While most people can’t list examples of isometric contractions in sports off the top of their heads, athletes have always espoused the power of isometrics – they may just refer to it as a hold, weight training or resistance training. In fact, isometrics play a huge part in most professional competitions; so much so that athletes often incorporate isometric exercises into their training to remain at peak performance.
What Are Isometric Contractions?
Muscle contractions are categorized into three types: isometric, concentric and eccentric. Concentric contractions happen while the muscle is shortening, and eccentric contractions occur when the muscle is lengthening. Isometric contractions, however, occur while the muscle stays at the same length and the joint angle stays at the same position.
Take one of the toughest sports in the world: rugby. Isometric contractions actually play a huge part in this full-contact sport, especially in a ‘scrum.’ A scrum requires an incredible amount of upper-body strength, since players are packed closely together and pushing forward. And because there’s a high risk of injury in scrumming, the strongest players are often found in the front row.
2. Weight Lifting
Professional weightlifters love using isometric workouts because isometric contractions recruit all motor units in a certain muscle group and offer a low-impact alternative to weight training. And because they’re static, isometric exercises allow weight lifters to practice certain holds and even fix their overall form.
Forget the batting cages – isometric force is apparently a better predictor of a baseball player’s performance. Upper-body isometric exercises are typical for baseball player’s off-season training, but according to one interesting study by East Tennessee State University, the more force a subject could apply to an isometric workout, the better their batting average, slugging average and home runs were!
Think about the most common moves in full-contact combat sports like mixed martial arts: clinches, triangles, armbars and more all require an incredible amount of strength and endurance. Even holding an opponent against a cage requires an incredible amount of static strength – something that isometric training is perfect for.
Thanks to a new focus on velocity and power in modern professional tennis, players are trying more innovative and effective training methods like isometrics. Lucky for them, a recent study showed that maximal isometric strength training had a positive effect on the power behind player’s tennis serve.
6. Track & Field
Isometrics figure heavily in track and field training, especially with lower body workouts like squat holds and toe raises. But trainers and coaches love isometric workouts because of their ability to target fast-twitch muscles – the type of muscle responsible for reflexes and speed. Of course, isometrics aren’t just for athletes — beginners can benefit from these convenient, low-impact workouts,too.
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