Harnessing the Power of Isometric Exercises for Peak Performance
By Coach Patrick Marques
In Part 1 of this series, we defined isometrics and discussed the two basic types of isometric exercises, yielding and overcoming. If you haven’t seen Part 1, check it out here. In Part 2, we will discuss the benefits of isometrics, which explains why they are so useful for many different goals, and give you another “how to” video.
What are the benefits of isometric exercises?
Isometric exercises benefit everyone – athletes, fitness enthusiasts, those with musculoskeletal pain, joint replacements, rehab workers, etc. Here are the primary benefits of isometrics training:
You control the effort level – The client has complete control over the amount of effort/force they produce. This contributes to the safety of isometric training and helps joint replacement clients (or anyone recovering from injury or motor control issues) learn how to control their force production. Isometrics specifically activate pre-motor and supplementary motor areas in the brain.
Isometrics are the least neurologically threatening form of strength training -- Because the client is in total control of the effort level and that force is being produced without joint movement, isometrics are a very low threat to the nervous system. This very often allows clients to utilize isometrics well before dynamic exercises and feel safe producing force, which is very important as joint replacement clients relearn neuromuscular activation patterns.
Larger amounts of force can be generated than in dynamic training – If you are doing multiple reps of an exercise, you are, by definition, not producing maximum force. Isometrics allow clients to work up to max force production safely and painlessly.
Isometrics promote joint health and strength – The synovial fluid (lubricates your joints) in joints is a Non-Newtonian Fluid, meaning that when increased pressure occurs through the joint, the viscosity of the synovial fluid increases to provide more protection for the joint. Thus, isometrics take advantage of the hydrodynamics of the joint fluid, which increases joint stability as increasing amounts of force are put through the joint.
Pain reduction – Isometric exercises have been shown to reduce pain in patellar tendinopathy and lateral elbow tendinopathy, sometimes used by itself or with other modalities. In our experience, isometrics can be a very powerful tool to mitigate musculoskeletal pain.
Upper body isometric exercises you can do at home or the gym
Shoulders can be a notorious problem area for a lot of folks. Whether you are an “overhead athlete” (i.e., volleyball, tennis, baseball/softball, etc.), a golfer that needs more shoulder range of motion for longer drives, or you want to be able to reach the highest shelf in your cabinet without pain… check out this video for some of our go-to shoulder isometrics!
Be on the lookout for Part 3 in this blog series on isometrics, where we’ll discuss ideas on how to use and program isometrics.
Consider incorporating isometrics training into your routine to optimize your stability, strength, and pain-free movement. It will pay off now and as you age!
Click here to schedule an appointment to assess your issues and get an isometrics training plan for getting stronger, more stability, and better movement.
Some of Our Favorite Products to Help You Train Isometrics
Cobb, E. (2017). 9S: Strength & Suppleness Course, Z-Health Performance Solutions
van Ark M, et al. (2015). Do isometric and isotonic exercise programs reduce pain in athletes with patellar tendinopathy in-season? A randomized clinical trial. J Sci Med Sport (2015).
Vuvan, V., Vicenzino, B., Mellor, R., Heales, L., & Coombes, B. (2019). Unsupervised Isometric Exercise versus Wait-and-See for Lateral Elbow Tendinopathy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.