It’s so easy to let regular exercise sessions slip away during day-to-day life. Even when you have the best of intentions, a multitude of factors can seem to conspire against you. We all lead very busy lives, after all, so finding the time to go to the gym or go out for a run can be a very real challenge.
Isometrics –Your Everyday Exercise
That’s where isometric exercise comes in. As opposed to concentric and eccentric exercise, which respectively shorten and lengthen muscles, isometric exercise is a low-impact exercise that tenses muscles without changing their length. When done correctly, isometric exercise actually activates more muscle than either concentric or eccentric movement. It’s static, low impact, easy on joints, requires no equipment and builds muscle stability — important for maintaining strength if you’re injured or too busy to work out often. Best of all, you can do isometric exercise in short workout sessions –as little as five minutes at a time — and still see demonstrable gains.
Isometric exercise is a foundational element of both yoga and Pilates. If you lift weights, isometrics can also help you get through the sticking points of certain lifts. Simply place a stationary bar or weight at the point where you struggle the most, and then push against that point for a few seconds with maximal muscle activation to train your strength there.
People have been doing isometrics for thousands of years, but scientists haven’t spent much time researching it until recently. Since then, they’ve found it has many benefits, including:
Saving time. Each “rep” of isometric exercise involves contracting the muscles involved for only three to 10 seconds, so it’s easy to get several high-energy sets done at home, at the office or even while waiting in line.
Improving body awareness. Taking dynamic movement out of exercises allows you to focus on your breathing and become more aware of which muscles are working to contract and which are turning off or having trouble engaging.
Lowering blood pressure. Regular isometric training can encourage “significant and clinically meaningful” drops in blood pressure readings, particularly for people who start with high blood pressure levels or prehypertension.
Reducing pain. For people who are injured or have previously existing pain, isometric exercise can relieve that pain in a variety of areas, including the lower back and knees.
Minutes a Day With Activ5
Coming out in January 2017, Activ5 is a new, Bluetooth-enabled isometric training device from ActivBody. Throughout the day, it will prompt you to complete short exercise sessions of about five minutes each. It can work as either an accompaniment to normal training at the gym or a way to ease into more daily activity. Since you use the device as part of each exercise, it can measure your muscle activation and integrate the data it collects with your smartphone.
With 50 different exercises and countless mix-and-match routines, Activ5 will work to keep you on your toes and help you stay fit even when time is tight.
Common Isometric Exercises
Isometric training is easy to customize to your fitness level and the time you have available. You can even do it in your office clothes! A few of the most common isometric exercises are:
The plank. Supported by your hands or forearms, the plank builds stability throughout your core, including your abs and upper back.
Prayer pose. Simply press your palms together, as in prayer, and squeeze as hard as you can. You’ll feel your chest turn on as well as your forearms and biceps.
Squat. Hold the position actively, keeping your legs engaged and sticking your chest out to keep your back straight and tall.