Millions of Americans are undergoing some treatments to ease an ailment. Among these, we have those trying to recover from physical injuries. These may have been provoked by accidents, physical aggression, self-inflicted harm, or the side effects of surgery. Whatever the case might be, rehabilitation can be arduous. However, a new kind of gentle exercise is giving hope back to the hopeless. Nevertheless, many wonders, “what is isometric exercise?”.
Isometric exercise routines were popularized during quarantine because of how little space you need to practice them. Still, many products and routines offer a “miraculous” solution for those in need of pain relief. Isometric exercises advocates aren’t the exception. Therefore, today our article will tackle the most common doubts about isometric exercise. We’ll talk about what it is, its benefits, and whether or not it can be counter-productive.
What Are Isometric Exercises?
As their name implies, isometric exercises are a physical activity where you do movements involving isometric contractions. But, what is an isometric contraction? In this kind of exercise, you don’t have to move while exciting muscle force. In other words, you will have to hold the contraction, but the joints involved don’t move. So, the muscles are in tension without changing length.
Many people think that if you aren’t moving around and sweating, you aren’t exercising. With isometric contractions, that’s not the case at all. Even though you are not moving, the contractions activate the fibers, which fire in response to the resistance. Besides, they are pretty easy to perform. Without even realizing it, you might have already done isometric contractions in daily activities. For example, while carrying an object, like heavy textbooks, in front of you, the biceps muscles contract isometrically.
How to Do Isometric Exercises at Home Correctly
If you wonder how to do isometric exercises at home, don’t worry because it’s very simple. What you’ll need will depend on the exercise you want to practice. Elements you can use go from a wall or the floor to equipment like dumbbells, an exercise band, or barbells. However, remember that even though elements may vary, you should always keep your exercising space clear. This is to avoid stomping into an object and getting new injuries.
Types of Isometric Exercise
There are different types of isometric exercises you can do at home. Although new ones appear online regularly, the most traditional ones have already proven their effectiveness. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best isometric exercises. You’ll need a minimum amount of elements to practice them, yet they’re beneficial. They can strengthen different areas and expose damaged ones. You should check up with your doctor.
So, let’s get straight to the point and to what you’ve come here for. Without further ado, here are the best isometric exercises you can practice at home for static strength training:
Low squat: Stand up with your feet split to shoulder-width and pointing forward. Lift your arms to the sides. Then bend your knees without bending your back, and move your arms forward. Try to lower your body as much as possible and keep that position for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Position yourself as if you were an Olympic athlete just about to run in a race.
- Straighten your back as much as possible without taking your knee from the floor.
- Hold for as long as you want.
This exercise will help with weak quads and glutes. Moreover, reinforcing these areas will prevent you from a wide range of running injuries.
- Getto the floor and put yourself in a dog position.
- Point your toes to the floor and straighten your body.
- Draw your shoulders down and, by bracing your core, lock into a plank position.
- Hold this position until you feel tired.
Wall sit: Press your back against a wall and your feet hip-width apart. Put your hands by your sides. The idea is to slide down the wall until your hips and knees reach 90 degrees. Shoulders and butt should always keep in touch with the wall. Hold that position for as long as you can.
Calf raises hold: Facing a wall, put your hand on it, and raise your heels until your body is lifted off the ground. Get as high as you can and hold this position for 1 minute. When the minute is up, slowly come back down. When you feel your body is comfortable with this exercise, you can add another 30 seconds at a time. Keep doing this until you reach 5 minutes.
Leg extensions: For this one, you will need a chair. Sit on it and put your tailbone firmly against the back of the chair. Both hands should rest on the chair with your feet firmly against the floor. Now, slowly extend your leg. Engage your quads and reach your toes toward your shin. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute without losing form. After you are done, slowly go back to the initial position and change sides.
Some exercises won´t only make you stronger. But are usually prescribed to people recovering from injuries, including:
Isometric neck strengthening: On your back, lie on the ground, or your bed. Roll up a towel and place it under your neck. Try to give yourself a double chin by lengthening the back of your neck and nodding. Your head should always touch the towel. Hold this contraction for 10-30 seconds.
Shoulder external rotation: This exercise improves rotator cuff strength and reduces shoulder pain from tendinopathy. In this case, you will need a wall or door frame. Stand next to the surface. Then, put your arm by your side and bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Place the back of your fist on the wall.
Once you are all set, this exercise goes like this. Push your hand into the wall. Avoid moving your arm from your side. Make sure to keep your chest up and shoulder blades squeezed back. Your wrist should always remain straight throughout the movement. Repeat 3 to 5 times. Each repetition should be between 20 and 30 seconds.
What are the Benefits You Can Get from Isometric Exercise?
Doing isometric exercises is highly beneficial for our health. Here you have a list of some isometric exercise benefits:
Pain-relieving: Isometric exercises come in handy for injury rehabilitation. The reason behind this fact is relatively easy. With these exercises, you can build strength without putting stress on the joints. Physiotherapists usually use them as part of a recovery routine. For example, it’s common to treat patients who suffer from tendinopathies, like Achilles, Rotator Cuff, or Patella, with these exercises. You can regulate pain from injured tendons by exposing them to isometric exercise.
These exercises can also reduce pain from whiplash injuries of the neck and chronic lower back pain. If you suffer from any of these problems, ask your physiotherapist or doctor about introducing isometric contractions to your routine.
Strengthening: Doing isometric exercise for strength reasons became very popular during quarantine. Suddenly, everyone wanted to gain strength and grow their muscles. However, fitness and sports trainers already added static muscle contractions to their routines before the pandemic. Some activities such as rock climbing, gymnastics, judo, yoga, and pilates require static muscle strength. Additionally, athletes who practice biking or golf also need grip strength, an isometric contraction.
Lowers blood pressure: In 2013, the Journal of the American Heart Association published a paper on high blood pressure. According to them, isometric resistance training, among other aerobic or resistance exercises, might reduce high blood pressure.
Little to no equipment: Unlike almost every sport and physical activity, this type of exercise doesn’t require equipment. All of the exercises can be done just with your body weight. Apart from that, you will also need some basic things, like a stable surface and enough space to move around. Therefore, they are easy and convenient to perform, which means no excuses! Nevertheless, you can incorporate some equipment, such as dumbbells, barbells, or bands if you feel like it.
Target specific muscle groups: You can contact a specific muscle or muscle group by doing isometric movements. This gives you the ability to isolate the stress and load only in one area, like the quadriceps.
Related More: 3 Planes of Motion Explained
With gyms and sports courts closing, it’s no wonder why isometric exercises became mainstream during the pandemic. As they require almost no space, they’re relatively easy to perform in either your backyard or a small apartment. Moreover, they have many benefits almost everyone can take advantage of.
Isometric exercises are great for strengthening your joint muscles. However, people thinking about practicing them should keep in mind they aren’t designed to lose weight. As a result, people undergoing a rehabilitation program can profit the most from them. Lastly, even if they seem calm and straightforward to perform, consider they can be harmful to your joints. Don´t rush into it, and always ask your doctor if you have any doubt.