An Isometric Contraction is the tensing up of a muscle without moving the angle of a joint. This can be achieved with or without weights. In this article I’d like to focus on explaining an isometric contraction on its own without a weight. Before I do, ask yourself, why do people lift weights?
To be stronger? To be firmer and more toned? To develop bigger muscles? To lose weight? To fight osteoporosis? All of these are acceptable answers, but rather than explain the “why” it explains the result of the "why".
Lifting weights causes the fibres of the muscles to contract and tense up. This stress and stimulus causes the muscles to breakdown and rebuild themselves tighter, firmer and in some cases bigger, thus making you stronger.
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Try picking up a pencil. It's very light and requires very little tension and contraction. So there’s not much benefit in lifting a pencil. No matter how many times you pick that pencil up you won’t develop much muscle, nor will you get toned and trim.
So how does tensing a muscle while holding nothing stimulate you to develop tighter, firmer muscles?
The answer is in the tension. The tension and intensity of a contraction is the stimulus that produces new muscles growth. Weight lifting is an artificial means of causing your muscles to tense. Because an object is perceived as heavy by your body it recruits more muscle fibre than a light weight, like a pencil. This recruitment of more muscle fibre causes extra tension – hence extra stimulation, and so you get tighter firmer muscles.
The fact is an Isometric Contraction is the voluntary tensing of a particular muscle. This tension needs only to be held for about 7 seconds (if you are tensing the muscle properly you should be quite fatigued by this stage as the all the fibres in the muscle are stimulated).
The funny thing is people spend small fortunes every day purchasing expensive gym memberships and hiring personal trainers that waste they’re time and money. I'll show you why. If you’ve ever lifted weights, even if it’s only a light dumbbell or a can of peas you will notice that you lift the weight from a stretched out position to a contracted tight one.
For instance in a bicep curl you start with you arm by your side and curl the weight up to your shoulder. It is only in the last second of the movement that you actually contract the maximum amount of muscle fibres. In an Isometric Contraction you hold this position for seven seconds with total tension. This means you do seven times the work. But becasue you don't waste time doing the useless part of the movement you get your workout done far faster.
If you’d like to learn more about Isometric Contraction and why it works check out the articles page for more information