For the layman, the term isotonic exercise is probably not one they encounter every day. But even if you do not know the definition of isotonic exercise, chances are you have performed this kind of exercise in your routine. So what exactly is an isotonic exercise? The term sounds so technical but actually, it’s not complicated at all. The term isotonic comes from the Greek ‘isotonos’ which means ‘stretched equally’. Isotonic exercises are exercises which involve a constant amount of tension throughout each set, with no fluctuations in movement. It is usually confused with the term isometric exercises, but they are very different and in fact can actually be considered opposites. Isometric exercises are muscle stretching exercises that are performed in a stationary matter, without the movements of joints. An example of this would be assuming the side plank position or pushing against a wall.
On the other hand, if you use your joints in a controlled manner of contraction and extension, you are performing an isotonic exercise. Isotonic exercises are important because it strengthens muscles, builds endurance, increases flexibility and exercises the joints. For instance, isotonic exercises may be performed by body builders in the form of lifting barbells and other forms of weights. This builds up their lean muscles, defines its shape and in the long run they can lift more and more weights with relative ease. Another example would be when swimmers do exercises to strengthen their arms, catapulting them faster in the water during competition.
Isotonic exercises are not only performed in preparation for a sports competition or for aesthetic purposes. Isotonic exercises are also used to rehabilitate patients who have undergone an operation or people who need physical therapy. In these cases, mild to moderate isotonic exercises are performed. Some can be as simple as the repetitive bending of the elbows and knees, to lubricate the joints and to keep muscles from atrophying. These exercises are done under the guidance of licensed physical therapists who know the anatomy of the muscles very well and the benefits that isotonic exercises in specific areas can bring.
Every person’s body will require a unique set of isotonic exercises, depending on that person’s physical condition. This is why most top level professional athletes will have a unique routine designed for them which has been formulated by their private coach (or team of coaches) or sports physician. If you’re not a competitive athlete you can still get a personalized isometric exercise plan with the help of a fitness instructor.
Before taking on isometric exercises, it is best to consult with your doctor first in order to avoid injury. You should also follow all the safety tips that will come from your fitness instructor to avoid muscle and joint damage, especially for exercises involving weights.