Tom's 1 Minute Pro Tips - What is an Isometric Exercise?

Posted On Nov 8, 2018 By Tom Holland

A woman performing an isometric exercise.

When it comes to strength training there are three primary types of muscle contractions: Concentric, eccentric, and isometric. “Concentric” refers to the “up” phase of the repetition, as in the raising of a dumbbell towards your shoulder in a biceps curl. When you perform a concentric contraction the muscle shortens.

"Eccentric" refers to the "down" part of the repetition, like when you lower the dumbbell back down from your shoulder to the starting point of a biceps curl. During these contractions the muscle lengthens.

So what then is an "isometric" contraction? The term isometric comes from the Greek and means "having equal measurements." Thus, as it relates to strength training the muscle neither shortens nor lengthens, yet there is a contraction.

Confused? Wondering what types of exercises are isometric and what benefits they bring? What this 60-second video to find out!

Video Transcript

What Is An Isometric Exercise?

Hi, I'm Tom Holland, BowFlex Fitness adviser.

What is an isometric exercise?

You're probably already doing them, you just don't know what they are. So an isometric exercise is one where the muscles neither shortens or lengthens, but you're still activating it and you're still working it and it's a great way to mix up your routine.

So two examples of isometric exercises, one would be a squat that you hold so Bo will demonstrate. If she squats down into a seated position and just holds it like a wall sit, she's working those muscles, but they're not lengthening or shortening, but they're still being worked. And one other super popular isometric exercise is the plank. So Bo will demonstrate a straight arm plank.

Again there's no movement. The muscles of her lower back, of her arms, of her abdominals they're not contracting or shortening or lengthening, but they're being worked.

So there you have it. Two different examples of isometric exercises.

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