Recently, I was spending some time with my good friend and business associate Mike Requa of Moncks Corner, SC. Mike is a former member of the 82nd Airborne, a past coach of the Army Olympic lifting team, one of the best drug free powerlifting meet directors in the country and an absolute wealth of information when it comes to strength training. Mike and I only talk about three things- our business (10 percent of the time), The Simpsons, ( 40 percent of the time ) and weight training ( 50 percent of the time ) On this particular night, we were in the lobby of the Radison Inn, taking a break from our business conference, and discussing weight training. We had "borrowed" a tall lamp stand from the hotel lobby and were each using it to demonstrate various lift techniques, paying no attention to the strange stares of other business executives passing us by. Mike asked me if I had ever heard of "Iso-Deadlifts" I told him I had not. He described and demonstrated it with the lamp stand and then had me try it. Even though I was wearing a shirt and tie and was using a 20lb chrome lamp stand in place of a barbell, I immediately knew I had found a unique movement. I contemplated ditching the rest of the business meeting and locating a gym that might be open late at night in order to try this new exercise. Common sense won out and I decided to try it in my workout two days later.
The Iso-Deadlift is simply a partial deadlift but with a twist-the bar is held in the top part of a shrug position the entire time. Get into a power rack with the pins set so that the bar is at knee level. Take a hold of a barbell with an overhand grip and deadlift the weight to lockout position. Then, shrug the bar up as high as possible, attempting to touch your shoulders to your ears. Hold this position and slowly lower the bar down keeping it tight against the thighs, to the pins and then pull the weight back up. You will really have to fight to keep the shoulders up high throughout the entire movement.
Start with a moderate amount of weight to get the proper technique down and then begin adding as much weight as you can handle. The repetition range is totally an individual matter, but I would suggest using about the same range as you would normally use for shrugs.
I have never been one to necessarily equate muscle soreness with growth, but there is still some sadistic pleasure in feeling tight, angry muscle fibers after a grueling workout. The morning following my first performance of this exercise resulted in such soreness that I could barely stand the stream of water on my traps and upper back. I have seen a noticeable difference in my upper back development and my cleans and deadlifts have grown stronger as a result of this exercise. I hope it works for you.