Plyometrics is one of the most unique types of exercise that are used for a variety of reasons. Whether you want to increase your explosiveness, vertical jump power, speed, or agility, it’s the most fun and rewarding way that’ll help you reach your strength goals. It’s an interesting form of exercise that usually involves a series of rapid stretching and contracting of the muscles. With that being said, one of the most common questions that I get asked a lot is whether plyometrics can be considered an isometric exercise technique.
Plyometrics is not an isometric exercise technique due to the fact that it involves active contracting and stretching of the muscles that are done in an explosive manner. Isometric exercises refer to the types of movements that are done without changing the length and the angle of the muscles.
In this article, we’ll explain the meaning of isometric and plyometric exercises and why they aren’t the same thing
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Is Plyometrics An Isometric Exercise Technique?
In order to answer this question, we first need to differentiate between plyometrics and isometric exercises.
What Are Isometric Exercises?
In order to understand isometric exercises in a simple way, let’s first analyze the meaning behind the term “isometric”. If you may have noticed, it’s composed of two essential words, “iso” and “metric”.
“Iso” refers to anything that’s equal or that has the same attributes and “metric” refers generally to length. If we merge these two words together, we get something that has the same or equal length. From this combination of words, we can already get a general grasp of the meaning of isometric exercise, it’s exercises that don’t change the length of the muscles and that keep them at an equal length before, during, and after the movement.
When it comes to the world of muscle training, isometric exercises usually involve working the muscles against other muscles or against immovable objects while the length of the muscles remains unchanged, the same, or equal.
In order for these types of movements to be as effective as possible, the time at which your muscles are under tension must be maintained for specific periods.
If we combine everything that we’ve learned so far, we can come up with this simple definition:
Isometric exercises are the contraction of muscles over specific durations of time where the length of the muscles doesn’t change and remains the same.
To put this into perspective for you, let’s give some examples of isometric exercises: Let’s say you take 25-pound dumbbells to perform bicep curls but instead of the usual movement that you perform, you decided to hold the dumbbell midway through the repetition for about 10 seconds.
In this case, the length of your bicep muscles doesn’t change but they’re still under tension, that’s an isometric exercise. The same thing goes if you’re pushing an immovable object, you’re exercising force on your muscles but they keep the same length.
What Are Plyometric Exercises?
Just like I did with isometric exercise, I’ll try to explain this term in the simplest way possible. Most people have a wrong idea about what plyometrics are since they can get pretty confusing at first. The majority think that any exercise that involves explosiveness like jumping jacks or jumping squats can be considered plyometrics but that’s not entirely true. Most of these exercises lean towards calisthenics more than plyometrics.
So what is plyometrics exactly?
It’s basically a type of exercise that involves a series of repeated stretching and contracting the muscles in order to increase strength. Not only that, but whatever body part you’re working on has to make contact with the ground for no more than 120 milliseconds (0.12 seconds).
The main reason behind this limit in terms of ground contact time is because that’s what’s necessary in order to activate the myotatic stretch reflex. To put this into perspective, Let’s take a look at boxers, for example, have you ever wondered why they’re always jump roping? It’s to pretty much build up their myotatic stretch reflex in their calves since it’s a plyometric exercise (the time of contact between the ground and the feet are less than 120 milliseconds) in order to increase their strength, agility, and speed.
Anything exercise that makes contact with the floor for more than 120 milliseconds isn’t considered a plyometric exercise.
For example, jumping/clapping push-ups aren’t considered plyometrics unless you’re limiting your ground contact time to less than 0.12 seconds which is pretty challenging to do.
Is Plyometrics An Isometric Exercise Technique?
Now that we understand the meaning behind both isometric and plyometric exercises, the answer to this question becomes pretty clear.
Isometric exercises involve movements that keep the muscles at an equal length during the entirety of the exercise whereas plyometrics involves movements that limit ground contact time to less than 0.12 seconds to build up the myotatic stretch reflex. The types of movements that are done in plyometrics will usually change the length of the muscles and they will not stay the same during the exercise.
In other words, the main difference between plyometrics and isometric exercise techniques is the change in muscle length. This makes plyometrics, not an Isometric exercise.
Understanding the meaning behind both plyometrics and isometric exercises is one of the best ways to know the difference between them. While they’re both completely different ways of training your muscles, each one of them shares the same end goal, and that is to increase your strength, agility, speed, and all other attributes that benefit them.