Returning to the Gym: Isometrics
As you return to the gym, one technique I highly recommend incorporating into your exercise routine is isometrics. An isometric exercise is one where the muscle develops tension, but doesn’t change length. In other words, you’re holding a static position without and joint movement. Utilizing this tool is a great way to ease back into your normal routine. After some inevitable detraining from missing a few months of the gym, isometrics allows us to stress our central nervous system in a way that is low impact and causes minimal muscle damage. This type of exercise can be especially useful if you have joint pain that limits the frequency you can perform certain movement patterns. For example, if you have knee pain that prevents you from squatting past a certain depth, you can utilize an isometric squat to stress the nervous system outside of your normal range of motion. This can be used as a “starting point” to increase your range of motion in a pain-free manner.
Another benefit to incorporating isometrics into your exercise routine is improving tendon health. Studies have confirmed that isometrics are one of the most efficacious ways to improve tendon health. This applies to a wide population as well. You can utilize this technique for general tendon health, athletic development of tendons to prepare for high impact, or return-to-play/recovery purposes. So, what is the best way to go about incorporating isometrics? As usual, it depends, but there is no wrong way to incorporate isometrics. Depending on the difficulty of your workout, you may want to begin or end with your isometrics. In general, a good starting point is 2 to 3 sets of 10-30 second holds. You can perform bilateral isometrics such as a squat hold. In this case, I would recommend a longer hold (20-30 seconds) depending on the intensity (bodyweight or weighted). Or you can perform a unilateral isometric such as a split squat or lunge hold. For unilateral exercises I usually recommend a shorter interval (10-20 seconds each side) as these are more challenging in terms of balance. As you can see, there are countless different ways to incorporate isometrics into your routine and, I personally believe, everyone should incorporate them in one form or another for the various benefits they bring to the table.
Fitness Professional, Matt Rucinski
Interested in learning more? Contact Matt or one of our other great Personal Trainers to figure out how to get more physical activity and/or exercise into your lifestyle.