Bob Pettit, star forward for the St. Louis Hawks, worked with IC for six weeks last summer and became measurably stronger, as indicated by weight-lifting feats. How helpful this new brawn will be to him on the courts is still unknown. "But any time you're stronger, you're better," says Pettit. "I don't know yet if I can jump higher, shoot better or play with more stamina. I'll know in February or March."
Hotbed in Baton Rouge
Pettit and Roy did their IC work in Baton Rouge, which is no coincidence: tie Louisiana capital is a hotbed of the system. Francis Drury, a Louisiana State physical education professor, was one of its earliest advocates, as was Trainer Marty Broussard, who has developed special IC equipment for LSU sprinters and football players. Broussard says he even has used IC to improve his golf game. Holding a club in various positions against immovable objects and straining the muscles employed at those points, he has lengthened his drives 15 yards. Dr. Drury and Alvin Roy, Norbert's uncle and the proprietor of a Baton Rouge health studio, predict that through isometric contraction all world records in weight lifting will be broken within the next year, every world track and field record within the next two years.
Another strong IC booster is Bob Hoffman, the messianic Olympic weight-lifting coach. "It's the greatest thing the world's ever seen," he says. "I am absolutely awestruck at the miracles it has wrought. Let's make full use of this gift from heaven."
Doing just that. Bob Hoffman is manufacturing and marketing a "Super Power Rack," essentially a steel bar which can be set at various heights. Hoffman, 62, believes this is better for everybody (as well as for him) than using just any old immovable object. "It's easy to damage hotel bathrooms," he warns. "I was pulling against a washbasin, and I pulled it loose. In Kiev, our fellows were pushing from wall to wall, and one wall came down, much to our regret."
Hoffman has interested Dean Markham, one of President Kennedy's fitness advisers, in IC. "Recently," Hoffman has written, "Dean Markham spent a night at our home, and at 4 o'clock in the morning, he and I were training with the Super Power Rack."' Markham praises IC, but quickly points out that "the program is much too new at this time to be endorsed by the President."
Isometric contraction is, in fact, neither new nor revolutionary, but only recently has it been widely applied to a variety of sports. Arthur H. Steinhaus, Ph.D., of Chicago's George Williams College, notes that scientists in the early 1920s conducted experiments in which one leg of a frog was tied down while the other was left free. The muscle in the tied-down leg grew significantly.
Steinhaus contends you don't have to do repetitive exercises to build muscle, but he says athletes have been taught to suffer and any system that makes it easy seems wrong to them. "They like their sweat," he laments.
Steinhaus points to some IC limitations, however. "It does nothing for the heart or lungs," he says. "It does not increase endurance. It is strictly a system for increasing strength, and strength is only one aspect of fitness."
Dr. Peter Karpovich of Springfield College, another leading physiologist, says: "There are more claims than evidence. Isometric contractions will not build up endurance and stamina."