Isometric Exercises Add Another Dimension To Your Exercise Program

The Advantages of Isometric Exercises

In my third year in college a long way from home, I had put on some weight and a friend of mine introduced me to isometric exercises through a book featuring a smiling young woman dressed in a business suit sitting at an office desk demonstrating calf exercises while she typed away on her word processor.

The notion of sitting practically motionless and carrying on with usual daily activities while exercising without breaking a sweat or turning a hair struck me as comical and absurd, but intriguing.

You Can Do Isometric Stretches Anywhere!

The reason you can sit practically motionless while performing isometric exercises is because these exercises mainly involve contracting and relaxing muscles without changing the length of the muscle or the joint angle. The glossy photos in my friend’s book demonstrated some very attractive advantages to isometric exercises:

You need no special equipment, or workout gear of any kind – that is very convenient!

You can work out without even leaving your desk, in half the time it takes to do a conventional resistance training workout – you have to call that really efficient!

You can be working out while talking to someone and they wouldn’t even know – most unobtrusive!

Almost motionless and so low impact you won’t even break a sweat – very cool and tidy!

Who could ask for more in an exercise program? This kind exercise certainly has its uses especially if you are recovering from injury. It also has a long history in the held poses of yoga and Pilates.

A Selection of Isometric Exercises

Here are a few isometric exercises you might like to experiment with – not all of them can be done at your desk, but the first five can.

The Mid Afternoon Pick Me Up

So, you’re sitting at your desk…

To start, place your hands, palms facing up underneath your desk, keep your elbows tucked in at your waist, push upward against the desk and hold.

  • Relax your shoulders down and breathe.
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds then relax.
  • Repeat twice.
  • Palm Press
  • For your biceps, shoulders and chest

1. Press your palms together as hard as you can

2. Hold for 10-30 seconds

3. Repeat 2-3 times

Seated ‘Plank’

1. Sit on a chair or in the seat of your car feet flat on the floor, back upright

2. Draw your naval into spine

3. Hold 10-30 seconds

4. Repeat 2-3 times

Seated Calf Raises

1. Sit at your desk

2. Raise your heels.

3. Hold the position for 10-30 seconds.

4. Repeat 2-3 times.

Neck Press

1. Interlace your fingers behind your head

2. Push your head back into your hands

3. Allow your hands to resist

4. Hold 10- 30 seconds

If you are prone to neck injuries, do this exercise with caution

The Plank

This is a great abdominal exercise that tones and strengthens the back and the midriff.

1. Start out by lying flat on the floor, face down.

2. Slowly raise your body so you are resting on your toes and forearms.

3. As you become more advanced you can straighten your arms and rest on your hands as the start position for the press up

4. Keep the back flat and draw your naval into your spine.

5. Hold the position for 10-30 seconds.

6. Repeat the exercise 2-3 times.

Isometric Squats

This exercise will strengthen your front thighs. This is also a great exercise for conditioning your legs if you want to have a go on the giant slalom!

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back firmly against a wall.

2. Slowly slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

3. Move your feet away from the wall if you have to, to ensure your knees do not extend past your toes.

4. Hold the position for 10-30 seconds.

5. Repeat the exercise 2-3 times.

Isometric Exercises Have Certain Limitations

So do you need any more in an exercise program? As you might guess isometric exercises do not cover all the bases:

They are primarily resistance exercises and do not improve cardiovascular fitness

They significantly raise blood pressure so if you are pregnant or have a history of heart disease, best to avoid them

If you get dizzy or feel nauseous while doing an isometric exercise, stop and go get medical attention

Because you use maximal or near maximal force when you perform them they can deliver significant strength gains but only in the position the muscle is contracting in and within 20 degrees of that angle

They are not the most dynamic way to exercise

Isometric Exercises are Great for Enhancing Your Standard Exercise Program

These type of exercises give you a fast exercise option on days you are pushed for time and can add another dimension to your training when you incorporate them into other resistance work, like a stretching routine, Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or a weight training workout.

To incorporate them into a weight training exercise where you working through the full range of motion of the working muscle you might stop and hold the movement for a few seconds in an isometric contraction before continuing the exercise.

For example if you were performing a squat you can squat down hold and then come up, or hold the squat position at different stages of the descent or as you come up.

Be warned – this is very tough to do – both physically and mentally.

Safety Tips:

Hold the position for a maximum of 10 seconds

Keep your breathing – you don’t want to turn blue in the face!

Enjoy experimenting!

Albena Anis
 

Albena Maxwell manages our Sports & Fitness, Outdoors and Automotive categories. When he's not writing and researching products, he enjoys playing Ultimate Frisbee and traveling.

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