There’s certainly no lack of different exercises and fitness routines out there. And I usually like to try them all. I’m not saying I stick with everything I try, but variety is the spice of life and what successfully works for one person may not be effective or successful for another. This is why it’s so important to keep an open mind and try different things. This is why the focus of today’s post is an exercise method used by one of the world’s most well-known martial artists: Bruce Lee.
Even if you’re not into martial arts, the safe bet is that you’ve at least HEARD of Bruce Lee, who can be recognized for his speed and martial arts prowess as well as his lean, muscular physique. Lee was a practitioner with very much the same mind set as my own, that the martial arts is a fluid and evolving thing and one needs to keep an open mind and try different things. One of his preferred methods of exercising, besides all the extra stuff he did, was isometric exercises.
In case you’re unfamiliar, isometric exercises are exercises that are performed by contracting muscle groups without moving the specified body part. And example of this would be to place your closed fist against a solid wall and pushing hard. The muscles on your arms will contract and flex without any full movement of the arms (unless your wall caves in, in which you’ve got bigger problems to worry about than fitness!)
Isometrics is an interesting concept, especially if you want to do some strength training but don’t have the room in your home for a weight gym and/or can’t afford a commercial fitness centre’s outrageous monthly fees. For myself, I especially like certain isometric exercises, because they allow me to get some rudimentary strength training in, considering my propensity for selling and/or eliminating all my belongings.
But like everything else in life, there are pros and cons to isometrics, and that’s what I’d like to cover today. I’ll start with the pros, since it’s always more fun to start with the positive:
- You can strength train with minimal space: Like I mentioned above, isometric exercises allow you to flex and contract your muscle groups without moving your body. You can do this with the majority of your body’s muscle groups, and you can easily find a batch by searching Google for “isometric exercises”;
- It strengthens your muscles rapidly: Isometrics essentially forces you to keep your muscles contracted for a longer period of time than a traditional weight exercise. This means that your muscle is providing a maximum effort for a longer period, which is what causes the muscle damage needed to increase strength. You may only have a second or two of “max effort” during a traditional exercise, but if you hold the pressure during the isometric equivalent for 8 to 12 seconds (which is what’s suggested on Bruce Lee’s workout website) you increase that max effort tenfold;
- Isometrics can be done while injured: Now, take this one with grain of salt… I often mention that I’m not a doctor, and I am NOT advocating that you work out while you are injured. But given the nature of this type of exercise, it can be performed without any movement, thereby ensuring you don’t aggravate the injury while continuing your strength training.
Now that I’ve covered off some of the pros, let’s look at some of the cons behind isometric training. I found most of this on the Mayo Clinic’s website, with some of my own thrown in as well.
- Isometric training provides limited strength range. Because your limb is sitting in only one position, it’s only strengthened in that one position. One would need to perform isometric exercises in various positions with the same limb in order to improve your strength throughout its full range;
- Isometric exercises ONLY improve strength. According to the Mayo Clinic article, “since isometric exercises are done in a static position, they won’t help improve speed or athletic performance.” This means that it’s extremely important to include other types of physical exertion in order to ensure you gain the full benefits of working out;
- Isometric exercises can raise your blood pressure. Isometric exercises can increase your blood pressure, and can cause a dramatic increase if you already have high blood pressure issues. So you either need to exercise at a lower level of intensity or check with your medical practitioner before getting too deeply into it. Of course, you should consult your doctor before starting ANY radical change in your workout routine.
There you have it; some good and some bad. A balance, if you will. As should be the case with all things in life. Isometrics looks pretty interesting, and I look forward to trying it out in conjunction with my other stuff. It’s particularly good for people who work at a desk over long hours. It’s super easy to tense, hold and release your abs, gluten, arms and legs while sitting at one’s desk.
The arms might be a bit problematic, especially if you have to, you know, consistently type and stuff… One of the best aspects about fitness is that there’s always something new to learn and try. Everyone is different, so it’s important to find something suited to your likes and needs. ☯