How can Calisthenics include both Isometric and Isotonic Exercises?

explain how calisthenics can include both isometric and isotonic exercises

When you first got into Calisthenics, you did not immediately turn yourself into a human flag. Neither did you copy that ripped guy who pulled himself so far up that his full torso rose above the bar.

Most likely, you started with the basics. 10 reps of press-ups. 15 squats. Maybe you even sneaked in another set or two when things started to get pretty boring.

Eager to make progress? We got the perfect upgrade for you.

If you’ve heard of isometric and isotonic exercises, then you’re aware of how these two methods are often pitted against each other. However, we gotta break that myth! Combining static and moving workouts can be the key to spice up your calisthenics routine.

In this guide, allow us to explain how calisthenics can include both isometric and isotonic exercises. We will walk you through the basics of calisthenics, isometric, and isotonic exercises, and how your body can get the best out of all three.

What is calisthenics?

Calisthenics Strong with isometric and isotonic exercises

No equipment? That’s not a problem. 

Calisthenics is a training method that builds strength, endurance, and coordination with exercises that rely on nothing but your own body weight. 

It can be traced back to ancient Greece, thus being named after the words Kalos and Sthenos. With the literal translation of “beauty” and “strength,” calisthenics can be considered as the art and science of beautiful movements. 

Don’t be shy, we know you often check your bum out in the mirror while doing squats.

What started out as an advocacy to secure beauty and strength among school children now evolved into a trusted fitness training. Calisthenics has been a staple workout for law enforcement officers, military personnel, athletes, and practically anyone committed to staying in shape. More than being a mere warmup for more advanced routines and sports, it’s also being studied as a treatment for physical and mental health conditions.

The bottom line is that calisthenics is more than just taking cool Instagram-worthy photos. As you flex your biceps, your brain gets to work too!

Isotonic and Isometric Exercises – what’s the difference?

Both are foundations for muscle training. Both can also make anyone drop dead after an intense gym workout (trust me, you’re not alone).

But what sets isotonic apart from isometric exercises? Simply put, one requires body movement to induce muscle contractions while the other relies on holding a still position to do so. Let’s dive deeper, shall we?

Isotonic exercises

Isotonic Exercises

If you break down its name’s Greek origin, isotonic roughly translates to “equal tone.” As you shorten or lengthen your muscles, you maintain the same level of tension throughout the exercise.

Isotonic exercises can do wonders for your endurance in daily activities, among many other benefits:

  • Enhances your cardiovascular health
  • Builds muscle strength
  • Strengthens your bones by improving its density, thus lowering the risk of osteoporosis
  • Optimizes your joints’ range of motion

Though basic bicep curls, stair climbing, push-ups, and squats seem like a no-brainer, isotonic exercises demand proper execution for you to make progress. Some gym-goers even have the mantra “if it feels so easy, you’re doing it wrong!”

Isometric Exercises

Isometric Exercises

Meanwhile, isometric also goes by the term “static strength training,” and its Greek root roughly means “same measure.” Unlike isotonic exercises, you don’t have to move your muscles to gain results. 

Instead of relying on muscle expansion and contraction, isometric exercises induce tension on your body as you hold a still position.

Even if you have limited space for working out or if your joints aren’t in top shape to do isotonic routines, you can reap the following benefits with isometric exercises:

  • Helps bring down your blood pressure
  • Increases your joints’ flexibility
  • Gives a rehabilitative effect on your muscles
  • Lowers your cholesterol levels
  • Perfect for muscle toning with higher muscle contractions
  • Great for your digestion

Isotonic versus Isometric Exercises

Grab that water bottle near you, and allow us to explain the difference between these two exercises with a little demo.

Hold the can firm, as you would do with a dumbbell. Keeping your elbow joints still, lift the bottle up towards your body. What you just did is caused “concentric muscle contraction” through the shortening of your muscles.

Now, release the tension and lower the bottle down to its original position. With this move, your muscles lengthened and experienced “eccentric muscle contraction.”

The combination of these two movements explains how isotonic exercises work. With specific movements, your muscles are strengthened from the tension it gets from constant changes in length.

Moving forward, raise your bottle so your arms are of the same level as your shoulders. Keep still, and hold it for a few seconds. Feel that pressure? That’s how isometric exercises get its job done. Even without the ranged movements that isometric routines require, your muscle is strengthened by the stagnant position you prolong.

How do isotonic and isometric exercises fit in the world of calisthenics?

Here we explain how calisthenics can include both isometric and isotonic exercises

The basic workouts you’ve tried in calisthenics are most likely classified as isotonic exercises. From squats to sit-ups, all these involved movements to trigger muscle contraction.

In fact, some health gurus consider calisthenics as a form of isotonic training, minus all the equipment so you can overload your muscles with tension with just your own body weight.

Meanwhile, isometric exercises are generally executed without the use of weights or added gear. Just pull out a yoga mat, and experience how holding a plank for a few minutes is enough to make you vibrate as mad as a Nokia 3310.

Calisthenic exercises with isotonic and isometric combos you gotta try

The isotonic exercises you’ve mastered most likely have an isometric sister, and you definitely have to try both. 

In this section, we gathered up a list of workouts and broke them down into isotonic and isometric alternatives.

#1: Superman

Targeted muscles: hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae

Equipment needed: none, though a yoga mat is optional

Isotonic exercise – Lie face down on the floor, arms spread above you. With your core as your base, lift your hands and legs up, then bring them back down. Repeat this 15 to 20 times depending on your skill level.
Isometric exercise – Instead of repeatedly raising and lowering your hands and legs, hold them as high as you can. Try to complete five rounds with a 30-second hold for each.

#2: Plank

Targeted muscles: quadriceps, abdominals, and the deltoid’s anterior portion

Equipment needed: none, though a yoga mat is optional

Isotonic exercise – From the usual planking position, open your leg wide and raise your body by pushing the floor with your toes. Go back to your original position, and repeat. Depending on your ability, do this for 15 to 20 repetitions.
Isometric exercise – With your weight on your forearms, hold a planking position while keeping your back straight. Don’t cheat by constantly shifting your bum’s height! Test if you can complete four rounds with a 30-second hold for each.

#3: Glute Bridge

Targeted muscles: hamstrings and glutes

Equipment needed: none, though a yoga mat is optional

Isotonic exercise – Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet on the ground. After making sure you got the starting position right, lift your glutes so that your core will be at the same level as your knees. Bring it down to your original form, and repeat for 15 to 20 times.
Isometric exercise – Instead of shifting your glutes up and down keep still in the position where your core is aligned with your knees. Hold it for 30 seconds, and repeat for another four rounds.

#4: Squat

Targeted muscles: gluteus maximus, quadriceps, obliques, abdominals, and hamstring

Equipment needed: none

Isotonic exercise – Start off by standing straight. Now, bend your knees until they’re at the same level as your hips. Be mindful not to have an awkward posture, and keep your shoulders aligned with your feet. Eyes straight ahead! Perform 15 to 20 reps, depending on your skill level.
Isometric exercise – Knees bent with your shoulders and feet aligned, try to stay low for as long as possible. Perform five rounds of this exercise with a 30-second hold for each.

#5: Lunges

Targeted muscles: quadriceps, hamstring, and glutes

Equipment needed: none

Isotonic exercise – Stand tall for your starting position. Step one foot forward, and lower your body until your leg is at a 90-degree angle. Make sure that your rear knee remains parallel to the ground, while the one in front shouldn’t be aligned beyond your toes. Lift your lunged leg up to the starting position. Repeat this movement for 10 to 15 repetitions on each leg. If the space allows, you can also perform walking lunges instead of remaining stationary. Simply use the heel of your foot at the back to launch yourself off for the next lunge.
Isometric exercise – Stay low in the position where your front leg is at a 90-degree angle, and hold it for 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise for five rounds.

The bottom line

Handstand, the bottom line

Performic isotonic exercises can turn daily activities like walking up the stairs such a breeze, while isometric workouts are great for improving your mind-body coordination. 

So you don’t really have to pick which exercise type must be crowned as the best. For the average fitness enthusiast, it’s ideal to combine both as you design your upgraded calisthenics routine.

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