To build functional strength, you don’t necessarily need to move heavy weights all the time. Your body is a complex machine built to endure movement with functional strength and capacity. Isometric exercises are strength training movements that are static and motionless, without going through a traditional range of motion. We’ll talk more about the benefits of isometric training, time under tension, and how it can help build muscle and strength.
What Is Isometric Training
When it comes to training, there are multiple types of muscle contraction that can be used and applied within traditional human movement patterns to build more functional strength. The concentric phase involves shortening the length of a muscle, while the eccentric phase, involves lengthening it. Isometric contraction, is a static nonmoving engagement of the muscles, also referred to as static movement, such as a plank, or wall sit.
Isometric training is contraction of a muscle, without the visible movement or engagement of the joints. Basically, your muscles are engaged, but they’re not changing length. Therefore, the tension between two sets of muscle groups is either matched or collectively matched by external forces and load placed on the body. Studies suggest that isometric training can build more muscle mass, maximize force and power, and improve ballistic movements for improvement of performance and rehabilitation [R].
Benefits Of Isometric Training
More Muscle Mass And Strength
Isometric exercises can be performed with or without weight. For example a wall sit, can be performed using dumbbells, while sitting in a static position in bottom of a squat position. A static hold, as some would call it, can challenge your muscles in a different and positive way. If you think about it, there is an isometric movement, within almost every exercise. At the top or bottom of a lift, is usually what’s called an isometric phase. Pause reps, or reps held in the isometric phase of a movement, have been shown to increase muscle mass and strength.
Studies have shown that slower tempo of movement, especially during the eccentric phase decreases the number of performed repetitions, but extends the time under tension, which may contribute to greater muscle hypertrophy [R].
Core Stability And Posture
Isometric exercises require recruited strength from your core, to hold weight in a static position. Using your own force or bodyweight for resistance, will inevitably improve body posture, balance, and coordination. Isometric movements are functional movements, which can be seen throughout conventional human movement patterns. The more you can emulate purposeful resistance and time under tension, or the time you hold a static movement, the better core strength you will develop.
Within a static movement, you are also resisting gravity. Maintaining static movement, is important for maintaining postural control and equilibrium. Therefore, isometric exercises, can prepare the body to resist both internal and external forces to maintain core and postural stability.
The Best Isometric Exercises
It’s rare to find a training program which only emphasizes isometric exercises. Calisthenics athletes, train under tension constantly, to hold static movements, with isometric training, and develop better core strength and body weight movement [R].
The plank is a prone isometric exercise, and perhaps the best example of isometric contraction. During the plank, core muscles are recruited and activated to stabilize the lumbar spine, pelvis, and hips against gravity with no visible movement of the body.
Hollow body holds are one of the best isometric exercises. In it, you hold both hands overhead and feet off the ground in a banana-like position. From here, you will ‘hold’ the body in the ‘hollow’ position for a designated amount of time. This movement is great for building strength through the midline as well as building tenacity from a mental perspective (trust us, this movement gets hard quick!)
Wall sits are another prime example of isometric exercises that can improve core stability, posture, and increase strength. Supplementing your workout or resistance training with accessory isometric movements, is very beneficial to incur more muscle growth and facilitate increased rates of muscle protein synthesis.
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