Isometric stretching occurs when stretching using isometric contractions, which means a muscle is exposed to tension but its length does not change. So what's the advantage of isometric stretching and how does it differ from normal stretching? Is it really the fastest form of flexibility? This guide will discuss these issues and answer your questions.
How Does Isometric Stretching Work?
Normal stretching causes muscle fibers to elongate. When a muscle which is already stretched is contracted with an isometric contraction, muscle fibers that are at rest in that position stretch as well. While this happens, the muscle fibers already stretching are prevented from contracting, causing them to stretch even more. When the isometric contraction ends, the muscle fibers remember that they can stretch that far and are then able to stretch further than they could before the exercise, giving you additional flexibility in those muscles.
Reasons to Perform Isometric Stretching
- It's one of the fastest ways to improve static passive flexibility.
- It's the safest and most effective way to increase your range of motions.
- It improves strength in stretched positions.
- It's more effective than passive stretching or active stretching by themselves.
- It decreases the pain of stretching.
Examples of Isometric Stretching
- Using your body weight to stretch by placing your leg outstretched onto a chair or other flat surface.
- Holding the ball of your foot while moving the muscles of your calf to straighten up with your toes pointed.
- Trying to force your leg to the ground while a partner holds it up.
- Stretching your calf by pushing against a wall as if trying to move it.
Tips for Isometric Stretching
- Don't do any isometric stretches for 36 to 48 hours after already performing a set.
- Only do one isometric stretch per muscle group in a single day.
- Hold the stretch for 7 to 15 seconds, relax for 20 seconds, then repeat 2 to 5 more times.
- Don't perform isometric stretching if under the age of 18 and your bones are still growing.
- Warmup with 5 to 10 minutes of light aerobic exercise before performing your isometric stretches.
- Isometric stretching is intense and shouldn't be performed before a workout or competition.
- Never use isometric stretching on small muscle groups, like forearms and triceps.
- Isometric stretching should never be performed by athletes just recovering from injury or who have weaknesses in their joints.
If you're interested in increasing your static flexibility and the strength of your muscles while in stretched positions, then it would be advantageous to include isometric stretching in your workout regime. Just remember that these exercises are intense on your body and should be performed correctly. Always make sure you are fit enough to start any new workout.