Isometrics takes its name from ‘Iso’, meaning ‘same’ and ‘metric’, meaning ‘distance’ and refers to a method of exercising muscles in such a way that the muscle itself does not extend or contract.
When training using Isometrics, the muscle is usually worked against an immovable object or worked against an opposing muscle to ensure the muscle being worked does not contract or extend. An example of an isometric exercise could be trying to raise your arm while opposing it using your other arm, or trying to raise your arm while standing close to a wall. The muscle cannot overcome the resistance but is still being worked hard. Examples of Isometric exercises can be found in the book Firefighter Fit which is available from our store.
Isometrics have been used by strength athletes and strongmen for thousands of years and were successfully used to strengthen and build muscle well before dumbbells and barbells were around.
How to use Isometrics in your routine
One disadvantage of isometrics is that you don’t train the muscle through a complete range of motion, as you do with traditional exercises that involve contracting and extending the muscle through dynamic exercises.
For example, in the traditional bicep curl exercise, the muscle is worked from the arms fully extended position to the top position, when the bicep has been contracted. When you curl the barbell or dumbbell, the muscle is worked through the whole exercise movement. With isometrics, the bicep remains in one position and is worked in just one position. The obvious advantage of isometric exercises is that you do not require any equipment to perform a comprehensive workout.
By training the muscle in just one position, greater increases in strength can be attained which is why isometrics are useful exercises when training for specific events. A simple but effective isometric exercise to build strength into your arms and shoulders, but in particular your grip, is to grab hold of a belt or small towel at each end using both hands.
Then work one arm against the other by pulling the towel in opposite directions as if you were attempting to rip it in half. Continue to do this until the muscles are fatigued, which will take around just 60 seconds if you pull with 100% effort.
Give it a go and you may be surprised how effective isometric exercises can be.