What are isometric exercises? How can they benefit you? Find out here!

Isometric workouts include contracting a single muscle or a group of muscles in a controlled manner. The muscle length does not alter during isometric activities, and the afflicted joint does not move. Isometric workouts aid in the maintenance of strength. They can also help you gain strength, but only in a limited way.

Isometric workouts increase strength in only one position since they are performed in one posture without moving. To build muscle strength across the range, you'd have to execute numerous isometric workouts while moving your limb over its whole range of motion. Furthermore, because isometric workouts are performed in a static position, they will not aid in the improvement of speed or athletic performance. They can, however, help with stabilization — keeping the affected area in the same posture — because muscles commonly contract isometrically to help with this. Isometric workouts do not include any movement of the joints, and the muscles do not change shape or size. The isometric contraction is usually held for several seconds or minutes.

Some isometric exercises entail holding the body in a specific position while others include lifting weights. Isometric exercises have the advantage of being relatively simple to perform, usually requiring minimal equipment, and being easily incorporated into a variety of weight lifting exercises.

 Isometric workouts increase strength in only one position since they are performed in one posture without moving.

Some of the most effective, common, and easy to do isometric exercises are these:

Hip Bridge

The glute bridge exercise focuses on the gluteal muscles that are located behind the quads. To do a glute bridge, follow these steps:

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent upward and your feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms and turn your palms up.
  • Using the arms for support, engage the core muscles and lift the hips off the ground until the torso is in a straight line.
  • Maintain this stance by engaging your core muscles.
  • Hold the stance for 10 - 15 seconds
  • Repeat the movement 3 - 5 times

Isometric squat

This exercise is a version of the standard squat that improves leg muscular endurance. To complete this activity, follow these steps:

  • Standing with your feet at least shoulder-width apart is a good idea.
  • Lower into a squat stance by bending the knees slowly and pushing the hips backward.
  • To improve balance, move the arms forward at the bottom of the movement.
  • Maintain your current position.
  • Try to hold the position for few seconds
  • A set of 5 - 7 rounds should be good to get started with.

Split Squat

This movement is an advanced version of the standard squat.

  • Step one leg in front of you and bend your knees as much as you can until your thigh is parallel to the ground or as deep as possible, keeping your knee behind your toes and hovering your back knee just above the ground. 
  • Maintain this position for a 7-second isometric hold, then pulse +/- 3 inches up and down for a 5-second pulse. 
  • Make sure you do both sides of this isometric exercise to get the most out of it.

Low Plank

Plank exercises are an excellent approach to improve your core muscles. To do a plank, follow these steps:

  • Begin by doing a press-up.
  • Bend your elbows until your forearms are parallel to the ground.
  • Maintain a straight body with the forearms underneath the shoulders and the core muscles taut.
  • Begin by holding this position for 10 seconds and gradually increase the time.
  • Try to add 3 - 4 seconds more every time to have a go at it.
  • There are some versions of planks that are more challenging which you try as you make progress with this one. You may read more about them here.

Dead Hang

The dead hang will strengthen your upper body, especially the shoulders. To complete this activity, follow these steps:

  • With your hands shoulder-width apart, grab a pullup bar.
  • Cross the feet and lift them off the ground, suspending the body in mid-air.
  • Maintain this position for as long as you can.
  • Try to develop the duration over time.

Calf Raises (Straight, Out, In)

An easy movement for adding strength to your calves.

  • For 7 seconds, stand on the tips of your toes with your feet parallel to each other and shoulder-width apart. 
  • Finish with a 5-second pulse without touching the ground with your heels. 
  • For 7 seconds, stand on your tiptoes, shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed inward toward each other. 
  • Finish with a 5-second pulse without touching the ground with your heels.
  • For 7 seconds, stand on the tips of your toes with your toes facing outwards shoulder-width apart. 
  • Finish with a 5-second pulse without touching the ground with your heels.

Wall Sit

The wall sit is a basic exercise for increasing thigh muscular endurance without putting too much strain on the lower back. To do a wall sit, follow these steps:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart about 2 feet in front of a wall.
  • Slowly lower yourself to a sitting position with your back flat against the wall.
  • Maintain core tension by bending the knees to a 90-degree angle, as if sitting in a chair.
  • Maintain this position for as long as you can.
  • As you proceed, try to increase the duration of the hold.

Neck (Front, Back, Sides)

To add more mobility to your neck region, this movement is a good one.

  • For 7 seconds, stand on the tips of your toes with your feet parallel to each other and shoulder-width apart. 
  • Finish with a 5-second pulse without touching the ground with your heels. For 7 seconds, stand on your tiptoes, shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed inward toward each other. 
  • Finish with a 5-second pulse without touching the ground with your heels. 
  • For 7 seconds, stand on the tips of your toes with your toes facing outwards shoulder-width apart. 
  • Finish with a 5-second pulse without touching the ground with your heels.

Isometric movements, though static, have their own set of benefits:

They are safe

Isometric exercise is one of the safest ways to strengthen your body. Because you control the resistance and the outcomes, you don't have to lift huge weights or move/burst with high intensity. You have a quick reaction to your body's needs.

They make a minimal immediate impact on the body

Isometric training has a low impact on your body, which is a big benefit. Low-impact exercise provides the benefits of exercise without jarring your body or causing stress or harm to other regions of your body, such as your joints.

Some isometric exercises entail holding the body in a specific position while others include lifting weights.

They come with a low risk of injuries

Your body will be able to function better and respond to life's surprises if your connective tissue and muscles are stronger. Many injuries are caused by unexpected slips, falls, or exertion. Isometrics provide you the advantage of being able to react more quickly in the event of an accident or when you do strenuous motions, lowering your risk of damage.

They are convenient

Isometric strength training techniques have the advantage of being able to be performed anyplace and with little to no equipment.

They improve muscle coordination and balance

When you do isometrics, your neurotransmitter receptors fire and communicate with your muscles, causing them to engage. When your neurotransmitter receptors light up, you improve your body's connectedness and coordination. Additionally, as you gain more control of your body and learn to equalize forces, your balance improves, boosting your muscle and body control.

They improve body posture and form

Isometric exercise has the advantage of allowing you to focus on your form. Due to the lack of movement when executing isometrics, you have the luxury of ensuring proper postural habits. Because your postural muscles are weak, it is difficult to maintain proper posture throughout the day. Isometric training develops muscle memory, which allows you to maintain your posture throughout the day.

They help you overcome stagnant progress

Plateaus can happen if you aren't strong enough in one location or at a certain joint angle. Isometrics allows you to concentrate on your weakest point in the movement, allowing you to push or pull through your difficulty spots. In addition, isometric training strengthens your tendons and ligaments more than standard isotonic lifting, which helps you break through plateaus.

A research review employed a narrative synthesis of findings from research on isometric strength training (IST), which covered training aspects that affect strength adaptations and their effects on sports-related dynamic performances. IST has been demonstrated to cause less fatigue and provide greater joint angle-specific strength than dynamic strength training and has benefitted sports such as running, jumping, and cycling. IST can be used in athletes' training to avoid overtraining while still gaining positive neuromuscular adaptations; to improve strength in a biomechanically disadvantaged joint position of a specific movement; to improve sports-specific movements that require primarily isometric contraction; and when athletes mobility is limited due to injuries. 

REFERENCES:

Lum D, Barbosa TM. Brief Review: Effects of Isometric Strength Training on Strength and Dynamic Performance. Int J Sports Med. 2019 May;40(6):363-375. doi: 10.1055/a-0863-4539. Epub 2019 Apr 3. PMID: 30943568.

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