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Isometric Exercises May Be Right for You

By Paul Rothbart

Exercise is vital to good health. Working out usually involves movement. In some exercises such as running, biking, or swimming, you actually move from place to place. Even workouts that keep you in one area such as a stationary bike or weight training, you are still moving parts of your body. There is a form of exercise that involves very little movement yet can still be effective. Isometric exercise can be used on its own or in conjunction with other types of workouts. It has its pros and cons and it might be right for you.

How It Works

When performing isometric exercises, tension is placed on a muscle or muscle group without moving the associated joints. Muscles are contracted and held in a state of tension for a brief period. This can improve endurance as well as strengthen the muscles. The muscles are contracted in two ways. Isometric contraction involves increasing muscle tension while maintaining the same length. Isotonic contraction keeps the tension constant but changes muscle length. It is the former type of contraction that is at the heart of isometric exercise.

Benefits of Isometrics

There are many benefits to isometric exercises. They are generally easier to learn and perform with proper form. For people who have an injury or condition that limits movement, isometrics may be ideal. They have been found to be a good choice for people with osteoarthritis and knee or back pain. Some studies have discovered that isometric exercise may be helpful in lowering blood pressure. A study conducted in 2015 found that isometric exercise can improve endurance and stability, allowing weight to be held for longer periods.

Risks of Isometrics

Isometrics tend to be less intense than dynamic forms of exercise but they do have risks. If performed improperly, an isometric exercise could cause an injury or make an existing one worse. The plank, a very popular exercise for the core, is an example of an isometric that can cause damage. Poor form can place stress on the lower back. This can lead to injury. Over time, poorly performed planks can cause severe back damage. Just as with any type of exercise, it's a good idea to consult with a professional who can demonstrate proper form and observe how well you perform the exercise.

It's important to get regular exercise and equally important to choose the right one for you. Isometrics have research to prove their effectiveness and may work well for people who are limited in how much they can move. Take the necessary precautions. You can ask your doctor and perhaps a professional trainer if you might benefit from isometric exercises.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Carlsbad, Calif.

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