of times over. It makes everything else you do in life easier. Give it a shot, you’ll see. (i could outline what is happening neurologically but it would take too much time)

      Yes, just a teeny tiny amount of this stuff will get you numerous benefits. With all due respect to the audience, i think you are missing a major point: the only thing that matters is what actually happens in the real world. the only benefits that matter are those that are important to your clients/patients/customers at any particular time. we are the fattest and sickest country on earth and the one thing that will get the sick, unhealthy, debilitated people on the path to health is to get them feeling good. to do this requires getting them stronger and improving their energy level. that is what i have done with isometrics exclusively for 17 years; get people on the path toward health by first getting them to feel good. Once they start feeling good they end up changing their lifestyle in various ways which leads to even more benefits. But the benefits are not limited to the unhealthy. Everyone can get incredible benefits, and if you’re not using isometrics it’s like leaving money on the table.

      I have spent a long time proving that what we think we know isn’t so. aren’t all of you tired of being taught to being afraid of things that will not hurt you? or that if you don’t do something you will suffer for it? much of what we have been taught about exercise is not true! one thing is for certain, it doesn’t take much to change someones life for the better.

      Please keep in mind that I have 17 years of data; 17 years of countless stories i could tell. I have observed how this stuff works in the real world. i do get the feeling that for many, there is no amount of proof that will make a difference. all i can tell you is that it works very well and that is all that matters.

      i respect everyones skepticism and doubt, but to quickly dismiss it without first trying it on yourself or observing how others respond to it over the course of time is unfair. I have proven it first. Now i’m talking about it. None of what I said is “claims.” It’s real.

      My goal is to find the closest thing to exercise in a pill. I think i’m just about there.

      Let’s keep thinking.

      My phone number is available to everyone. if you want to talk about anything in more depth please contact me.

  • I absolutely do not promote short duration full force statics. I know people who have been permanently injured with that practice. This includes MedX testing. Bad idea.

    Plus, what the hell is wrong with lifting weights? If you go to failure you ARE exhibiting a full force static excursion at the end of every set. Only this time, you are fatigued to a level that probably won’t hurt you.

    That said, any of you who want to buy this snake oil can easily retrofit your current equipment with load cells with built in Bluetooth transmitters that display on android devices for $150 a piece. These are available now. Please don’t injure yourselves or you clients.

    • Bill,

      Again, fear of something that will not hurt you.

      I have been doing this for 17 years and have not had one injury. Am I just lucky? For all who think this is dangerous please tell me what I can do better to start getting my clients injured. If you would like the article I wrote titled “Why All-Out Isometrics is The Natural Thing To Do” please email me. This will put your mind at ease. You’ve got nothing to be afraid of.

      No one said there is anything wrong with lifting weights. I certainly didn’t. I said repeatedly in the interview that if you like what you are doing please keep doing it. It is much less efficient though.

      You may go to failure but you do it with a weight that has to be light enough to move through the weakest part of the ROM. Where do you fail? You cannot possibly exert a force in that position anywhere close to what you could exert in your strongest position. Look at a Force vs. Joint Angle curve. I think the disconnect here is that all isometric contractions are the same. you are also assuming that fatigue offers protection. How many athletes are injured every day due to fatigue? Again, we have been told something that sounds good, and makes sense, but in real life doesn’t work the way that people say it does.

      So if you work with clients for 17 years lifting weights to failure followed by a static contraction and see no injuries and I work with my clients for 17 years using all-out five second maximum isometric contractions and see no injuries, what can we conclude about your assertion that my method will get people hurt? Fatigue involved in one and no fatigue in the other. Hmmm. I guess we are both doing something right because no one is getting hurt.

      It would be snake oil if all of my experience were not true, but it is true.

  • Bill,

    Again, afraid of something that will not hurt you. I have been observing people give a maximum effort for 5 seconds against an immovable object for 17 years and there has not been one injury. Am I just lucky? If you have any suggestions for what I can do better to start hurting clients please let me know.

    No one said there is anything wrong with lifting weights. I certainly didn’t. It is much less efficient though. Again, when you lift weights you have to start with a weight you can move through the weakest part of your ROM. Where do you fail? Exactly. There is no way you can produce the same force in that position that you can produce in your strongest position.

    At failure I can guarantee you can’t even come close to producing the force you can produce in your most efficient joint angle with a maximum effort.

    you are assuming that fatigue offers protection. athletes are injured all the time due to fatigue. although the “you must fatigue your muscle to protect it from getting hurt” concept sounds good and makes sense, it doesn’t work that way in the real world with real people. our bodies are not that fragile.

    so if you have 17 years of your clients carefully lifting weight, going to failure followed by a brief static, and no one gets injured and I have 17 years of clients giving a maximum effort for 5 seconds against an immovable object and also see no injuries what are we to conclude about our methods? No one is getting hurt so we both must be doing something right. But it also shows that what you are telling me isn’t necessarily true.

    I may have read this wrong but, It is interesting to note that it seems contradictory to discredit my 17 years of data as “snake oil,” ask that the audience don’t injure themselves with this practice, then advise the audience about technology that can help them get set up to do it.

  • I wonder what the ARX Guys think about overcoming isometrics, do they yield any benefit?

  • “No one is getting hurt so we both must be doing something right. But it also shows that what you are telling me isn’t necessarily true.”

    Not necessarily. I still know people that were injured using short duration full force statics. That is true. I’m glad that you haven’t logged any injuries though.

    I am glad that you pointed out the performative contradiction in my post. I am not against people using statics as such. Just short duration full force statics. Plus, if someone wants to do any statics with load cell feedback, I’m just pointing out that they can use their existing equipment and outfit 8 machines currently on their floor for $1200 instead of taking up new floor space with a $12,000 static frame.

  • I think that statics are very effective and i’ve been utilizing them for some time however i think that maximum loads being held in extended positions will be dangerous , especially as the load increases . However statics that are used in conjunction with full reps & negatives and so forth so they aren’t maximum load dependent will be better with respect to longevity .

    • enlite,

      glad to hear you are using statics. get over to viivfitness.com and read my latest article on the blog titled “ViiV-Rx Makes Weight Lifting Obsolete?”

      i agree that holding loads of weight in one position is a problem. that is why you’ve got to perform statics against an immovable object. that is why we have the ViiV-Rx. the load is determined by your voluntary effort.

  • hello
    getting to back sets and rep training verses static training people have been
    conditioned in gyms with the sets and reps is the only way to build muscle and
    strength regarding isometrics they can be done without equipment these isometric
    machines where it does not move but registers the force makes sense but why
    not just using a rope or chain for the same exercises the only difference is there
    is no feed back of how much force is involved .

    • Terry, you’re probably right in that a simple device will stimulate the same outcomes. The machine allows you to perform multiple movements at different angles and the data is very useful. Some clients really like data, even if most of us know it’s not that important for the important health outcomes we’re after.

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