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Do Isometric Exercises Work? The Benefits of Isometric Exercise

Isometric workouts are making a comeback, and while we’re seeing an uptick of fitness personalities and experts that swear by the benefits of these exercises as an adjunct to traditional workouts, it’s important to ask the question: do isometric exercises really work?

With the myriad of fitness fads and meaningless exercise trends floating around, people need to find the methods that actually work, and they need to understand why. Thankfully, there’s a mountain of evidence that shows how powerful and effective isometric training can be. Below, we picked some of the most fascinating case studies and research papers offering insights into impressive isometric exercise benefits, such as improving muscle strength, increasing speed, injury recovery, and so much more.

Strength at a Full Range of Motion

It’s one of the most parroted criticisms of isometrics: that isometric training only helps people achieve strength at a specific angle. But there is plenty of evidence that isometrics results in overall strength gains, including one excellent study by Bandy and Hanten that reports an increase in strength at a range of joint angles, not just the specific position that subjects trained isometrically.

Then there’s the remarkable month-long study that found that training isometrically for as little as 7 minutes a day resulted in a 20.5-32.1% increase in strength for the biceps, abdominals, hamstrings, glutes, and more!

Man performing side plank in a gym

Maximal Motor Unit Activation

How does exercise make our muscles stronger and faster? Typically, it’s by increasing the bulk of our muscle fibers. But our neural drive, which is how our nerve endings recruit and signal our muscles, also plays an important part.

Unsurprisingly, research has shown that isometric training can actually recruit more motor units than a dynamic workout, with the ability to recruit 95.2% of a muscle group. Meanwhile, traditional workouts only led to 88.3% recruitment.

Practically speaking, this means isometric training gives people the opportunity to completely exhaust and target all the muscle fibers in a certain part of the body.

Low-Impact Strength Training

Explosive workouts are how you train for explosive sports, right? Not quite. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning recommends isometrics for lower-body strength training, because plyometric training puts intense stress on the joints, muscles and tendons, while isometric training allows for comparable strength gains without putting the body under incredible force.

Amazing for Weight Loss

A study published in the Journal of Applied Research saw that four weeks of isometric training could result in a loss of as much as 3.3 cm of belly fat. Some subject studies have lost as much as 8.4 kg of weight after just two weeks of isometric training. With the impressive results and the ease of the exercises, the study concludes that isometric training is “easier for people with severe time constraints.”

Boosts Endurance

A clinical study of overhead throwing athletes found that incorporating isometric holds along with the prescribed exercises in their training sessions resulted in at least a 10% improvement in their endurance and strength. The study posited that the isometric exercises contributed to muscle bulk for stabilizing muscle groups, allowing for longer holds and greater accuracy.

Better for Blood Pressure

According to a recent paper, isometric exercise may be better than aerobic and resistance workouts at lowering blood pressure. There are multiple studies showing that isometric exercise was able to reduce the systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure of seniors much more effectively than aerobic exercises–and it came without the extra baggage of potential injury.

Chart of muscle activity showing Activ5 activates 39% more muscles for squats. 37% more for lunges, 59% for treadmills and 59% for indoor cycling

Activ5 Challenge Study

When Activbody put the Activ5 device to the test in the Activ5 Challenge Testimonial Study, they found a few interesting outcomes: an average 30% increase of strength over 6 weeks and a weight loss rate of about a pound per week, with around 71% of total weight loss coming from pure body fat.

When the study tracked muscle activity, they also found that squats with the Activ5 activated the muscles 39% more than traditional squats and activated the muscles 55% more than indoor cycling classes.  

The science and the studies don’t lie: isometric exercises do work. Bodybuilders, fitness gurus, and athletes have all attested to how well the exercises work, but thanks to advances in sports medicine, we have a better idea of just how well they can help someone build strength, endurance, and stamina.

And now, innovative tech is making it easier than ever to measure your strength and track your progress. With the Activ5 device and training app, you can try dozens of exercises while getting detailed data on your gains and strength. Find your favorite workout, or play games to keep your exercises exciting. It’s time to join the future of fitness–download the Activ5 Training App for Android or iOS now, to see what isometrics can do for you.

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