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T-Tapp Tuesday–Second Key for the Proven Formula for Success

Isometric contraction.  Going to your max.

You hear that a lot in T-Tapp, but what does it mean? 

Well, at the risk of plagiarizing ;) I’m going to quote extensively from a post by Dan Wiley or “Dantheman” as he is known on the forums:

Isometric Contractions: Really, what does that mean? How do you implement an Isometric Contraction? I believe this is the most misunderstood and under utilized aspect of the formula. Lets use the a real life experience that we all have encounter. You have a new jar of pickles and you want to open the lid. If you are right handed, you pick-up the jar with your left hand, right hand covers the lid and you begin to twist the lid to open. But it does not move. So, you try again but this time you are determined to get that lid off. Your left hand tightens around the base of the jar with fingers securely holding the jar in a stationary position. The right hand covers the lid with your finger grasping the edge of the lid, both left and right wrist are locked in a straight alignment with forearm and hand (isn’t that Interesting) and you begin to apply pressure in opposing directions with the left and right hand. The lid is still not moving so you apply even more strength (the fingers, wrist and forearm muscles are fully activated at this point). The Lid is still not releasing. So again, you setup and being applying pressure and maybe you lock your arms into position and engage the shoulders, lats and core muscles and the Lid finally releases. All that for a pickle!

“But the learning here is not now bad you wanted a pickle, it’s what is and how to apply Isometric Contractions. In this case the Isometric Contract is the activation of the muscles and pressure applied up to the point that that the lid released with the opposition of the twisting motion of the left and right hands.

“So how do you apply Isometric Contractions in you T-Tapp Workouts? You build pressure or muscle tension to resist the workout move in the opposing direction. Again by example: In PBS arms; the movement of the arms should be not just to pump them backwards and let them come freely back to the body. It should be that you are applying pressure in the opposing direction.”

Isometric contraction is what I would call a “controlled movement”–in T-Tapp you never, and I mean never let momentum carry a move!   It’s easy to do, especially if you’re focused on one aspect of form, but there are no resting or easy moves except the water breaks!  LOL!

A good visual is a video I did of what I called “Donna Arms“.  At the 2009 Safety Harbor Retreat, trainer Donna Wilson (who has beautiful arms!) showed me some moves.  Although they are not “T-Tapp moves”, they are T-Tapp related due to the muscle activation.  Then our man Dan took it up a notch, so I did a short video of his tips, too–although he later told me that the arm swings actually could be a bit looser in this instance!  :)  (Click here for that video.)

You can see in the videos how I am creating resistance with my own muscles.  I’m not just pumping my arms through the air, I am pretending like I am moving through thick, wet mud.  Or in the Dantheman version, I am pushing back just as if the wall were still there.

In Primary Back Stretch, when you go over into a flat back, you’re there with your thumbs in your “thumb holders” (just above the hip bones in the back part of the buns), elbows up to activate the lats and arms.  Now, before you try to straighten your right leg, for instance, you will push down with your right thumb, as if that arm and thumb are trying to keep your buns and leg from moving!  Then you gradually push that leg back–it may not even get anywhere near straight (mine rarely do), and your abs are pushing your buns against that thumb as if trying to push up.   You are applying pressure as if the muscles are fighting each other–or, as our friend Dan would say–opposing each other.

In Teresa’s words, you are “using your body as the machine–to create its own weight resistance wth muscle movement.”

Here is a quote from Fit and Fabulous in Fifteen Minutes:

“Most traditional exercises are isotonic, meaning they work only part of the muscle instead of the full length of the muscle.  To see what I mean, stop reading for a second and do a traditional biceps curl.  As you tighten your muscles when you curl up and again when you uncurl, you feel it in the middle of the biceps, right?  That’s an example of an  isotonic exercise.  Adding hand weights to a biceps curl is what enables muscle fibers to shorten and thicken, which is what creates the traditional bulging biceps.


“Now do a T-Tapp biceps curl.  Place your fist on your shoulder and bring you elbow up to shoulder level, making sure the elbow is behind the ear.  Keep pushing your elbow back to be in alignment with your shoulder.  Now tighten as you curl and uncurl, but don’t drop the elbow. In addition to the biceps, can you feel the triceps, underneath?  Can you also feel the deltoid muscles (or delts, shoulder muscles) , as well as the latissimus dorsi (lats, the lateral muscles of the back) and the trapezius (traps, or back muscles)?  That’s the T-Tapp difference!  You’re working five to seven muscles, full fiber, from the shoulder to the elbow, instead of one muscle just from the elbow to the belly of the muscle.  And that’s why in addition to building long, lean, scultped, muscles, you never have to do more than eight repetitions of any T-Tapp exercise to get results.”


~Teresa Tapp, Fit and Fabulous in Fifteen Minutes, pp. 18-19

Chest press is another good example of isometric contraction.  If you go to the link above for Fit and Fabulous at Amazon, there is a video clip below we on the forums call “Amazon Arms”.  :)   In that video she demonstrates the chest press.  By keeping elbows up to shoulder level and pressing in as if you were pushing through thick mud, both on the ins and the outs, you create muscle resistance.  Or isometric contractions.

That is why T-Tapp is mindful movement.  And why there is no music!  You really need to have your mind engaged in this workout to make sure you are doing your best at keeping muscles activated!

Going to your max is just that–your max.   Too many people think they need to go as fast and as far as Teresa (whom we lovingly call Mrs. Gumby!).    If you have to sacrifice form to execute a move, you need to not go down/over/back as far and just push to your max ability.  You also want to push to challenge yourself but not to hurt yourself!   It’s easy to think you need to give it a one-two umph push on a move, and then you forgot to keep elbow(s) up and hurt your back…I’ve had two friends do just that!

As you progress on your T-Tapp journey, your muscles will get stronger and so will your resistance!  That’s why you never need more than 8 reps with T-Tapp to get results or maintain! 

Your max in flexibility and muscle activation might not be much at the beginning, but trust me, if you practice the third key to success, consistency, you will improve at both flexibility and activation.   I know, because I’ve experienced it first hand!

The goal isn’t to mimic Teresa in flexibility and how far she can reach, go down, go back, etc., but to mimic good form to your best ability, and if you can’t go as far, apply as much muscle activation that you can at this point in time!


So remember–

Key #1:  Proper form as best you are able at this point

Key #2: Muscle activation (isometric contraction) to your best ability–to your personal max right now.  And realize it will change and progress! 

Until next week, Happy Tappin’!  ;)

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