Isotonic Exercises for Strength
Isotonic exercises involves challenging a muscle (or group of muscles) with resistance that can be overcome. Strength training, resistance training, and body weight exercises can all be examples of isotonic exercises.
Isotonic differs from isometric because there is movement. If an exercise is held static because the muscle can't overcome the resistance, it's no longer isotonic.
Push ups are one example of an isotonic exercise. You don't even need equipment for pushups so it's easy to do them anywhere.
This exercise helps strengthen the chest and arm muscles while also recruiting core muscles, so it's a great exercise to work multiple muscles.
Increase the Intensity
If regular pushups no longer feel like a real challenge, add equipment such as medicine balls and BOSU balls to increase the intensity of your workout.
As with any isotonic exercise, decreasing the stability increases the intensity. Practice proper form and move slowly and with purpose to get the best results.
While you may remember several examples of isotonic exercise from your school gym class, these exercises are great for all ages.
Pull ups can be performed on monkey bars while your children play nearby, or purchase a pull-up bar for a doorway at home. You can also use a pull-up assist machine at the gym if you aren't quite ready to pull up your body weight entirely.
Biceps curls, tricep dips and many other weightlifting moves are also forms of isotonic exercise.
Free weights can be used at home or at the gym; with the huge range of weight, almost anyone can lift and become stronger. The advantage to free weights is the additional stability required for the movement; exercise machines can be used for lifting, but free weights provide more challenge overall.
Resistance bands travel more easily than weights, so if you find yourself on the road a lot, take these bands with you to fit in an isotonic workout.
Resistance bands are versatile and effective for both lower body and upper body workouts.
Crunches for Abs
Sit-ups and crunches target your core and are a good form of isotonic exercise that requires no equipment.
You can also target your core with standing crunches or other core exercises if you don't like the traditional exercise.
Lunges will strengthen your glutes and thighs.
They're simple to perform, but you can challenge yourself further by holding hand weights in each hand as you step forward or backward. Add hammer curls or overhead presses with the weights as you drop into the lunge for even more increased difficulty.
Equipment Assisted Exercise
Weight machines at the gym can provide isotonic workouts. Many people prefer machines so they can increase their weight without fear of dropping equipment or causing injury.
While gym equipment is convenient, it's simply not the best way to build functional strength. Migrate toward free weights to get stronger and more stable.
Squats for Strength
With or without weights, squats help build strength and endurance.
Add an element of cardiovascular training by trying squat jumps, or increase the difficulty of squats by adding a barbell or other type of weight. Doing squats on an unstable surface like a BOSU also increases the intensity significantly.
Whether you call it a squat thrust or a burpee, this challenging exercise recruits the muscles throughout your body to complete a rep.
A full burpee includes a push-up or push-off at the bottom of the movement, while a "half-burpee" involves hopping the feet forward and back while in a plank position.
Deadlifts can be challenging and correct form is essential for not getting injured with this exercise. To do a weighted deadlift:
- Stand with feet around hip-width apart with the barbell on the floor in front of you. Keep your knees soft.
- Squat down, and with an overhand grip, grasp the barbell as you stand back up.
- Hinging at the hips and keeping your spine neutral (not rounded), hinge forward to bring the barbell to around mid-shin level - stay higher if tight hamstrings won't allow a full move.
- Return to standing tall and repeat.
It's especially important to exercise the muscles of the back if you also spend time exercising the abdominal muscles.
Back extensions will help strengthen the erector spinae - the opposing muscles of the rectus abdominis. This exercise can be done with equipment as shown here, or while lying prone on a mat.
Chest presses can be done with hand weights, barbells, kettlebells, or just about any other form of additional weight.
The woman pictured here is using the stability ball to increase the intensity of the exercise; her core muscles are working to keep her stable on the ball, so it's not just her chest muscles at work here.
A quick glance into a busy gym will reveal many exercisers engaged in isotonic movements.
While cardio exercise is certainly beneficial, building strength will help you avoid injuries in your activities of daily living. Strive for at least two isotonic workouts weekly to derive the best results.