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What Is an Isometric Exercise?

You might think that getting into good shape requires a variety of sweat-intensive exercises that have you throwing your limbs all over the place. However, strength, size, fat loss, and toning simply needs to engage and challenge your muscles, but it doesn’t matter too much exactly how you do this. In fact, you can actually build some serious strength and muscle from keep your muscles completely still.

Essentially, there are three types of exercises:

  • Isotonic
  • Isokinetic
  • Isometric

Isotonic is what you typically think of when exercising: contracting the muscle to lengthen and shorten it under tension. You can have concentric exercises (where the muscle is shortening – such as in the dumbbell curl where you bring the weight to your shoulder) or eccentric exercises (where the muscles is lengthening – such as when lowering the weight back down to your waist).

Isokinetic means that the muscle is changing length, but the speed remains constant throughout the movement. In order to complete an isokinetic exercise correctly, you need to use an isokinetic dynamometer. This is the best form of exercise for those recovering from injury as you can strengthen each part of the muscle more specifically. The resistance responds to the strength of your muscle in that particular movement to provide an equal result throughout.

Lastly, an isometric exercise keeps the muscle at the same length throughout, meaning that you’re just holding the weight in the same place against resistance. Examples of isometric exercises are planks where your core must remain still to stop you from dropping to the ground or a dead hang where you hang from a bar for as long as you can before your grip gives out. Going back to our bicep example, to make this exercise isometric you would hold the weight midway through the movement for as long as possible, trying to fight gravity and stop the weight from falling.

A big benefit of isometric exercises is that they really allow for you to engage with the muscle and establish a mind-muscle connection. Often when we are continuously moving through an exercise we can’t focus on our form or really contract the specific muscle that we’re trying to target. For instance, if you want to use squats to build your quads, then doing some light squat holds prior to your working sets and trying to focus on contracting your quads can really carry over to your main lifts.

Isometric exercises shouldn’t make up the staple of your training, but they can be a great addition to your routine to help build strength and size whilst burning more calories