Isometric Muscle Contractions

2 February 2023
Dr. Raoul Novelli
Reviewed by Dr. Raoul Novelli
Written by Anastasia Lesnikova

    When it comes to the New Year, we all have good intentions. But, when the harsh weather of January strikes and the post-Christmas blues set in, it can be difficult to get motivated. The intention of getting out moving never seems to become a reality. 

    And, for the most part, it doesn’t need to. When it comes to exercising, you can do different types of muscle contractions to help strengthen and tone your body. Until the worst of the winter weather is behind us, why not focus on isometric muscle contractions? These particular movements can be performed statically; that’s right, you can put your trainers away. 

    As with all exercise, a healthy balance of cardio, strength training, and conditioning is best; however, isometric routines are a great way to ease back into a fitness routine or even get started. What’s more, even non-invasive treatments now can give you a bigger kickstart toward your toned physique. Read on to learn more.

    What are Isometric Muscle Contractions?

    In movements where muscle fibres are activated by a force or tension but no movement occurs at a specific joint, an isometric muscle contraction occurs. 

    To put this more simply, when we bend our elbow, one muscle lengthens, and another shortens to allow the movement to take place without causing any damage. In actions where there is no movement at the joint, there is no need for the lengthening and shortening of muscle fibres, meaning a limb does not move. Despite this lack of movement, the muscle fibres are still activated and engaged.

    Different Types of Muscle Contraction

    Muscle contractions refer to the process of creating tension and engaging the muscle’s fibres. Using actin and myosin cross-bridge cycling, fibres are activated in one of three ways: shortening, lengthening, or staying the same.

    Together, these make up the three main distinctions between the different types of muscle contractions. More specifically, referring to how the muscle fibres are activated.

    Isotonic Contractions

    These contractions maintain constant tension in the muscle as the muscle changes length and can be further divided into concentric and eccentric contractions.

    These contractions maintain constant tension in the muscle as the muscle changes length and can be further divided into concentric and eccentric contractions.

    isometric muscle contractions

    Concentric Contractions

    Concentric contractions are characterised by a muscle shortening while generating force and overcoming resistance. An example of this would be the biceps contracting concentrically to lift a heavy weight toward the shoulder.

    Eccentric Contractions

    Eccentric contractions result in muscle elongation while the muscle is still generating force, with resistance greater than the force generated. These contractions can be voluntary and involuntary, such as a controlled lowering of a weight or an involuntary lowering of a weight that is too heavy to lift.

    Isometric Contractions

    As we have mentioned previously, these contractions generate force without changing the muscle length. These contractions are commonly found in the muscles of the hand and forearm responsible for grip and are often used to maintain posture.

    Other phrases that may be heard in reference to isometric muscle contractions are yielding and overcoming. Yielding refers to a contract that involves an opposed resistance, for example, holding a weight steady. Overcoming categorises contractions that face opposition from an immovable object, such as a wall. 

    In both types of isometric contractions, cross-bridge cycling keeps a constant tension within the muscles without altering the muscles’ length.

    Isometric versus Isotonic Contraction

    When comparing isometric and isotonic contractions, the main difference is how the muscle fibres are engaged. Isometric exercises are a form of strength training where a muscle or group of muscles are contracted without any movement in the joint. Isotonic movements are the opposite, engaging a muscle or group of muscles through a contraction when a joint is moving.

    Isometric exercises help maintain muscle strength but are not as effective for building muscle mass, unlike isotonic movements. Isotonic contractions also help to improve someone’s overall fitness, often including other equipment and weights.

    The Benefits of Isometric Exercises

    One of the main advantages of isometric exercises is that they can be used for rehabilitation and general strength training without placing excessive stress on the joints. This is particularly important for individuals who have had joint problems or injuries. Athletes recovering from injuries are often recommended to help keep muscles active during the healing process.

    Additionally, isometric exercises can be performed anywhere and require no equipment, making them a convenient and accessible form of exercise. With the frosty nights of January, it’s possible to sit on the sofa and still get some exercise in. Other examples include holding a plank or some leg lifts.

    Here are four main benefits of these exercises:

    1. Building Muscle Strength and Endurance

    Due to the static nature of these exercises, they cannot affect athletic ability or speed. However, they are useful for building strength. By tightening and activating the muscle fibres of a particular area, these exercises help to enhance our stability. The stationary but intense nature encourages us to engage our core.

    2. Relationship with Blood Pressure

    Research suggests that isometric exercises may effectively reduce and manage high blood pressure. It's important to note, however, while physical activity and dynamic resistance training can be beneficial in lowering blood pressure, individuals with hypertension should act cautiously. Engaging in these activities at a lower intensity level is recommended, as high-intensity exercise will temporarily raise blood pressure. Those with this condition, or other heart-related issues, should always consult their GP before starting any exercise regimen. Additionally, it's essential to avoid holding your breath or straining during weight training exercises, as this can lead to a dangerous spike in blood pressure.

    3. Sports Rehabilitation

    Isometric exercises can be beneficial for individuals recovering from an injury, particularly as they can be done without causing pain. For example, if someone has sustained an injury to the rotator cuff, a consultant may recommend isometric exercises that target the muscle group responsible for stabilising the shoulder. This can help maintain strength in the affected area during the recovery process.

    4. Arthritic Joints 

    Isometric exercises can benefit those with arthritis as they do not involve moving the joints through their full range of motion. By performing isometric movements, individuals with arthritis can improve their strength, and as they become stronger, they can gradually progress to other forms of training. This can help alleviate pain and improve overall physical function.

    Isogei and Transion Technology

    It is possible to increase the intensity of an isometric workout through non-surgical and non-invasive procedures. By opting for treatments that use VIP Italia’s effective Isogei technology, you can receive all the strengthening and toning benefits of isometric movements at a much higher intensity. And, from the comfort of a professional clinic. 

    Isogei technology activates an area's muscle fibres through electrical stimulation. The electrical currents induce real isometric muscle contractions and cause muscles to increase in volume, leaving less space for adipose tissue. Without this fatty tissue surrounding it, the muscles become more prominent, leaving a more toned appearance. Isogei has been proven to increase 26% of muscle strength, in a recent study at an SHRC rehabilitation centre. The results show how particularly effective it is for those who are recovering from an injury.

    The benefit of the Isogei module is that it can be combined with other non-surgical treatments, such as those using VIP Italia’s Transion technology. The Transion method elicits isotonic muscle contractions, those that lengthen or shorten muscles. At the equivalent of achieving 1000 sit-ups in around 25 mins, this movement also encourages torsion - where excess fluids leave the body via the lymphatic system. Not only does this treatment further support slimming and firming when integrated with Isogei, but it is possible to give your muscles a rounded workout. For more information about which devices best deliver these results, contact us today.


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