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Understanding Isometrics

Some trainers or others might talk about isometrics during the explanation of a training or fitness schedule, or in other related situations. Isometrics is the term for a specific type of muscle training used as an alternative to other more common types of training, often called dynamic or isotonic training. Isometrics has been interesting to many partly because so little equipment is needed to practice this kind of training.

The Principle of Isometrics

In isometrics, neither the joint angle or the length of the muscle changes during the training period. This might seem a little strange at first, but on further consideration, most fitness enthusiasts can think of some applicable activities where isometrics provides training opportunities.

Practical Isometrics

Some of the main examples of isometrics activities include pushing on a wall or other immovable barrier, as well as holding certain types of yoga positions. There are also some upper body isometrics, such as holding heavy books with arms outstretched in a static position, that may be familiar to some fitness participants. Static poses with medicine balls or other free weights are also good examples of isometrics.

Isometrics utilizes the concept of resistance, where any resistance in the form of weight or force makes the body work harder and develops the muscles. In isometrics, the muscle work is not visible, since there is no range of motion included. However, the participant can definitely feel his or her muscles at work. Isometrics training is proven to be effective in some kinds of muscle development, even though it can seem like a less effective method to those who may be observing an isometric training regimen.

Benefits of Isometric Training

Isometrics have been shown to be more effective than dynamic training exercises in increasing strength at a specific joint angle, especially when the muscle is worked while the joint is at an extreme angle. For example, those who practice isometric exercises with arms or legs extended may gain a specific strength that is useful in some sports or athletic activities.

Some Things to Think about with Isometrics

One of the major risks in isometrics is related to the lack of a general range of motion for an applied force. While the individual is engaged in isometrics, for example, holding heavy weights while not moving, it may be harder to breathe naturally. This increases the risks of momentary hypertension (a spike in blood pressure) and can lead to some specific health risks. It's important to think about breathing naturally during isometric training, as well as how to make sure that all free weights are controlled, so that when the muscle is fatigued, the held weight will not simply crash down onto the floor.

The above illustrates some of the basics involved in isometric exercise. Talk to a personal trainer about what isometrics can do and how to work this kind of training into an existing fitness schedule.

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