Isometrics – What’s That?
by Jackie Burgmann, creator of “Hot at Home” – The Transformation Solution for People Who Hate The Gym
There are a lot of different ways to strength train.
Isometrics are a very effective way to strength train that is wildly overlooked for the most part.
It’s also very misunderstood, as because of this, it’s also discounted as not being a very valid or effective way to strength train.
Why is it overlooked or dismissed as invalid?
Well, because it involves … NO MOVEMENT!!
Yes, it’s true, you really CAN get a great workout without moving. It’s all about resistance.
Isometrics are a very effective way to strength train … especially for the many people that have limited mobility due to injury or illness, isometric exercises are a particularly great way to overcome these problems and still get a great muscle building and bone strengthening workout.
Isometrics are used quite often in rehabilitation or for pain management for people with these types of ailments.
Isometrics are also great exercises for the elderly to help them with basic strength and mobility.
And, as a matter of fact, many accomplished younger strength athletes use Isometrics to supplement their other weight lifting routines.
Isometrics involve contracting the muscle but not changing the length of it.
The simplest way to do an Isometric exercise is to push against or pull away from an immovable object, like a wall or post without letting your body move toward or away from the object.
Examples of isometric contractions are as follows:
To work your deltoids (shoulder muscles), stand between a doorframe, push both hands out against the door frame and hold. The muscle is contracting at this stage but is not changing in length (ie. not shortening nor lengthening).
Or push up against the top of the door frame with your hands to work your shoulders in a different way.
Work your quadriceps by sitting in a chair facing the wall, pushing against the wall with the ball of your foot and hold that push for several seconds. You can choose to do one long hold or several shorter ones to make a set.
To work your chest muscles, stand with your arms straight out in front of you (do not lock your elbows), press your palms into each other and again, hold for several seconds, or hold for a shorter period of time and do this several times.
Find a ledge or countertop at about hip level that you can hook your fingers under that is anchored down. Hook your fingers under the ledge, pull up and hold the contraction. Face towards the ledge to work your biceps, face away from the ledge to work your triceps.
Or, you can use a free weight and hold it in a semi-contracted but motionless state for several seconds.
Just make sure you use a weight heavy enough to actually give your muscles significant work. If you’re capable of holding a 20lb dumbbell for several seconds but you choose a 3lb dumbbell, that’s not going to be a significant enough resistance to work your muscles sufficiently. It should be a weight heavy enough that it is difficult to keep the dumbbell hovering in the air, motionless.
You may choose to repeat the held contraction several times for a set, or just once for a more extended period of time.
You can also do this with almost any regular weight training exercise by holding the contraction rather than doing the several moving reps you’d normally do.
Basically, any exercise you do that involves tensing or contracting the muscle without moving it can be considered an Isometric exercise.
One of the convenient things about Isometric exercises is that they can be done almost anywhere. You don’t even really need an immovable object to push against or pull as long you can make your muscles tense and hold the contraction for several seconds.
This makes Isometrics a great way to get a great workout in the privacy and convenience of your own home.
However, one word of warning before you head off to try this out:
People with high blood pressure are cautioned about using Isometric exercises because the act of holding the contractions for extended periods of time can actually cause an increase in your blood pressure during the exercise (as can any exercise).
If you have high blood pressure, check with your doctor before trying a new fitness regime of any description.
Also, a final tip: be mindful not to hold your breath during your isometric exercises. Normal breathing should always be maintained throughout the muscle contraction.
So, try some Isometrics moves to change up your routine once in a while.
They’re simple to do, don’t require any special equipment and when done correctly, are extremely effective.
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