Isometrics and plyometrics are similar words but their meaning is very different. Isometrics is a type of exercise that causes muscle contraction without a change in the length of the muscle. Plyometrics involve large, fast movements such as jumping and hopping. The muscles shorten and lengthen as the joints move during plyometric training. These types of exercises achieve different results but may overlap in your training program depending on goals and physical capabilities.
Differences Between Plyometrics & Isometrics
Static and Explosive
Plyometric exercises include explosive movements such as jumping rope, squat jumps and plyometric pushups. Isometric exercises include static exercises like plank bridges, side bridges and static yoga poses. Both isometric and plyometric exercises may target the upper and lower body, including the core. But the way you do the exercises makes all the difference. For example, to perform an isometric pushup simply begin in pushup position and then lower your body halfway to the floor. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds. To perform plyometric pushups, also known as clap pushups, begin in pushup position, lower your body all the way down toward the floor and then quickly push your arms straight as you press your body off the floor and clap your hands.
Plyometric exercises require movement at the joints whereas isometric exercises require no movement at all. Isometrics therefore place no additional stress on the joints whereas plyometrics are typically high-impact. Landing places great stress on your joints, though supportive shoes can lessen the strain. Even catching yourself after a clap pushup stresses your wrists, elbows and shoulders, which doesn’t happen when holding an isometric pushup.
Strong, Fast Muscles
Isometrics increase muscle tissue size and isometric strength. This aides in stabilization training to protect and support the joints. Due to the lack of stress on the joints, isometric exercises are often part of rehabilitation programs for patients with weak joints and muscles. Athletes also benefit from isometric training because it improves their ability to hold positions. However, plyometrics improve athletic performance because workouts make the muscles, joints and connective tissue that hold the two together stronger. Plyometrics improve speed and power, which holding static isometric contractions does not.
Play It Safe
Plyometric and isometric exercises come with different dangers. Isometric exercises cause your blood pressure to elevate. This is due to the high amount of tension in the muscles while contracting during the exercises. Plyometrics are hard on the body, from the above average stress on the musculoskeletal system to the intensity of exercises. You should have a foundation in weight training before doing plyometrics. Also, rest for one minute between repetitions and take three days off between plyometric workouts for recovery.
Isotonic exercise consists of movements using a constant load. The same amount of resistance is used independent of the speed or movement you use during the exercise. By altering the number of repetitions, sets and intensity of isotonic exercises, you can build a tailor-made fitness regimen. Before starting a resistance program, though, consult a physician.
Isotonic movements involve the contraction and shortening of muscles and can improve performance in many sports and day-to-day activities. These exercises have many physiological and physical benefits, such as increasing bone stress and overall energy and promoting weight loss. Lifting weights causes your bones to support a greater tension than normally accustomed to, resulting in more minerals being deposited on your bones and greater overall bone density. Increased muscle mass gained from isotonic training also helps your body burn fat.
Isotonic exercise promotes the development of muscle endurance, muscle tone and muscle strength. These movements have also been shown to improve ligament and tendon strength, helping you prevent injuries, improve posture and develop joint stability. You can also minimize the chance of experiencing lower back pain or arthritis by following an isotonic training regimen. Isotonic training helps you strengthen a muscle throughout a range of movement. It’s also easier to choose sports-specific exercises that mimic movements in your sport of choice.
One chief disadvantage of isotonic movements is that your muscles become quite sore during and after exercise because of the stress experienced during shortening. You might need to take off increased time between isotonic training sessions, delaying your progress. Another drawback is that your muscle strengthens the most at the weakest point of action instead of evenly through the entire movement, meaning the time during which your muscles are being optimally strengthened is limited.
Other Forms of Training
Isokinetic movements involve a muscle contracting and shortening at a constant speed. Using isokinetic training is the quickest way to increase muscle strength but requires the use of special equipment to detect the speed at which a muscle contracts and shortens. Isometric movements, like the plank exercise, do not involve joint movements. The muscle(s) simply contracts, helping you increase static strength. Some stabilizer muscles are activated isometrically in support of other muscles’ isotonic activity.
What Does Plyometric Exercise Mean?
Plyometric exercise is used in sport-specific training to enhance power and performance. Plyometrics is defined as activities that enable a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest amount of time, according to the National Strength and Conditional Association. Essentially, plyometric exercises enhance the series elastic component and the stretch reflex by using movements similar to those used in the athlete’s sport.
Series Elastic Component
The series elastic component, or SEC, is primarily made up of tendons and some muscle tissue. When the SEC is stretched or lengthened, as in an eccentric muscle action, it acts in a similar fashion to a spring and stores energy as it is lengthened. Eccentric action is the lengthening of a muscle such as during the extension of a biceps curl; concentric action is the shortening of a muscle, such as in the flexion of a biceps curl. When the eccentric muscle action is immediately followed by a concentric muscle action, the stored energy is released, resulting in an explosive movement, such as in a jump.
There is also a neurophysiological model of plyometric exercise known as the stretch reflex. This involves the change in force-velocity of a muscle, caused by the stretch of the concentric muscle action. The stretch reflex happens when a quick stretch is detected in the muscles and an involuntary response occurs to prevent overstretching and injury, according to Phil Davies of Sports Fitness Advisor. During plyometric exercise, this results in a powerful concentric muscle action, such as when your feet leave the ground in a squat jump.
Types of Exercise
Plyometrics exercise can be used for upper- or lower-body drills and are typically high intensity. Lower-body plyometric drills might include squat jumps, bounds or box drills. Box drills require the athlete to jump on or off a box. The height of the box and landing surface of the box can vary in size, and box drills may involve the use of both legs or just one leg. Upper-body plyometric drills might consist of medicine ball throws and catches or clap pushups.