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Weights are an essential part of strength training routines but it’s not like you cannot do it without them. You don't even have to move to strengthen your muscles. How? Isometric exercises! They challenge your muscles without subjecting them to the ranges of motion warranted by other exercises. You stay in one place and still reap strength training benefits with isometric exercises.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that they’re easy or at least easier. Some isometric exercises unconventionally work your muscles and yet you feel the burn. Your workout routine does not only have to consist of isometric exercises, but they should definitely be a part of it. Get FITCOACH – smart fitness coach – by FITPASS for workout recommendations based on your fitness level and preferences.
Isometric exercises are based on positions that contract muscles and then rely on holding them for a fixed duration. They are quite different from typical strength training exercises that include concentric movements – tension on shortening muscles and eccentric movements – tension on lengthening muscles.
Plank is the easiest and most common example of isometric examples. When performing isometric exercises, you engage and squeeze your core and hold it for the entire time. This is known as isometric contraction. While the plank is just an isometric exercise, some exercises include all 3 movement patterns.
Every exercise (almost) includes an isometric movement. The squat is a good example – your leg muscles lengthen as you lower your upper body, which is an eccentric phase. And as you come back up, the muscles contract and go into the concentric phase. Hold it at the bottom and that’s isometric phase.
If you hold it for a moment, the bicep curl is essentially the same. The concentric phase is when you bend the elbow to lift the weight up and the eccentric phase when you lower it down. If you pause your arm for a couple of seconds at 90 degrees, that would be the isometric phase. Wall sits, hollow-body holds, calf raises, etc, are isometric exercise examples.
Holding the body involved body part, usually at the most challenging part of the exercise or just before changing direction, is the best way to add an isometric component to whichever exercise you’re doing. This helps you make the exercise more challenging without adding extra weight.
When you stop working out, don’t do strength training, or as you age, you begin to lose muscle. Not only do you lose muscle but your body is not toned anymore and basically out of shape. Moreover, muscles start losing flexibility and mobility, which is exactly the opposite of what you want. And as you age, the digestion of amino acids slows down. Therefore, muscles start taking longer to grow and repair. The longer to stay away from strength training as you age, working out becomes harder and harder.
Isometric exercises help by building muscles and endurance. They are great for regaining muscle strength and mobility, especially when you age. So, aging people are advised to include isometric exercises in their routines.
Everyone gets stuck in their workout routine, especially when weightlifting. Isometric exercises benefit the muscles by targeting specific parts of the muscles and strengthen them as well. Studies have ended the misconception that isometric exercises only train the flexed parts of the muscle. In fact, it has been confirmed that they train the muscles 20 degrees on both sides of the contracted part. This makes isometric exercise great for weightlifters, which involves a lot of extending and contracting muscles.
The muscles vary in strength; even the different parts of the same muscle. So, the weaker parts of a muscle can prevent the lifter from doing better. The lifter has to exert way too much force to contract or extend certain muscles. Isometric exercises strengthen these muscles and thus help you reach beyond these obstacles.
Isometric exercises can be performed without any equipment – all you need is bodyweight. Pushing your muscles together like pressing your palms together really hard is all it takes. You can perform isometric exercises with a wall, chair, floor, etc. This is great for home workouts - you can strengthen your muscles without hitting the gym, especially during the pandemic. You don't even need to buy dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, etc.
Isometric holds like the squats increase the range of motion thereby increasing flexibility. The squatting movement puts resistance on the leg muscles and counts as an isometric exercise when you hold it. It is advisable to go as low as possible and hold for as long as possible to increase flexibility.
You can target all major muscle groups in your body with isometric exercise. These exercises involve pushing your muscles against immovable objects and therefore you can train all the muscles in your body. All you need is a solid surface to push against. It can be a wall, floor, or even yourself. Moreover, you can train specific parts of your muscles. Finally, isometric exercise can be done anywhere. Do them at home, at the park or the gym.