Isometric Exercises – Why Are They So Effective?
Isometric training has existed for thousands of years, and there are countless ways to incorporate isometric training into your routine – many of which you can do in your home, at the office, or even in your car. Isometric exercises remain popular for a number of good reasons, but why?
What makes isometrics so effective?
What are isometric exercises?
Isometric training, also known as static strength training, is great for strength training, conditioning, and even rehabilitation. The American Heritage College Dictionary (fourth edition) defines “isometric” as “of or involving muscular contraction against resistance in which the length of the muscle remains the same.” The muscle shape doesn’t change when doing an isometric exercises – it doesn’t contract or lengthen – hence the name. “Iso” means “equal” and “metric” means “measure.” There’s no visible change or movement in the muscle itself or in any related joints when doing an isometric exercise – the muscle is working, but not changing position the way the biceps does in a curl, for example. This is also why they are called static strength training. Note: some people mistakenly refer to an isometric exercise as an “isometric contraction.” This is not technically accurate, as isometrics are not a contraction. It’s more accurate to say “isometric action,” if you’re looking to impress someone at the gym.
Some isometric exercises are fairly simple and don’t require equipment. Others are more complex. Isometrics can be stand-alone exercises, added to a regular exercise, or part of a fluid combination of exercises. You’re doing isometrics when you press your palms together as hard as you can, when you pause for three seconds at the bottom of a squat, when you plank against a wall, and off and on when you do a ballet combination or a sun salutation in hatha yoga. The “pause and hold” effort is isometric.
Why should I consider adding isometrics to my workouts?
Part of what makes isometric exercises so effective is that the exercises usually require a full exertion from the muscle. Your muscle is giving maximum effort, and that is the secret to strengthening. They’re also effective when maximum strength isn’t necessarily the goal: by definition, isometrics don’t cause or require movement in any joints, making them ideal for rehabilitation when moving a joint is not recommended or even impossible.
There are two ways of training using isometrics: maximal muscle movement, and sub-maximal muscle movement. Maximal movements incorporate immovable objects into the exercise, like a door frame or a wall. These are the type that is good for strength training and conditioning. Sub-maximal movements use movable objects, like free weights or elastic bands; these are often used more for rehabilitative purposes because the level of exertion required is not as great.
Are there any drawbacks to isometric exercises?
Click next to find out!
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