Isometric Training: What is it? How To Do It?

The benefits of isometric exercises are not that well known...

Isometric Training: What is it? How To Do It?

The benefits of isometric exercises are not that well known.

Sure people know that lifting weights and doing a lot of cardio is healthy. But did you know that isometric exercises can be just as effective?

This type of exercise is fantastic for your overall health, especially for your muscles. Some of the biggest fans of isometric exercises include weightlifters and bodybuilders.

This is for a very good reason. Mainly because they hold many different advantages for all of the muscles in your body.

These exercises take very little work, little to no equipment, and they don’t eat up all of your time either.

If you have never heard of isometric exercises, you might want to give this a quick read through.

What Are Isometric Exercises?

An isometric exercise is one in which your muscles contract in a certain way.

The 2 most common types of muscle contractions that we go through during exercise are concentric contractions and eccentric contractions.

Concentric contractions happen when your muscles tense up as they shorten. Or in other words when you are in the upward motion of a bicep curl.

On the other hand, eccentric contractions are the motion your muscles go through when they tense up as they extend. As in the downward motion of a bicep curl.

Fighting Age Related Muscle Loss

The last type of muscle contraction that exists is a little less known.

It is the isometric contraction, the type which we are here to talk about today. These contractions involve the tensing of the muscle without ever actually moving it.

In other words, these types of exercises involve simply flexing a muscle as hard as you can.

They can also involve holding one particular pose such as a squat with your muscles engaged, and it can also involve pushing against a non-moving object such as a wall.

These exercises can be done with equipment, but for a large part of them, you don’t need any equipment at all.

As you age you will begin to lose muscle and that is a fact. It’s not just that you will lose muscle mass and that toned look you had in your youth either.

As you reach the age of 40, your muscles will also begin to lose their mobility and flexibility, something which no one wants to experience.

Another thing that slows down as you age is the ability to digest amino acids.

This also has the effect of slowing down the time it takes for our muscles to recover, yet another thing which we would all rather avoid. All of these things mean that as you age, physical activity becomes harder and harder.

Well, isometric exercises are great because they build muscle strength and endurance. Isometric exercises are a great way to keep or regain your muscle strength, endurance, and mobility as you age.

These types of exercises become more and more important the older you get, so you should definitely consider starting as soon as possible.

Muscle Activation

One of the biggest benefits to be had from doing isometric exercises is that they provide you with the highest amount of muscle activation.

Muscle activation refers to your muscle’s recruitment of motor units and the more motor units you can recruit, the better and stronger your muscles will be.

Recent studies have shown that maximal isometric exercises recruit up to 5 percent more of these motor units than any other type of exercise.

In other words, intense isometric exercises utilize about 95 percent of your muscles, as opposed to about 88 – 90 percent that other exercises utilize.

Over a long period of time, this means that your muscles will live up to their true potential and use as much of their mass as possible when engaged in physical activity.

Another thing that this type of muscle activation can do for you is to permanently train your muscles to work at their full potential.

Isometric exercises help recruit motor units and in the end that means having stronger muscles that can work a lot harder.

Muscle Rehabilitation

The next benefit that definitely needs mentioning when it comes to isometric exercises is that they can drastically reduce the recovery period of muscles.

After you have injured muscles or joints, especially after you have gone through surgery, your muscles need time to heal.

However, that does not mean that your muscles need to rest all that much.

Sure, your muscles do need some rest, but in order to grow back bigger and stronger than ever, you also need to train them back to full health.

Isometric exercises are a great way to rehabilitate your muscles and joints slowly without causing them too much strain.

Isometric exercises are especially good for people who are in the process of recovering from joint problems.

This is because isometric exercises do not require the movement of your joints. Therefore you can strengthen your muscles while not putting your joints at risk.

This also means that isometric exercises are ideal for people who suffer from bone issues or people who are elderly and can’t handle very intense exercise anymore.

Muscle Strengthening

The longer you tense the muscles, the lower the blood flow is, and the longer these muscle growing factors will stay within the walls of your muscles. 

Therefore making them grow more.

It is shown that doing a high number of contractions will increase muscle strength. It is also shown that holding the contractions for longer will help to increase muscle mass.

One of the best parts about isometric exercises is that they help to improve muscle strength and muscle size.

Part of the reason as to why isometric exercises are vital for strengthening muscles is because of the increased tension that your muscles experience during isometric exercises.

When your muscles stay tensed for a prolonged period of time there are various chemicals and compounds which stay in your muscles, things which make them grow.

Simply put, isometric exercises involve flexing your muscles and pushing against an immovable object, therefore strengthening your muscles with minimal movement and effort.

Regular isometric training can actually strengthen your muscles by up to 5 percent every single week, up to 40 percent in a 10 week period.

Getting Past Sticking Points

Another great part about isometric exercises is that they help weightlifters get past sticking points.

Since isometric exercises focus on one specific portion of the muscle, they also strengthen that one portion.

It was previously thought that isometric exercises only train the exact portion of the muscle that is being flexed, yet that is not the case.

Recent studies have shown that isometric exercises train the muscles up to 20 degrees on either side of the exact portion of the muscle that is being contracted.

This can be very useful for weightlifters. Of course, lifting weight involves extending and contracting your muscles.

Our muscles, even just 1 muscle, are not of the same strength from one end to another. When lifting weights, a weak section of a muscle can cause a weightlifter to experience a sticking point.

A sticking point is when a weightlifter has to exude way too much force to get through a contraction or extension, that or when he just can’t get through it.

Using isometric exercises you can target one specific part of your muscle, strengthen it, and therefore get past those inconvenient sticking points.

Not Much Time Required

The next great part about isometric exercises is that they don’t require very much time to complete.

Cardiovascular exercises, bodyweight training, and weight lifting all take a long time if you want to see actual results. The same is not the case for isometric exercises.

Engaging in this type of activity gives you big results in terms of muscle growth without taking away all of your valuable time that you could be using to work or play games.

Don’t Require Equipment

This is great because it means that you can train your body and increase your body strength without the need for an expensive gym membership, room for a lot of equipment, or various different exercise tools.

Another great part about isometric exercises is that they don’t require any equipment to do. You can perform these exercises with just your own body.

These exercises can actually be done by pushing your muscles together, such as when you press your palms together really hard.

Isometric exercises can be done with a wall, a tree, a chair, the floor, and best of all, with your own body.

Can Be Done Anywhere

Something else about isometric exercises that you will really like is the fact that they can be done anywhere.

You can engage in this type of exercise in your home, at the park, in the gym, or even in your office at work.

Since you don’t need any real equipment in order to do these exercises, it makes them very versatile.

Even just sitting in your chair at work and flexing your abs counts as an isometric exercise.

Targets All Of Your Muscle Groups

The next thing that you will really enjoy about isometric exercises is that they help to target all of the major muscle groups in your body.

Since isometric exercises involve pushing your muscles against an immovable object, it means you can train every muscle in your body.

As long as you have a solid thing to push against, which can actually be yourself, you can train every muscle in your body.

Even better than that is the fact that you can train specific parts of your muscles.

Increased Flexibility

When you squat, going as low as you can go will keep increasing your flexibility, especially the longer your hold the position for.

Stretching out your muscles increases flexibility and since isometrics involve stretching to a certain degree, they help make your more mobile and flexible.

Something else that is really fantastic about isometric exercises is that they help to increase flexibility.

There are certain isometric holds such as a squat which can greatly help to give you a more flexible range of motion.

When you squat, your own body, plus gravity too, acts as resistance towards your leg muscles, therefore it counts as an isometric exercise.

Increased Mental Health

Something else that isometric exercises can help with is to increase your mental health. As is the case with all exercises, isometric exercises make your brain react a certain way.

Physical activity causes your brain to release chemicals known as endorphins.

These chemicals are the things in our brains which produce the feelings of happiness, joy, elation, and everything else that feels good.

Without endorphins we wouldn’t be happy and would be more or less empty sacks of meat consisting of depression and anxiety.

Physical exercise, for reasons we won’t get into, release these endorphins and make us feel happy.

Therefore people who suffer from anxiety and depression can find a certain level of relief in exercise.

Doing isometric exercises can actually help you get rid of depression, anxiety, and other mental problems that are related to feelings of sadness, agony, or stress.

Benefits of Isometric Exercises: Conclusion

If you still don’t believe us about the many benefits of isometric exercises, you should maybe go talk to a bodybuilder or a gym instructor.

They will definitely reassure you as to the huge muscle building potential of this type of exercise.

Things like muscle building, muscle targeting, rehabilitation, and ease of the exercise all make isometrics a vital part of any exercise routine.

Isometric exercises don’t cost you any money, they save time, and they will help you get those big muscle results that you have always wanted.

When it comes to your muscles, you want to do everything you can to keep them healthy. This is by far one of the best ways to do that!

Examples of Isometric Exercises:

  • Bridge Exercise
  • Bicep Curl – Hold one forearm and pull the other arm up against this resistance.
  • Isometric Hand Press – Clasp two hands & push against each other.
  • Isometric Hand Pull – Clasp two hands & pull against each other.
  • Push-Ups – Isometric push-ups provide a core and upper body workout.
  • Triceps Extension – Hold one forearm and push the other arm down against this resistance.

 

Plank Exercises
  • Plank – Traditional plank.
  • Reverse Plank – This plank exercise targets your lower back and abs.
  • Side Plank – This plank exercise targets your obliques, etc.
  • Superman Plank
  • Upward Plank Pose

 

More Exercises
  • 6 Inch Leg Raises
  • Stomach Vacuum – This isometric exercise helps your core strength.
  • Stork Stance Exercise – This Yoga pose is an isometric and balance exercise.
  • Wall Sit – Squat with your back against a wall. This isometric exercise helps your leg muscles.

 

Advantages of Isometrics

  • Isometric Exercises help Build Muscle, Strength and Power.
  • The tension developed during isometric exercises is often higher than that developed during Isotonic Contractions.
  • Since they do not use any equipment, Isometrics can be performed anywhere, anytime. All you need is a fixed, stationery object for these exercises.

 

The biggest drawback in case of Isometrics is that they are not functional in nature and activities like sports may not see readily transferable skill or power development.

Also is it impossible to build a muscular, bodybuilder-like physique with Isometrics alone.

 

Important Isometric Training Tips

  • Mind is the most important tool for Isometric training, more than other forms of training since force generation depends only on YOU.
  • The duration of Isometric Contraction depends on the intensity of contraction with the best duration being between 1 to 5 minutes and peak contraction held for 2-5 seconds.
  • Perform each exercise at least 3-10 times for any noticeable result. Although research has shown that a single-set is enough. Performing multiple sets will give a added effect and exhaust your muscle completely.
  • Functional Isometrics – This type of Isometric Training involved use of Weight Training Equipments and is dealt in the Functional Isometric Training Section.

 

Isometric Exercises

Here are a few Isometric Exercises which I have found to be the best ones.

Please perform the stretches mentioned in the Stretching Exercises section before any Isometric Exercise session.

Although Isometric Exercises can be done for any and all muscles I will restrict myself to the best exercises for major muscle groups.

Exercise One – Shoulder Muscle Contraction

Steps

  • I suggest that you do this exercise in the standing position.
  • For right deltoid contraction exercise, clench your right fist firmly { palm facing inwards } while your left hand holds the right wrist in front of your body.
  • At this point push your right hand upwards while resisting it with your left hand.
  • Hold the contraction for the stated period.
  • Repeat on the other side in the exact manner.

 

Exercise Two – Biceps – The Curl

Steps

  • I suggest that you do this exercise in the standing position.
  • Give a biceps pose with your right arm bent at the elbows.
  • Now place your left hand over your right wrist while contracting your biceps as hard as possible and maintaining your hardest contraction for at least 5 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side in the exact manner.

 

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Daniel Messer, RNutr, CPT

We eat clean, are always motivated and helpout beginners in need. We sell guides on Cutting, Bulking and Muscle Building. Checkout our website!

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