Did you know that you can work your leg muscles without actually moving them? Yes, it is true, and it is possible through something called isometric leg exercise. This form of training has been gaining popularity in recent years and for a good reason.
The principle behind isometric exercises is that you burn fat as you strengthen and tone your muscles without causing the muscle fibers to contract or shorten. Before you start doing these exercises, however, let us first learn more about what you will be getting into.
What Is An Isometric Leg Exercise ?
Meaning of isometric
According to the dictionary, the word “isometric” means having an equal dimension or in physiology, any muscular action that develops tension without any muscle shortening. If that makes sense to you, let us break it down further.
So there are generally two ways that muscles contract: through isotonic and isometric contractions.
Isotonic contractions are those that happen when the length of the muscle fibers change. Like anything else, your muscles either shorten or elongate when you move.
People call muscle shortening, concentric motion, an example of which is the extension of the triceps and elbow extensor muscles. Eccentric motion or muscle elongation happens when a movement is towards the opposite direction of muscle contraction. As like when you flex your lower arm when you bend your elbow joint.
Why you should do isometric leg exercises
Isotonic exercises are those that we are most familiar with and use equipment like the best leg press machines. These are the movements where the muscle goes against some sort of resistance that it can overcome. In other words, you can use your strength to resist this load or weight, and the muscle either elongates or shortens to do so. This exercise helps in muscle activation.
This type of exercise muscle endurance and strength but may not do much for your cardiovascular health. A typical example of an isotonic exercise is lifting a barbell or a bag of groceries.
Isometric contractions, on the other hand, are those that occur without any change to the length of the muscles. Basically, you can still generate force and tension. But you are not performing any actual movement.
Therefore, isometric exercises are those that require you to hold a pose or stay in a static position in contrast to performing repetitive motions. These usually include pilates and yoga poses.
Isometric exercises are better at raising your heart rate and taxing the cardiovascular system. Because of this, they cannot be done as often or as long as similar isotonic exercises.
Isometric exercises could also use resistance. As long as the muscle works against it is not strong enough to overcome it or cause a movement. When you use all of your muscle strength to resist this force without causing the attached joint to move, the muscle contracts but does not shorten or elongate.
Imagine doing squats with a very heavy weight. You start to do a few squats and then eventually come to a point when you are squatting down, but no matter how hard you engage your leg muscles and push your feet against the floor, you cannot stand back up. The first squats you performed were isotonic movements, and the last one was isometric.
What Are The Benefits Of Doing Isometric Leg Exercises?
There are a lot of advantages and benefits of doing isometric leg exercises. Here are some of the most notable ones:
1. They Take Less Time To Complete And Are Super Convenient
Don’t have enough time to exercise? No available machine or gym equipment that you can use? All of these are not problems when you are doing isometric exercises.
Essentially, all you need is your body weight, some space, and an optional yoga mat — no need for any special equipment or gym membership.
Also, isometric training is among the most convenient ways to work your muscles. You can do it anytime, anywhere. It also takes less time to complete. If you only have an afternoon break, you can still perform isometrics without sacrificing too much of your time.
2. They Help Improve Your Flexibility
If executed properly, isometric exercises are great for enhancing your flexibility. In doing so, they help improve your performance in other activities. This also significantly reduces your risk of getting injured.
3. They Promote And Boost Muscle Strength
Like any muscle training, isometric exercises are very good in developing muscle strength and endurance. They do this by engaging all of the motor units of your muscles at the same time, leading to leaner and stronger muscles.
When doing isometric exercises, you hold intense stationary positions without moving any part of the body. This allows you to contract target muscles against your own body weight and increase their strength.
4. They Are Low-impact
Isometric exercises are also great because they are safe and pose a minimal impact on the joints. This way, you can improve your flexibility, endurance, and strength without causing too much stress on the body.
In fact, many people perform isometric exercises during recovery from intense workouts. These help fix muscle imbalances in critical areas like the calves, back, hips, and quads.
5. They Help Speed Up Recovery From Injuries
Isometric exercises are static, low-intensity, and low-impact. That’s why these exercises are perfect for people who have suffered or are recovering from injuries. Not only shorten recovery time but they also strengthen stabilizer muscles to protect the injured muscles and prevent further damage.
The Best Isometric Leg Exercises And How To Do Them
I listed down the best isometric leg exercises. You will find here brief information about their benefits, target muscles, how to perform them properly, and precautions to observe when doing them.
The wall sit targets the
lower back, hamstring, calves, glutes, quads, and sometimes the knee.. It strengthens and enhances the endurance of all-important running muscles. It also helps improve the mobility and flexibility of the lower body.
To perform this exercise, begin by standing with the back of your head and your upper back firm against a wall.
How to do it:
- Friend with your back still pushed against the wall, step your feet about two steps in front of you and hold your arms across your chest.
- Bend your knees to lower your body as if you were doing a squat. Do this in a controlled and slow manner until your thighs become parallel to the floor. Keep your back against the wall.
- Hold this position for about five to seven seconds then release and slowly go back up to the starting position.
- Repeat this movement 10 times, gradually increasing the hold time by a few seconds until you can do a full minute.
- Do five repetitions to complete one set.
If you find that this pose or exercise is too easy for you, try alternately lifting your right leg and your left leg for a few seconds before coming back up.
The forearm plank is another great move that helps increase the endurance and strength of the shoulder, leg, and core muscles. It also helps you to get core strength. It also targets the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, transversus abdominis, obliques, and hip adductor muscles.
Assume a plank position on the floor or a mat. Make sure your back is straight, your abs are tight, and your body forms a straight line.
How to Do it
- Bend your arms and slowly lower your upper body as you try to concentrate your weight on your forearms. Always keep your elbows close to your body and never point them inward or outward.
- Engage your glutes and your abs. Hold this pose for ten seconds, increasing the hold time gradually.
- Slowly go back to a standard plank position or the starting position and then repeat.
- Do five repetitions or at least a total of one to two minutes of hold time to complete one set.
Squats are well-known lower body exercises. This is just an isometric hold of the classic. The squat hold targets the lower back, hamstrings, adductors, quads, calves, and glutes.
Start off by standing with your back straight, your core engaged, and your feet about shoulder-width apart.
How to Do it
- To perform a mid-squat hold, bend your knees just until your thighs are parallel to the floor and you look as if you are sitting on an imaginary chair Hold the pose for ten seconds to two minutes.
- For a deep squat hold, do a complete squat where your buttocks are just a few inches above the ground, and your knees go up to your chest. Hold this position for 15 seconds or one to two minutes.
- When you lower your body to a squat, keep your back straight and make sure that your knees do not go farther than your feet.
- Do 10 repetitions to complete one set.
Isometric Calf Raises
Isometric calf raises to strengthen the calves as well as the related muscles for pain-free and efficient running. They also work on the arms and glutes. This exercise is great for calf muscles. This is also a standing leg position.
Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms on your side, and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
How to Do it
- Raise yourself on your toes, balancing your weight on the balls of your feet.
- Hold this position for ten seconds to one minute before lowering your heels back to the starting position.
- Try holding the position for as long as you can while maintaining the proper form.
- Do 10 repetitions to complete one set.
For more details on how to perform this exercise, please watch this video:
If you want to get strong and toned legs, isometric leg exercises are the way to go! Isometric leg exercises are also good as home workouts. They are simple, do not require any special equipment, and most of all are effective.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
Is there any alternative for split squat?
There are three alternatives that you can do instead of split squat to build muscle and build strength. They are front foot elevated reverse lunge, Walking lunge, and Step up. But it can affect differently to your muscle length, muscle fiber, and muscle group.
Are isometric exercises safe?
Isometric exercise is a safe workout as long as you do this training within the limit. It is a dynamic exercise and resistance training. But if you do it continuously then it can create dramatic blood pressure during the training. And if so, then consult with a physical therapist.
What are the benefits of an isometric calf raise?
Isometric calf raise is a benefit for joint angle, abdominal muscles, etc. It will also help you to grow core strength and core stability.