You will not see many people doing isometric exercises in the gym but that does not mean these don’t offer benefits. Find out what you can expect.
Before going into the positive points it is still worth mentioning that more dynamic exercises tend to be more effective for muscle growth and strength progress if you can do these safely.
1. Isometric exercises can improve muscle endurance
Your muscles are one of the most adaptable tissues inside of your body. In simpler words, pressuring them in safe amounts can make them stronger relatively easily.
The long durations associated with isometric exercises tend to be helpful for improving muscle endurance. You can describe this as being able to exert pressure over long periods of time.
In turn, some of the benefits of muscle endurance are that it can make daily activities easier and help you perform better in certain activities.
For example, wall sits can help you improve quadricep muscle endurance. This will make standing up and walking around easier.
2. Isometric exercises can be less painful
As briefly mentioned, more dynamic resistance training exercises tend to be more effective for growing and strengthening muscles.
Because of this, you may wonder why anyone would ever do isometric exercises.
The answer to that is that in certain situations and with certain conditions, these more dynamic exercises can be (too) painful.
This is especially common in areas like the lower back. Many people will find exercises like crunches uncomfortable in this area.
Instead, you can do something like the plank exercise which works these muscles in an isometric way where you don’t really bend your spine.
3. Isometric exercises can still build muscle
It is worth mentioning that just because isometric exercises tend to be less effective for growing muscles does not mean they don’t offer this benefit.
By using enough resistance and doing the isometrics for long enough, you can still build muscle in the areas you work.
One review of isometric studies concluded that you want to do isometrics for 3 to 30 seconds per set and more than 80 to 150 seconds per workout at 70-75% of maximum voluntary contraction to build muscle (1).
A downside of this conclusion is that maximum voluntary contraction is something you measure with specialized devices.
While the conversion will not be perfect, if you want to build muscle, you can do something like weighted planks with a resistance where the durations above are very challenging.
4. Isometrics involve a relatively low injury risk
Another benefit of isometrics is that your injury risk while doing them tends to be lower than isotonic (dynamic) exercises for a few reasons.
First of all, there is the technique of isometric exercises is generally simpler because you are moving around less.
You can not really go through a range of motion that is too big for your current strength level.
Secondly, moving your joints a lot with certain conditions and injuries can magnify existing problems.
You do still want to keep in mind that it is possible to overdo it with isometrics and do them in suboptimal ways.
Especially if you have any injuries or a sensitive body, you want to be careful and potentially talk to an expert.
5. Isometric workouts are low-impact
Certain types of workouts put your body under a lot of shocks.
While these have their own specific benefits, they also tend to be relatively challenging on your body. In turn, this could lead to injuries if your joints, tendons, and muscles are not strong enough yet.
On the other hand, a benefit of isometric workouts is that they are low-impact. You will not really experience any big shocks or even brusque movements.
6. Isometric exercises lower injury risk and benefit recovery
A big reason why people with injuries or conditions get into isometric workouts instead of completely resting is that the strengthening you do can lower your injury risk and speed up your recovery (2, 3, 4).
Having stronger muscles, tendons, joints, and bones tends to make you more robust to external forces.
Additionally, getting more blood flowing through injured areas by working them with isometrics is typically good for recovery.
As you recover from any injuries and/or make your body stronger, you can consider more dynamic exercises again to get more training results faster.