Do you know the different types of muscle contractions? This is because during its contraction, the muscle allows movement of different segments of the body. However, there are several forms of muscle contraction that do not have the same impact and do not produce the same movement. As Hôpital de la Tour reminds us on this topic, it is essential to know the difference in order to better understand how our body works. A concentric contraction is therefore the contraction of a muscle with its shortening: it is a question of the “production” of movement. This modality allows you to increase muscle strength, but also muscle volume (= hypertrophy). Eccentric contraction, on the other hand, is the contraction of the muscle with its lengthening (the two ends of the tendons move apart). It is therefore a matter of “braking” the movement, knowing that this modality primarily allows to induce significant muscle hypertrophy.
However, there is another form of contraction known to fans of planking (also called planking), and that is isometric contraction (iso = same and metric = length). Specifically, during this contraction, the muscle contracts, but its length remains the same, which means that the exercises performed in this context are rather static and do not require any movement. This technique has several advantages, starting with the fact that it is suitable for all levels and can be performed without the need for special equipment. For these reasons, Michael Dakkak, a sports medicine specialist, explains in an information point recently published by the Cleveland Clinic that “ Isometric movements are a great way to work your muscles with little impact. There are certainly more efficient and effective ways to build strength, but anyone can benefit from this practice. »
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With isometric exercises, the goal is to keep the muscles the same length, which causes muscle fatigue. And because it involves holding a position (rather than performing continuous repetitions), the muscles don’t change size or length like they do with isotonic exercises that require you to perform movements like flexion/extension. Eccentric or concentric movements are certainly much more effective for developing muscle mass, but Dr. Dakkak states that ” If you are unable to do this or are rehabilitating from an injury, isometrics is usually the first form of exercise we introduce. » He believes the benefits are numerous for people who add isometric exercises to their fitness routine.
Isometric training will help you get (back) in shape
Because this technique allows you to train at a lower intensity with little or no resistance, it’s a great starting point to start your fitness journey. ” Then, as you become more confident, comfortable, and strong, you can incorporate more isotonic movements and weight-bearing exercises. ”, explains Dr. Dakkak.
Isometric training does not weaken the joints
According to the expert, research has shown that isometric exercises strengthen the joints better than traditional strength training. They achieve this without the discomfort that sometimes accompanies eccentric and concentric movements. And for good reason: by remaining in a static position, there is less movement in the joint. Also note that eccentric work is where you are most likely to be sore in the days following your workout.
Isometric training can reduce high blood pressure
A 2023 study found that isometric exercises, particularly the wall squat, can be an effective way to lower blood pressure. What is it about ? An isometric leg exercise that involves squatting while your back and shoulders are against a wall. Researchers aren’t sure how this affects blood pressure, but they think it could be related to the movement of blood in and out of the muscles as they contract and then relax. ” When we think of high blood pressure, it comes from chronic narrowing of the arteries, which causes higher pressure in them. We already know that exercise affects blood pressure. But in this review of 270 previous studies, researchers found that isometric movements were the most effective. », explains Dr. Dakkak.
Isometric training can help with rehabilitation after injury or surgery
While anyone can benefit from this form of exercise, Dr. Dakkak says isometrics are most beneficial for people who have recently had an injury or surgery. These exercises are an excellent way to maintain muscle strength while prioritizing so-called low-impact (no jumping) exercises. “This is the first type of exercise that these patients would do on their own or with their physical therapist or medical team because it protects the treatment area. “, he testifies.
Isometric training develops strength and range of motion in cases of osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis, a chronic disease affecting cartilage and surrounding tissues, can be painful, especially when strength training requires full range of motion of the joint. Dr. Therefore, Dakkak confirms that “for people with osteoarthritis, it can be helpful to use isometrics to activate the muscles and maintain their strength before loading them with more resistance. Research shows that this can reduce pain. »
How to start isometric training?
Good news, there is an isometric exercise that targets every muscle in your body. But Dr. Dakkak recommends starting with these five exercises if you’re new to the practice.
- Dead hangs (grip the pull-up bar with a shoulder-width grip and stay in this position)
- Isometric biceps curls (try bending the elbow of one arm up while the other arm pushes down to provide resistance to the movement)
- Glute bridges (or small bridge, lifting the pelvis or lifting the pelvis, consists of
- Wall squats
« How long you perform these movements depends on your fitness level. If you’re just starting out, try doing the exercise for three to 10 seconds. But if you can do up to 30 seconds, that’s reasonable too. Just listen to your body and gradually increase the time. » The expert further recommends performing at least three sets (all repetitions performed without rest for a bodybuilding exercise) of a given exercise. “ Then, as you get stronger, you can make the task more difficult by using resistance or weight to hold the area you’re working on in a static position. But you should always remember that the key to isometric exercise is the lack of joint and muscle movement. »
How to get the most out of your isometric training?
« If you think of a fitness routine as a music concert, then isometric exercises are the warm-up act, not the headliner. ”, says Dr. Dakkak. However, we must remember how important it is to always maintain the correct posture, namely that the execution of the exercise precedes its duration. However, be careful not to deprive yourself of isotonic exercises completely, which would mean losing the benefits (and gains) of full strength training. ” I would much rather have people do both concentric and eccentric movements if they can tolerate them than just focus on isometrics. “, the doctor continues, specifying that ” no research suggests that isometrics can improve speed or athletic performance, but some support the use of concentric and eccentric exercises to effectively build muscle mass. » So it is the isometric mode combined with other modes (concentric or eccentric) that will allow progress in bodybuilding: if performance remains the primary goal, it is ideal to work on all forms of contraction during training.
And even in the case of exercises performed in the “low impact” mode, it is also important to consult a doctor before doing isometric exercises in case of injury, trauma or recent surgery. In all cases, beginner or not, it is advisable to pay special attention to your physical form, otherwise you risk putting yourself at serious risk of tendon and muscle injuries (tendinopathy, strains, strains) and not even building muscle effectively. “Form is key to a successful workout, so if you can, have a health and sports professional, such as a physical therapist or certified trainer, shadow you initially.», he advises. Once you master the exercises, Dr. Michael Dakkak concludes his recommendations by saying that consistency is also important in the field of bodybuilding. In other words, ” sticking to an exercise routine means your reps, sets and endurance will increase. You will become stronger and achieve your athletic goals. »
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