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Isometric exercises

Isometric exercises are the exercises in which the muscle fibers shorten slightly during contraction, however there is no joint motion. A muscle may be contracted at any point during ROM to stabilize a joint. This can be done with or without applying external resistance.

Isometric contractions are useful in early rehabilitation when regaining muscle control and reeducation of the muscle is crucial.

The picture shows how to do Isometric exercises for neck
Isometric exercises for neck

Isometric exercises increase static muscle strength, which is critical for the functional stability of involved joints.

The exercises may be combined with the stabilization exercises in a home exercise program.

The advantages of isometric exercises in a therapeutic exercise program include:

  • minimal joint irritation
  • stimulation of joint mechanoreceptors
  • muscular pumping action, which decreases swelling and edema
  • minimal neural dissociation and atrophy
  • slightly increased static muscle strength
  • improved functional stability of involved joints.

The disadvantages of isometric exercises include:

  • lack of eccentric work
  • difficulty increasing endurance
  • increased strength only at the joint angle at which the patient is training
  • minimal joint feedback with only slight compression
  • difficulty motivating the patient.

According to the Dorland's medical dictionary:

Isometric is defined as:

1. maintaining the same measurements; of equal dimensions.

2. maintaining uniform length; see under contraction and exercise.

Isometric resistance:

The resistance for a isometric exercise may come from:

The body's own structure and ground

Structural items (e.g., pushing against a fence)

Free weights, weight machines, or elastic equipment (e.g., holding a weight in a fixed position)

Pressure-plate-type equipment that has a digital display of maximal force