Isometric exercises are a kind of strength training exercises which do not alter the joint angle and muscle length during contraction. These exercises are done in a fixed position trough a range of motions. Isometric exercises have been popular muscle-building tools but recently, these exercises are gaining a lot of attention by way of introducing effective ways to develop speed by working the fast twitch muscle fibers to give speed and agility to the athletes. Let us understand how these exercises for speed work.
The modus operandi of isometric workouts is that they work the muscles by contracting and tensing one muscle against another muscle or against an immovable object, keeping the length of the muscle unchanged throughout the entire process. Such muscular tension is maintained over a certain period of time to derive the benefits of these exercises. To understand how isometric exercises for speed work, let us try and understand the basics of isometric muscle contraction.
Muscle fibers are of three types - Slow Twitch Fibers, Fast Twitch Fibers and Intermediate Twitch Fibers - and the roles they play greatly differ. Slow twitch fibers impart strength and endurance to the muscle and these muscles can endure extensive repetitive contractions without giving in to fatigue. Fast twitch fibers give speed and agility to the muscles and work ten times faster than slow twitch fibers. The fast twitch muscle fibers enable the generation of great speed in movement over short periods of time. Popular isometric exercises involve the use of weights as resistance, but training with weights is not an effective way to train for speed. This is where Resistance Training and Resistance Band Exercises make a grand entrance!
What is Resistance Training?
Resistance training is a way of muscle training where resistance is a function of speed. Take, for example, water. When you work out in a swimming pool, the faster you move your limbs, the more resistance is offered by the viscosity of water. A resistance training program is unlike training with stack weight. Here, you oppose the resistance of the force of gravity to move faster and gravity neither helps nor hinders the workout - it simply contributes towards building speed by conditioning the fast twitch muscles to work resist its force when moving the muscles faster. Isometric exercises with resistance bands also incorporate a similar mechanism. The faster you wish to move your limb, the more you face resistance from the variable elastic potential of these bands.
Examples of Isometric Workouts for Speed Using Resistance Bands
Sit upright in a chair with your legs holding down the resistance band shoulder width apart. Keeping your abdominal muscles tight, knees bent and chest relaxed, stretch the band upwards, holding the ends in both hands, stopping just before the elbow joints are stretched to a 180° angle. Bring your arms downwards by bending your elbow vertically, stopping just as your elbow joints align with the shoulders. Keep repeating.
Step on the resistance band keeping the legs shoulder width apart. Stretch and hold resistance band at shoulder level, keeping the hands together under your chin . Start with full squats and repeat while holding the hands and resistance band in the same position.
Step on resistance band keeping your feet hip-width apart. Step back about a couple of feet on the left leg, standing on the ball of the foot. This way, the resistance band is held down by the right foot. Holding the band with both hands at chest level, start with lowering the body by bending the right hip and knee till the right thigh is parallel to the ground and the right thigh-and torso makes an L-shape. Return to starting position, repeat 10-15 times and resume the entire workout on the left side.
Before you start with any isometric exercise routine you must remember a few things to avoid injury and physical harm and derive the most from your workout. Go through the following isometric exercise tips and tricks to gain the most out of your training session.
Isometric Exercise Tips and Tricks
- Check if you have high blood pressure problems. Isometric exercises tend to increase the blood pressure of your body within seconds and these exercises could prove fatal if you already have high blood pressure issues. Consult your physician in this regard.
- Isometric workouts are most effective when repeated regularly. Repeated resistance builds up muscle strength and when training for speed, the more you repeat the tension on the fast twitch muscles, the stronger and more capable they become to handle resistance at high speed.
- Breathe through your nose to get air that is sufficiently filtered. Clean air ensures more stamina which is required for the repetitive routines of isometric exercise. Also, since our bodies are designed for nose breathing, our systems assume us to be in a state of panic when we breathe through our mouths and switches to "stress-mode", depleting our energy resources .
- All exercises should be performed with a calm state of mind. Heightened emotional states can mar your focus, increasing chances of physical injuries. Also, breathing becomes uneven when you are under mental or emotional stress, hindering the regular and smooth supply of air to your lungs. This would tire you out sooner than usual, preventing you to reap the full benefits of your exercise session.
- Make sure the intensity of the muscle contractions is high, when you are doing isometric exercises for speed. If the contractions applied to tense the muscles are not intense enough, they would not do much to work your muscles.
- Last but not the least, make sure to warm up appropriately before starting on your routine training. This way, your body would be ready for the subsequent action.
Outstrip competition with these isometric exercises and develop a healthy body in lieu of it. Also, stronger muscles are better at recuperating from common sports injuries. Besides developing speed and strength, isometric workouts are a great and easy way to stay in shape and cut all that unwanted flab. Most of these exercises do not require any equipment and can be done anytime, anywhere. So, keep moving and stay fit!