Given the endless possibilities for working muscles in different ways, it’s surprising how limited the workouts of the average person are. Most men love the bench press, tolerate squats, and understand the benefits of running. However, very few people appreciate how isometric exercise can completely revitalize their physique.
Iso-what? Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of isometrics before. They’re not the most common type of exercise. Even after learning what they are, you might be skeptical. That’s because isometric exercises consist entirely of…staying still.
That’s right; isometric workouts involve simply holding your body in a particular position. It’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. In fact, I can guarantee that isometric workouts will be some of the hardest you’ve ever experienced.
What are Isometric Exercises?
Essentially, isometric exercises are those in which you hold a position for a prolonged period. However, there’s a little more to it than that. If you lie down on the floor and stay still, you aren’t performing an isometric exercise. If you lift your legs up to 45-degrees and hold them there, however, you are performing an isometric exercise.
This leads us to the true definition of isometric exercise: holding a position which places a strain on muscle fibers for prolonged periods of time.
What are the Benefits of Isometrics?
There are numerous benefits to implementing isometrics in your workouts. They can be divided into 3 main categories:
• Increasing Strength
• Building Muscle
• Recovering from Injuries
Isometrics may be largely unheard of for the general population, but martial artists have been using them for years to improve leg and core strength. While isometrics typically do not involve the use of heavy weights, they are incredibly effective for developing strength.
This is because they make great use of one of the most important principles in all of the fitness: time under tension. As isometrics involve holding strenuous positions for extended periods of time, you’ll find that your muscles have an unparalleled burn with these exercises. Subjecting muscle fibers to stress for greater amounts of time is a great way to improve strength.
Some of the best exercises for building strength through isometrics include:
• Iso squat: go into a deep squat (90-degrees) and hold it for 1 minute.
• Push-up Position Hold: get into the position for a push-up but simply hold the position. To make it harder, drop down halfway and hold the position there.
• Various Planks
Often, people make the mistake of assuming that isometric exercises won’t help you pack on muscle because they don’t involve the use of heavy weights. The truth, however, is that isometrics can be powerful muscle-building tools if you add slight resistance.
There are many ways to add resistance to isometric exercises without investing in heavy plates and barbells. Driving your feet into the ground while holding a wall squat, for example, can add an extra burn to your quads. As well, some exercises are so strenuous that the force of gravity alone is enough to build muscle. Think iron cross.
In fact, gymnasts are the perfect demonstration of why isometrics are so powerful. The vast majority of male gymnasts never touch weights, and yet they are incredibly muscular. The secret to their physique is that the isometrics that they employ, such as the iron cross, put tremendous strain on their fully-extended muscle fibers.
Some of the best muscle-building isometric exercises are:
• Planks/Iso Squat with weight vest
• Planche hold
• Iron Cross (if you dare)
Recovering from Injury
If you’re suffering from a ligament tear in your shoulder, the bench press might not be the smartest choice for a workout. Isometrics, on the other hand, are exceptionally useful for injury recovery.
When you’re recovering from a tendon injury, you don’t want to strain the tendon by moving it while exercising. With isometrics, the injured tendon can be subjected to some stress without risking further injury.
Get Out There and Start Staying Still!
Isometrics are some of the most challenging, rewarding, and versatile exercises that you can include in your workout. Whether you want to get stronger, bigger, or simply get back to normal after an injury, these exercises are a great way to go. They deliver all the benefits of increased time under tension without putting undue strain on tendons/ligaments.
If you want to feel the burn and see tremendous results in your overall fitness, try incorporating isometrics into your next workout!
Image Credits: Getty Images, Pixabay
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