Isometric exercises are a form of resistance training which makes use of certain muscles while in a stationary position. The body exerts power in opposition to an immovable object (such as a wall, or gravity!), but you are still (static) and do not move. It is often performed by holding the extremities of the body in a set position for a set period of time.
Isometrics are a form of static calisthenics exercise (when done without weights) which improves muscle strength around the joint at which the exercise is performed. For example, by standing, you are engaging muscles around your ankles and legs to keep you balanced.
Although isometrics can be done with or without weights, results can be achieved without the use of weights – thus making isometrics fundamentally a calisthenic exercise.
Activities such as Yoga and Pilates incorporate isometric exercises into their techniques and forms and as we all know they are great ways of helping people stay fit. Although Yoga and Pilates are associated and performed by lots of women, the exercises are not limited to only women. Men, Children, and the elderly can all take part in the beneficial calisthenic and isometric exercises of Yoga and Pilates.
Some various Isometric Exercises include:
Note: There are many other types of isometric exercises which can benefit parts of your body such as the rotators cuff, knees, hamstrings, etc. Below are just a few examples of popular isometric exercises.
- T-Arms – Extending arms out to the sides parallel to the ground and holding for a set time. Your body is in the shape of a “T” – this is a calisthenic shoulder exercise. Hold for set amount of time.
- Wall Squat – Holding the squat position against a wall. Make sure your thighs are parallel to the ground and your shins are parallel to the wall – shins and thighs form a 90 degree angle. Hold for set amount of time.
- The Plank – calisthenic exercise for the abdomens. Assume a pushup position, but you will be on your forearms. Tighten the abs midsection core of your body. Hold for set amount of time.
- Calf raise – lift one foot off the ground while the other foot remains on the ground but only on the toes! You should use a wall or other means to hold your balance for this calisthenic exercise. Hold for set amount of time.
- Hundred Breaths – This is a move you may know from Pilates. Lie face up and back on a mat with arms by your sides. Bend legs to 90 degrees in the air, thighs perpendicular to the ground – shins parallel to the ground. Lift your head and shoulders off mat and “pulse” the arms in a small up and down beside you. Hold for set amount of time.
- Side Bridge – similar to “The Plank” isometric except you will only have one forearm on the ground and one foot on the ground while facing to one side. Face left or right. Your forearm should try to keep you balanced while your foot NOT on the ground should be resting on top of the foot on the ground. Keep your body straight and hold for set amount of time.
- Isometric Push up – Assume push up position, go down to about halfway and hold for set amount of time.
- Isometric Crunch Exercise – This exercise works the abdominal muscles. Lie on your back, bring your legs, shoulders, and arms up and in as if you were creating a ball with your body. Do not grab and hold your legs! Hold this position to complete the exercise. Instead of crunching into a ball, you may also lift and hold your legs while placing your arms straight against your body with your palms flat on the floor.
Hold all isometric exercise positions for 10-30 seconds if possible depending on your level of fitness and strength. Overtime you’ll build more strength and be able to do them longer so don’t quit! Stay consistent!
Who benefits from Isometrics?
Generally, consult your doctor first, but everyone can benefit from isometrics. Isometrics are especially helpful to those who suffer from any kind of joint pains or arthritis as it does not require you to move your joints. Isometric exercises are most often used for rehabilitation purposes, but that does not mean people who don’t need rehabilitation cannot benefit from it!
“Research has been done showing muscle contractions during isometric exercise produced more force then a contraction generated by lifting weights.” However, isometric exercises does not build muscle effectively.
Isometric exercises mainly strengthen the muscles in selected areas of your body. Although isometric exercises may result in a great deal of benefit to the individual, there are some precautions that should be noted.
Who should avoid isometric exercises?
Those with high blood pressure should not engage in isometrics. These exercises are known to increase blood pressure more than any other form of exercise because the body stays static while performing the activity which makes the heart compensate by pumping harder. The heart pumps harder because usually movement of your muscles and extremities helps blood flow, but since you are in a stationary position while performing isometrics the heart must do all the work itself to keep blood flowing, thus your blood pressure increases. Although the blood pressure typically returns to normal quickly once the body is relaxed, the spike in blood pressure can be dangerous to those who already suffer from any form of hypertension.
It is important to continue breathing throughout the exercise to feed oxygen to the engaged muscles. Holding your breath will only make your blood pressure worse!
If you’re healthy, try these exercises and you’ll feel a world of difference. Isometrics really helps you know your body better!