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Monday, December 9, 2013
Exercise and Fitness
Could you recommend a couple of work-outs using isometric exercises?
The most well-known isometric ab exercise is the plank. This can be performed on the knees or toes, depending on the strength of the core. The upper body is stabilized on the hands (like a push-up) or on the forearms. The most important thing for proper form is body alignment. The body should be in a straight line from the crown of the head down through the knees or ankles (depending on which position you use). The low back should be in a neutral position (slightly curved, like when you're standing up). The most common mistakes are having an excessive curve in the low back or between the shoulders and dropping the head.
The plank can also be varied in several ways. You can place the feet or forearms on a Swiss or Bosu ball. You can flip the Bosu on its back and place your hands on the flat portion (like a push-up). These options decrease stability and make the exercise more challenging.
You can do a side plank in the same fashion. Just shift the weight to the outside of the right or left foot and stack the other leg. Keep the supporting arm and shoulder stable and bring the opposite arm to the side of the body.
Other options include scissor kicks, bicycles, or lowering both legs and holding each positions for 10-30 seconds. Again, you must really watch the lower back when doing these. Never let it curve past a neutral spine.
You can hold the up position of a crunch for an extended period of time. You can hold the legs up when doing leg lifts in a Roman chair or while holding onto a pull-up bar. Make sure to maintain slow and controlled breathing throughout. Start with sets of small increments (10 seconds) and increase your time slowly. Never hold a position after you have lost proper form.
Really, any ab exercise in which the muscles are exerting force, but no movement is occurring would be considered isometric. So there are many possibilities. The disadvantage of any isometric exercise is that it only strengthens the muscles in that exact position. So I would recommend doing other ab exercises through a full range of motion, (concentric and eccentric contractions) or you will really limit your improvements.
Don't forget to strengthen other parts of the core. Pilates is a great option for those seeking to improve core strength.
Rebecca Nguyen, MS
Manager of the Faculty and Staff Fitness Program
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University