Updated: Dec 1, 2018
Isotonic exercises are exercises such as squats, bench press, barbell rows, shoulder press and bicep curls for example. An isotonic exercise is when the muscle shortens while maintaining equal tone of any movement from weight training to running, rowing or cycling. Some of the benefits of isotonic exercise are it builds muscle, improves bone density and improves osteoporosis.
I would personally recommend isotonic exercise to clients or individuals who are injury free and are looking at keeping their muscles and bones strong and healthy aswell as improving range of motion and keeping their muscles functional.
Isometric exercises do not move a muscle through a range of motion like Isotonic exercises. Isometric exercises the muscles are stable and there is no change in length, an example of this is a front plank, side plank, push up hold, wall squat hold or Yoga boat pose. Isometric is always going to be exercises that are holding a certain position as oppose to pushing reps like Isotonic exercises.
Some of the benefits of Isometric exercises are joint flexibility, a rehabilitative effect on muscles an example of this is someone with a damaged shoulder who goes to the physio may not be able to perform external rotation exercises with light dumbbells so the physio will often get the client to push against a wall so the same muscle groups are recruited to strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the scapula to improve the shoulder injury. Isotonic really comes down to basic physics, a force is a push or a pull if you push up against a wall for long enough you train your chest and triceps if you tie a towel around a pole and pull as hard as you can you are training the muscles of your upper back and biceps. Bruce Lee used many forms of Isotonic exercises back in the 70s with his Karate in order to build great strength whilst not putting on too much muscle mass. This all contributed to Bruce Lee’s super human power to weight ratios.
I recommend incorporating both Isotonic and Isometric exercises in your exercise routine as everyone can benefit from training both types. To really get the most out of your Isometric training you must hold until absolute failure the same concept as training to failure with your Isotonic exercises.
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About the Author Nic Rider is a corporate health and well-being coach with 8 years experience in the health and fitness industry. He is one of the top age group triathletes in Australia practicing what he preaches as he believes in leading by example to help inspire others. Nic has coached 100's of corporate professionals to start exercise, lose weight, build muscle and improve cardiovascular health along with injury rehabilitation. He has coached clients to run marathons and participate in triathlons along with climb mountains in the Himalayas.