If you are a fitness fanatic, you may have already heard the difference between isometric and isotonic exercises, but if you are a newbie to the fitness world, you can be completely clueless about the benefits that come with each. In a workout that always has you moving, it may be time to add some isometric exercises to take your results to the next level. Within isometric exercises, you will discover the countless potential that it brings, such as improved core strength, improved joint stability, lowered blood pressure, and an overall decrease in pain - with an overall improvement of health and fitness. If you are thinking about adding isometric exercises to your workout routine, look no further! This is your guide on everything you need to know about isometric exercises:
What Are Isometric Exercises?
Isometric exercises, simply put, are exercises you do in which the muscles are engaged without any movement. This means that you pick one position and hold it. For example, one of the most common isometric exercises is the plank, in which you are stabilizing your core muscles to hold the position for a long series of time. The exercises shows that isometric exercises may look easy, but are in fact actually rather difficult to maintain over time. Holding a position for 5, 10, 30 seconds or more takes a lot of work and, unlike your traditional exercises where the muscle is constantly moving, they don’t give you a break.
What makes isometric exercises so popular among people of the fitness world is that they are easy to do, less time constraining, and perfect for anyone with a tight schedule who wants to include a workout. The exercises allow you to work and train your body for a brief period of time rather hard, with minimal effort or even equipment needed. Another perk of isometric exercises is that if you live in a tight space but want to work out at home, they take up little space and can easily be adapted to any environment!
When it comes to isometric exercises, the key difference that sets them apart from isotonic exercises is muscle action. Isometric exercises are those in which the a muscle's length remains constant, having the muscle be active without changing lengths or shape. As we said before, in doing a plank, your arms and body remain in the same position, with little movement being done through the exercise other than getting in and out of position.
With isotonic exercises however, the muscles are constantly changing forms, lengths, and shapes - but while maintaining the constant tension. For example, when you do an exercise such as a squat, your muscles are lengthening and acting accordingly. When you stand up, your muscles then begin to short again and resume their normal position.
Resistance also plays a huge part within the differences between isometric and isotonic exercises. In isometric exercises, the resistance is placed on the muscles with an equal force to which that muscle generates - think about it almost like the "hold it right there" saying. In contrast, isotonic exercises rely on differences within the forces of muscle, even if the resistance and tension remains that same. The muscle goes through two phases, the eccentric and concentric phase, in which the force placed on the muscle is greater than the force generated by the muscle is the eccentric phase and the concentric phase relies on the force generated by the muscle is greater than the force placed on it.
Interestingly enough, the body and your muscles are stronger acting within the isometric phase of a workout rather than the concentric phase of a workout.
Isometric Exercise Benefits
In understanding the differences between isometric and isotonic workouts, there is a lot you can unlock within the potential of isometric exercises. The exercises involved in isometric movements or positions allow you to perform actions in which your body is naturally strong too, while also allowing your body to hold these positions for a longer period of time than you would be able to do through isotonic sets. However, there are definitely limitations that come from solely doing isometric exercises rather than isotonic ones.
According to Trevor Thieme, a Content Manager at the Openfit Senior Fitness and Nutrition, “because isometric exercises require you to hold a specific position, they build strength only in that position. That can be beneficial if you’re trying to overcome a sticking point (for example, the toughest part of an exercise, such as the bottom of a bench press).” This can be beneficial for someone who has been injured and is trying to regain movement in those areas, but someone would have to do countless reps in order to actually build strength within those areas. It is much more practical to use isotonic exercises to ensure that you are getting the best out of your workout and developing strength through a full range of motion. It is important to add isometric exercises as a complement to your workout.
What Are Isometric Exercises Good For?
In combining isometric and isotonic exercises, you will discover these benefits:
- Improving Joint Stability - If you perform an isometric exercise on an unstable or injured joint, you will be able to improve overall joint stability. Individuals whose joints are afflicted with arthritis may want to try shoulder isometric exercises to improve stability in the affected area without causing unnecessary strain.
- Lowering Blood Pressure - One of the biggest advantages to isometric exercises is that it lowers blood pressure, and according to Mayo Clinic Proceedings, healthy adults aged 18 and older saw clinical decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Isometric Workouts To Try At Home
These exercises are essential in combining and completing a total strength workout at home. It is important to ensure that proper form is done to make sure that all your are effectively getting the most out of your routine.
Isometric Exercises for the Lower Body
Plank : Get on all fours and with your feet together, keep your body straight from head to toes. Clench your glutes, draw your shoulders down, and brace your core to lock your body into position. Hold until fatigue.
Low Squat : Stand tall with your feet hip - to shoulder-width apart and your hands by your sides with your toes pointing forward. Keeping your back flat and your core engaged, push your hips back, bending your knees with your arms bent forward. Hold position.
Wall Sit : Stand with your back against the wall, your feet hip-width apart and your hands by your side. Slide down the wall until your knees make a 90 degree angle, with your butt and shoulder making contact with the wall. Hold position.
As said, it is important to do these exercises along with your normal workout routine. Whether you want to stabilize your joints and improve your blood pressure, these exercises may be the key for you!