11 Reasons You Should Start Doing Isometric Exercise
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Whether you want to improve your overall fitness or change up your existing exercise routine, isometric workouts can help increase muscle strength and endurance, improve bone density and joint stability, and even reduce stress levels.

Isometric training is a type of strength training that involves contracting your muscles against an immovable object. This can even be done without weights by pushing against a door frame or wall. Several isometric exercise machines have recently been introduced that have the ability to measure the force you are generating

Here are 11 reasons everyone should be doing isometric exercise:

1. Isometrics Are Quick, Efficient, And Convenient

Isometric exercises are an excellent option if you're looking for a quick, efficient, and convenient workout. In fact, measured isometric exercise is the most efficient kind of resistance training. The reason for this is there is no wasted 'easy' rep or sets - the strength stimulating effects are reached almost immediately (within 10 seconds).

Isometric workouts can be done anywhere, at any time, with no equipment needed.

They're also a great way to add variety to your workout routine and will strengthen the soft tissues like ligaments and tendons where injuries are most likely to occur.

2. Isometrics Build Muscle and Strength

Using computerized tomography, physiologists found that isometric training, done correctly, will build muscle just as well as conventional training methods. [Jones, D. A., & Rutherford, O. M. (1987). Human muscle strength training: the effects of three different regimens and the nature of the resultant changes. The Journal of Physiology]

There is a specific joint angle for any given exercise where the most muscle fiber is recruited, and in conventional training that point is only under tension for a split-second as the arm or leg bends throughout the movement.

With isometric training where the arm or leg joints can be positioned optimally and the joint angle doesn't change throughout the contraction, maximum tension be maintained for as long as desired (although in practice anything longer than 10 seconds is a wasted effort).

Isometric exercise increases intramuscular pressure, which results in anoxia (oxygen deficiency) within the muscles. Anoxia stimulates the production of new actin and myosin in the muscle cells, which results in bigger muscles [Folland, J. P., Hawker, K., Leach, B., Little, T., & Jones, D. A. (2005). Strength training: Isometric training at a range of joint angles versus dynamic training. Journal of Sports Sciences].

3. Isometrics Strengthen Joints And Help Heal From Injuries

The joints are subjected to substantial forces when using traditional weightlifting movements. This can lead to both acute and chronic joint pain and injuries. Because there is no movement of the joint while doing isometric exercise, joints aren't at risk of being injured doing this type of exercise.

Injuries most often occur when soft tissues like ligaments and tendons are stressed by excess forces. If already suffering from these types of injuries, laying off traditional strength training and adopting isometrics can provide relief and healing time while strengthening the other soft tissues to prevent further injuries.

One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that isometric exercise resulted in a significant increase in blood flow to the biceps brachii muscle compared to rest. This increase in blood flow may be due to the increased demand for oxygen and nutrients by the muscles during exercise. This increase in blood flow delivers nutrients and oxygen to the area, which helps repair damage.

4. Improved Posture

Good posture is essential for good health overall and helps avoid pain in the lower back and shoulders.

The isometric Vertical Lift is an exercise that helps improve your posture by lengthening, stretching and strengthening the entire musculature from the neck to the heels simultaneously.

There is evidence to suggest that isometric exercises may improve posture. One study found that isometric exercises improved posture in a group of young adults with poor posture. The study found that isometric exercises targeting the muscles of the upper back and neck were particularly effective at improving posture [Salem, G., & Mokha, M. (2014). The effect of isometric exercises on posture in young adults with poor posture. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine].

Another study found that isometric exercises improved posture and reduced pain in individuals with chronic low back pain. The study found that isometric exercises like the Vertical Lift targeting the muscles of the lower back were effective at improving posture and reducing pain.

[Kim, J. H., & Kim, J. Y. (2016). The effect of isometric exercise on posture and pain in individuals with chronic low back pain. Journal of Physical Therapy Science].

5. Heavy Isometrics Build Strength Rapidly

Few things are as practical as heavy isometrics when building muscular strength rapidly. Research has shown that isometric training can help you build strength up to 50% faster than traditional methods like lifting weights.

There are a few reasons why heavy isometrics are so effective at building strength. First, they allow you to work with a much heavier load than you could lift via a full range of motion. This means you can overload your muscles more effectively, leading to faster gains in strength.

There is a physiological law called the "force-velocity" relationship. This means the heavier the load, the slower you will move. Once you are lifting/pushing/pulling the heaviest load you possibly can, you are no longer moving, and you are now doing an isometric contraction with 100% of your contractile muscle tissue. There is no other form of training like this. [Wilkie, D. R. (1949). The relation between force and velocity in human muscle. The Journal of Physiology].

Second, isometrics force your muscles to work harder throughout the entire exercise. With traditional weightlifting exercises, there are often parts of the movement where your muscles need to work harder. But with isometrics, your muscles have to work continuously from start to finish.

Early studies on isometric strength training showed gains of up to 5 percent per week, which is huge. This means you could double your strength in 20 weeks, which can be measured accurately and objectively using an isometric training device like the viiiv Pro. [Hettinger, T., & Muller, E. A. (1953). Muscle capacity and muscle training. Arbeitsphysiologie; internationale Zeitschrift fur angewandte Physiologie].

Many believe isometric strength training has limited usefulness in the real world where joints are moving through a range of motion. However, the latest research shows that muscles trained using isometric exercise get stronger throughout the entire range of motion [Lum, D., & Barbosa, T. M. Application Of Isometric Strength Training For Enhancing Sports Related Dynamic Performance].

6. Isometrics Can Replace Cardio

Isometric Strength Training can help improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress on the cardiovascular system as a whole.

It was previously believed that isometric training was unsafe for people with high blood pressure. Yes, blood pressure rises during an isometric contraction, but the same is true of all resistance training. With isometric exercise performed maximally, the exercise is over in 10 seconds or less, so it is very safe, even for those at high risk.

Scientists have begun to study isometric training in depth and have now found isometric exercise reduces high blood pressure.

In one study, individuals performing isometric exercises three times per week over eight weeks saw their systolic pressure drop by 12.5 points, and their diastolic plunge by a huge 14.9 points. A 2 point per week drop could potentially be life-saving.

Some recent studies have shown significant blood pressure reductions after only four weeks of isometric strength training [Devereux, G. R., Wiles, J. D., & Swaine, I. L. (2010). Reductions in resting blood pressure after 4 weeks of isometric exercise training. European Journal of Applied Physiology].

These results are so dramatic that some researches are now recommending isometric strength training as therapy for hypertension.

How does it lower blood pressure? What's known as the "isometric effect" is when you tense your muscles hard and hold for several seconds. The muscles contract and squeeze the blood vessels and veins and this constriction stresses the circulatory system. The result is an adaptive response: the blood vessels quickly become stronger and more supple [Gill, H. S. Effect of Isometric Handgrip Training on Heart Rate and Arterial Pressure in Normotensive Individuals].

7. Isometrics Burn Body Fat

People used to think isometric exercise couldn't help with fat loss since you're not moving. A comprehensive study published in The Journal of Applied Research shows the benefits of isometric strength training as an effective fat loss tool. Subjects in this study reduced their belly sizes in the first two weeks of isometric training to drop one pant or dress size. After four weeks, some subjects had lost over 22 pounds in weight.

And this happened while their strength increased 20 percent, with only 7 minutes of training per day. Subjects ate a normal, healthy diet, with no drastic decrease in calorie intake. The researchers also observed an average drop of 14 percent in cholesterol after four weeks, which is enough to lower the risk of heart disease considerably [Petrofsky, J., Batt, J., et als (2007). Muscle strength training and weight loss from a combined isometric exercise and dietary program. Journal of Applied Research].

8. Isometrics Make You Fast And Explosive

Explosive speed comes from your fast-twitch muscle fibers. This type of muscle fiber adapts according to the physiological law known as Henneman's Size Principle. This law states the larger muscle fibers (the fast-twitch kind) are ONLY recruited and trained according to load, NOT speed.

In other words, you need to train with high loads to train fast-twitch fibers. Isometric strength training uses the highest loads possible (certainly more than any kind of speed training, or regular strength training). Researchers have know this for more than a century.

Because of the physics behind this, isometric exercise makes you fast, although you're not actually moving anything. And the reason is simple: there is a proportional relationship between strength and speed. Strength is the production of force. Newton's Second Law tells us that acceleration = Force x Mass. No force, no acceleration. A weak athlete is a slow athlete. And isometric strength training makes you very strong indeed.

Researchers at the Centre for Rehabilitation and Human Performance Research have shown that isometric training increases speed just as effectively as traditional explosive training [Burgess, K. E., Connick, M. J., Graham-Smith, P., & Pearson, S. J. (2007). Plyometric vs. isometric training influences on tendon properties and muscle output. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research].

This speed increase also translates from simple movements to more coordinated speed moves.

Also, if you want to be fast, your body need to be able to handle torque. Isometric exercise increases this ability, while many other types of speed training do not.

9. Isometric Exercise Builds Overall Tension And Strength in the Body

A principle of physiology is Sherrington's Law of Irradiation, which states the more force a given muscle exerts, more surrounding muscle is recruited to assist in the generation of force. And it escalates according to the principal of 'orderly recruitment of muscle fibers'. So moderate force output only recruits neighboring muscles. The higher the force output, the recruitment of more distant muscles are needed.

With isometric strength training, the highest forces possible are safely generated by your own muscles. These high loads force the whole body to work as a complete unit according to Sherrington's Law.

It was previously believed (due to previous faulty studies) that isometric strength training only strengthens muscles at the angle you train them. This was disproved long ago, and numerous experimental studies have demonstrated the concept of angular specificity is outdated. [Garg, A., & Chaffin, D. B. (1975). A biomechanical computerized simulation of human strength. AIIE Transactions] [Raitsin, L. M. (1974). The effectiveness of isometric and electrostimulated training on muscle strength at different joint angles. Yessis Rev] [Knapik, J. J., Mawdsley, R. H., & Ramos, M. U. (1983). Angular specificity and test mode specificity of isometric and isokinetic strength training. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy] [Bandy, W. D., & Hanten, W. P. (1993). Changes in torque and electromyographic activity of the quadriceps femoris muscles following isometric training. Physical Therapy]

Strength differences at various angles are due to leverage, not muscle activation. Muscles either contract or they don't following the "all-or-none" law. Angles don't factor into it [Rosentswieg & Hinson (1972). Comparison of isometric, isotonic, and isokinetic exercises by electromyography. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation].

Think about it like this: "Functional Strength" is largely isometric anyway, and that's what you use for everyday activities. For example, just lifting a weight requires your spinal muscles, your core, your upper-back and shoulders, and even your grip and feet to all contract isometrically.

10. Isometrics Stimulate Bone Growth and Can Reverse Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, or the loss of bone mass, is a severe problem for many older adults. National Institutes of Health reveals that osteoporosis affects about 54 million Americans and causes about 2 million fractures yearly. Women over 45 years old are especially prone to osteoporosis and a broken hip from a fall can lead to a cascade of other medical issues.

Isometric contractions have been shown to stimulate bone growth and can reverse osteoporosis. A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that isometric contractions increased bone density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.

New research utilizing before and after bone density scans with measured isometric training have shown new bone growth in as little as 90 days.

11. You'll Recover Quickly

Maybe you've heard of 'workout hangovers' which come from overtraining. Many people lift heavy weights and don't give enough time for recovery. Isometric strength training utilizing the highest loads possible will allow for recovery in minutes, instead of the days conventional training may require.

Some of this is due to how muscles use fuel, known as the Fenn Effect. Isometric strength training doesn't heat up the muscle or burn a lot of chemical resources like regular strength training [Fenn, W. O. (1924). The relation between the work performed and the energy liberated in muscular contraction. The Journal of Physiology].

Another benefit is the elimination of the aches and stiffness that usually come after a strenuous workout. What's known as DOMS (Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness) is due to microtrauma to muscles when they lengthen eccentrically under heavy load. Isometrics where the muscles are not lengthening means this kind of damage and soreness is negligible [Jones, D. A., Newham, D. J., & Torgan, C. (1989). Mechanical influences on long‐lasting human muscle fatigue and delayed‐onset pain. The Journal of Physiology].

What Are You Waiting For?

There are so many benefits to isometric exercise there really is no excuse for not incorporating some type of isometrics into your wellness regimen.

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