The past few years have been marked by the growing consciousness around fitness. Experts suggest that a good workout consists of both cardio and strength training exercises. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t really need to lift heavy weights when it comes to strength training. You may think, how’s that even possible? Well, we urge you to discover isometric exercises.
These are specific moves that challenge your muscles without putting them in a range of motions you would expect. This does not mean the exercises aren’t hard to do — they work your muscles differently and trust us, you will definitely feel the burn!
Allow us to tell you all about isometric exercises, as well as why and how these exercises are going to help you build strength.
Experts say that isometric exercises enable the contraction of a muscle or a group of muscles. These exercises involve you holding a certain position for the duration of the exercise. It’s quite different from the usual strength training exercises that require concentric or eccentric movements.
One of the most popular isometric exercises is a plank. When you hold a plank, say for a few seconds or a minute, you’re ensuring your core muscles are engaged throughout that duration. It is this muscle contraction that is called an isometric contraction.
A squat is also an example of an isometric exercise. You may wonder why? That’s because when you lower your body, your muscles lengthen, putting you in the eccentric phase. Next, you push the weight back and your muscles contract, which is the concentric phase. But, between these two phases, when you stop and pause at the bottom, it is the isometric phase.
Other examples of isometric exercises are wall sits, calf raises, and body holds. You can also hold any of the non-isometric exercises in a specific spot to add an isometric component to your workout.
As mentioned earlier, these exercises build strength in a different manner. In case of a hardcore strength training workout, there are concentric and eccentric exercises which contribute to the breaking down of the muscle fibre. It is the resulting microscopic tears in the muscle that need repair after exercise, and it is this cycle that causes muscles to rebuild much stronger than before.
On the other hand, the strength you build during isometric workouts is all about training your nervous system. You train the nervous system to coordinate with your muscles in a specific position to fire up all the right areas.
Experts suggest these exercises train the nervous system to build muscles by contracting and coordinating to result in improved performance, without making changes to the muscle architecture. They also help to build muscle endurance, and that’s a huge plus point!
Research suggests that these exercises must be a part of your routine each time you work out. Working out your muscles isometrically helps maintain their strength, and will aid the concentric or eccentric movements. With greater endurance, you also lower the risk of injuries.
The best way to include isometrics is by integrating them into concentric and eccentric movements. When you do any exercise, do it slowly and observe the point where you feel like you can’t hold a particular position. That’s your weakest point and needs strength! What you then need to do is hold the position at the weakest spot to strengthen your muscles.
You can also look for other ways to make isometric exercises a part of your routine. For example, when you are working on your upper body or core, add a plank in-between sets at the beginning and end of your workout.
If you want to build your muscles, but do not want to lift weights, you now know what you need to do!