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Differences Between Plyometrics & Isometrics
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.
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.
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- National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 4th edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2015.
- W. Larry Kenney and Jack Wilmore. Physiology of Sport and Exercise, 6th edition, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2015.
Sarka-Jonae Miller has been a freelance writer and editor since 2003. She was a personal trainer for four years with certifications from AFAA and NASM. Miller also worked at 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness and as a mobile trainer. Her career in the fitness industry begin in 2000 as a martial arts, yoga and group exercise instructor. She graduated cum laude from Syracuse University.