Benefits of Isometric Strengthening

Benefits of Isometric Strengthening

Often times, when we think of strengthening we think about someone doing an exercise in which one or more parts of their body are moving.  Squats, rows, and bicep curls are all examples of what we call a concentric or eccentric exercise, meaning there is joint motion occurring, and the muscle is either shortening or lengthening.  An exercise that involves muscle activation without change in joint position is called an isometric exercise which can be a beneficial, safe, and effective way to address weakness.  These exercises can involve holding one particular position such as a squat position or a plank.  It can also involve pushing against a non-moving object such as a wall. These exercises can be done with equipment, but for a large part of them, you don’t need any equipment at all which makes them a great option for home exercise programs (done at home in between therapy sessions) or while exercising on the go!

Another benefit of isometric strengthening is the ability to safely strengthen the muscles that are surrounding a particular joint following surgery or injury, improving muscle activation and priming your musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems for physical activity.   Muscle activation refers to your muscle’s recruitment of motor units.  The more motor units you can recruit, the more efficient your muscles will be.  Recent studies have shown that maximal isometric exercises recruit up to 5 percent more of these motor units than any other type of exercise. In other words, intense isometric exercises utilize about 95 percent of your muscle fibers, as opposed to about 88 – 90 percent that other exercises utilize. Isometric exercises also allow for safe strengthening post operatively when a patient has post-operative restrictions in range of motion or activity.  Gentle contractions of the muscle with the joint in a fixed position are a safe option when initiating strengthening in a patient’s plan of care, as well as help to improve blood flow to those muscles which concurrently helps with healing.

Rear view of a professional male soccer player from waist upwards, wearing a red shirt and white shorts with his arms spread wide in celebration after scored a goal. The player is standing in a generic outdoor floodlit football stadium full of spectators under a dramatic evening sky during sunset.

In summary,  isometric strengthening is a safe and effective way to increase muscle activation and strengthen with little use of equipment.  Ask your physical therapist today if isometric exercises can benefit you or come in to be evaluated by one of our PT’s!

 

 

Posted in: Physical Therapy

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