The term isometric derives from the Greek words Isos ( which means “equal”) and Metria (which means “measuring”). In the fitness world, Isometric Exercises are exercises that place tension on the muscles but do not lead to movement of the joints.
In essence, this type of exercise builds muscle tone without running, jumping, or lifting a heavy weight off the floor. You’re taking a pose or a stretch and then holding it for as long as possible.
For example, while playing soccer causes the muscles in your legs to expand and contract, leading to greater strength, isometric exercise for your legs would keep them held in one place, contracting the muscle and leading to greater endurance. Though this might sound easy at first, soon your body weight and gravity will start to make your muscles quiver and strain with the stress of simply maintaining this immobile pose. Make sense?
And don’t write Isometrics exercises off as not worthy of your time in the gym. Performed correctly, this family of exercises can hit hard to tone areas of your body, as well as improving balance, breathing, mind-body connection, and stability.
They are also some of the most recommended movements by physical therapists to help the body recover from torn muscles. Seniors, exercise beginners, and even experienced athletes recovering from injuries can all benefit from Isometrics. They are at once easy on your body yet challenging.
And if you haven’t already guessed it by now, Isometric exercise forms the foundation of low-impact families of fitness like Pilates and Yoga. Another advantage of Isometrics is that they require little or no equipment or specialized areas to perform them in. If you can find a wall, a floor, and a mat, you can start trying out these exercises in the park, your home, or the gym.
Some good exercises to begin with are the Elbow Plank and the Wall Sit.
Joel Runyon is the founder of IMPOSSIBLE® - performance lifestyle brand encompassing performance apparel & formulas, IMPOSSIBLE Fitness® programs, and a philanthropy arm. An endurance athlete and entrepreneur - he's also the creator of MoveWellApp and owns Ultimate Meal Plans. Find out what next challenge Joel is crossing off his impossible list here.