Within a typical gym setting, most individuals will lift weight concentrically. This basically means that the target muscle is contracting and shortening. A typical example of this would occur when the Biceps are activated during a Biceps curl.
You may have also experienced working the target muscle eccentrically. This type of muscular movement describes an action whereby the target muscle contracts but this time lengthens. If we again utilise the example of the Biceps curl then this phenomenon can be better illustrated. On the downward phase of the curling action, if you were to slowly lower the dumbbell back to its starting point and prevent it from just dropping, this would demonstrate an eccentric action of the Biceps muscle.
So if concentric is shortening and eccentric is lengthening, what is isometric? Good question. Isometric exercises are performed when the muscle contracts but remains the same length for the duration of the exercise. The resultant effect is no movement production. Although this form of exercise prescription is not commonly utilised, it can result in numerous positive benefits to an individual. This article considers these and its practical application.
Before moving on, let us first provide an example of an isometric exercise. Pushing or pulling against an immovable object would be one example of this. The beauty of isometric exercise is that it can be performed almost anywhere and you do not require expensive equipment or weights to get a thorough workout.
A further benefit of isometric exercise is that it creates a contraction of the target muscle without placing too much stress through your associated joints. This is one criticism is traditional weight lifting, with traumatic and overuse injuries to the joints a commonly reported injury. This just isn’t the case with isometric exercise and as a result it’s great for both building strength and a means of rehabilitation.
Because there is no movement involved, the difficulty of isometric exercise is often enhanced through time. Most exercises can be completed within a minute or less. Novices may wish to reduce this time initially whilst experienced gym users might want to challenge the clock and push further.
As previously mentioned, training isometrically can be utilised for both strength building and a means of rehabilitation. Previous research has demonstrated that this method of exercise to be both effective at fat burning and enhancing levels of lean muscular mass when enrolled into a larger fitness plan. It’s also a great way to finish off a session to ensure your target muscle has been well and truly tried and tested.
With regards to rehabilitation, isometric exercise has been proven to enhance overall flexibility in any given joint. Following injury, flexibility and strength are often the first things to go, so gradually building these key attributes back up through a series of static exercises is an ideal way of achieving that pre injury status.
So there you have isometric exercise, a brilliant way to build strength whilst reducing the injury potential. Why not try utilising this alternative training method today and shock your target muscles with something a little different from the norm.