At some point on your quest for complete fitness connoiseuritude, you’ll probably become interested in the nuts and bolts behind strength training. And besides simple curiosity, learning a thing or two about how strength training works can actually be instructive as you try to shape your own workout routines. Here’s a breakdown of isometric and plyometric strengthening.
Isometric strengthening takes place when a muscle contracts without lengthening or shortening. Essentially, exercises where you tense up muscles without movement generally fall into the isometric category. Wall sits or hanging from a chin-up bar would be a couple of examples. The upside to isometric strengthening is that it can often be practical. Many of the tasks that we complete every day are assisted by increased isometric strength.
Plyometric strengthening is defined by muscular contractions that are combined with muscle lengthening and shortening. Essentially, this means exercises like jumping jacks, lunges, squats or pushups. For example: when you do a lunge, some of your leg muscles lengthen while you step, while others shorten. As you straighten up from that step, the muscles that were lengthening now shorten and vice-versa. The upside to plyometric strengthening is that you’ll see strength gains relatively quickly because muscles contract throughout their entire range of motion. The downside is that plyometric exercises usually involve repeated impacts and can thus be hard on the joints.