Isometric exercise is a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction.
In simpler terms, this means that the body remains still while the muscles contract. Isometric exercises are performed in a static position, requiring no movement of the joints.
This form of exercise is contrasted with dynamic exercises, where the joints go through a range of motion, causing the muscles to shorten and lengthen.
Some examples of isometric exercises include planks, wall sits, and holding the body in a push-up position. These exercises are often used for rehabilitation and for building overall muscle strength.
Isometric exercises can help improve stability and maintain muscle strength. They are particularly useful for individuals with arthritis or other conditions that can make movement painful, or for individuals in the process of recovering from an injury.
10 popular Types of isometric exercise you should know
Isometric exercises involve muscle contractions where the length of the muscle doesn’t change and the joint doesn’t move, meaning the body remains still during the exercise.
- Planks: This is a classic isometric exercise that works the entire core. You hold your body off the ground, in a straight line, resting either on your toes and forearms or on your toes and hands.
- Wall Sit: This exercise works the thighs and glutes. You lean against a wall with your feet hip-width apart, then bend the knees and slide your back down the wall to create a 90-degree angle with your legs. The goal is to hold this position.
- Glute Bridge Hold: Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, raise your hips to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders. This primarily works the glutes and hamstrings.
- Isometric Push-up: In an isometric push-up, you hold the push-up position either at the top (plank position) or bottom (hovering just above the ground). This exercise targets your chest, shoulders, and core.
- Isometric Squat: In this exercise, you hold the squat position for a certain amount of time, which targets your thighs, hips, and glutes.
- Horse Stance: This exercise is popular in martial arts and targets the lower body. You squat down as if you were riding a horse, with your thighs parallel to the ground, and hold.
- L-Sit: Sitting on the floor, hands next to your hips, you lift your entire body off the floor. This advanced isometric move primarily works the core and arm muscles.
- Isometric Bicep Curls: This can be done with or without a weight. You simply bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle as if you were doing a bicep curl, and hold the position. If you’re using a weight, hold it mid-curl.
- Isometric Shoulder Hold: For this exercise, extend your arms out to the sides so they’re parallel with the ground and hold the position. This targets the shoulders and upper back muscles. For added intensity, you can hold light weights in your hands.
- Isometric Chest Press: This exercise can be done against a wall or with a small exercise ball. If you’re using a wall, place your hands at chest level and press against the wall as if you were trying to move it but without actually moving your body. If you’re using a ball, hold it with both hands at chest level and squeeze the ball.
Advantages and disadvantages of isometric exercise
This type of exercise as earlier stated is done in a non-moving state where the body is held in a position of resistance. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of isometric exercises:
Advantages of isometric exercise
- Strength Building
Isometric exercises can help build strength in a specific area of the body. When you hold a position, the muscles in that area are being exercised.
- Low Impact
These exercises are low impact and put less stress on your joints than traditional resistance exercises, which can be beneficial for those with arthritis or other joint issues.
- Stability Improvement
They can improve stability as they strengthen the muscles around the joints, helping to improve balance and coordination.
Isometric exercises can improve flexibility by stretching your muscles and tendons. This is especially beneficial if you have a limited range of motion.
- Time and Space Efficient
They can be done anywhere and do not require a lot of space or any special equipment.
They are often used in physical therapy and rehabilitation settings because they can target specific muscle groups and improve muscle tone without straining the joints.
Disadvantages of isometric exercise
- Limited Range
Isometric exercises can only strengthen muscles within a limited range of that specific joint angle or muscle length. They do not develop strength throughout the full range of motion.
- Lack of Cardiovascular Benefit
They are not designed to increase heart rate as much as isotonic or isokinetic exercises, so they don’t offer as much cardiovascular benefit.
- Risk of Overexertion
There’s a risk of increasing blood pressure during the exercise, especially if you’re holding your breath, which can be risky for people with hypertension or heart conditions.
- Progress Can Be Hard to Measure
It can be challenging to measure progress with isometric exercises, making it hard to gauge improvements over time.
- May Not Benefit Performance
The strength gained from isometric exercises may not always translate to improved performance in dynamic activities that require moving the joints through a range of motions.
- Can Be Monotonous
Some people find isometric exercises to be less engaging or interesting than dynamic exercises, which could impact motivation over time.
A final thought on the Advantages and disadvantages of isometric exercise
Isometric exercises offer a unique way of strengthening and conditioning muscles, which can be particularly beneficial in specific scenarios such as rehabilitation, injury prevention, and in cases where movement might be restricted due to a health condition. They are versatile in that they can be performed anywhere, require little to no equipment, and place less stress on the joints than other forms of exercise.
However, isometric exercises are not without their limitations. They strengthen muscles within a very specific, limited range of motion and do not generally provide cardiovascular benefits.
They also might pose risks such as spikes in blood pressure, particularly for those with hypertension or heart conditions. Lastly, because progress can be hard to measure and the exercise routine can become monotonous, it may be challenging for some to stay motivated and adhere to an isometric exercise program.
Therefore, while isometric exercises can be a beneficial part of an overall fitness program, they should ideally be used in conjunction with other forms of exercise, such as aerobic activities and dynamic resistance training, to ensure comprehensive fitness benefits.
As we have always said, it’s important to consult with a health or fitness professional before starting any new exercise regimen to ensure it’s suitable for your individual health status and fitness goals.