What You Should Know About Isokinetic Exercise

Medically reviewed by Daniel Bubnis, MS, NASM-CPT, NASE Level II-CSS on December 1, 2017Written by Emily Cronkleton on December 1, 2017

What is isokinetic exercise?

Isokinetic exercise is a type of strength training. It uses specialized exercise machines that produce a constant speed no matter how much effort you expend. These machines control the pace of an exercise by fluctuating resistance throughout your range of motion. Your speed remains consistent despite how much force you exert.

You can adjust the target exercise speed and range of motion to suit your needs. Different attachments on the machines can isolate and target specific muscle groups. You can use Isokinetic exercise to test and improve your muscular strength and endurance.

Isokinetic exercise vs. isotonic exercise

Isokinetic exercise refers to movement at a constant speed regardless of the force applied. Muscles contract and shorten at a constant speed in isokinetic contraction. Isokinetic exercise allows muscles to gain strength consistently all through the range of movement.

With isotonic exercise, the muscle shortens at a constant rate throughout the motion, but the muscle tension varies. This can also be called a dynamic contraction. Most training is isotonic. For example, exercises such as dumbbell curls and squats isolate certain muscle groups and strengthen muscles throughout the range of movement, but not evenly.

Benefits of isokinetic exercise

Isokinetic exercises are often used for rehabilitation and recovery since it’s a controlled form of exercise. Physical therapists and occupational therapists use isokinetic machines to help people recover from a stroke, an injury, or a medical procedure. Isokinetic machines can also be used to treat imbalances in the body that have the potential to cause injury.

Being able to control the resistance and speed helps to:

  • prevent injury
  • increase muscle flexibility
  • control muscle development

Isokinetic exercise is a form of strength training that can increase muscle tone, strength, and endurance. It can also help improve balance and coordination, and boost metabolism.

Strength training makes everyday activities easier to perform, and can increase your athletic performance. It can also have a positive effect on your cognitive function and quality of life.

Isokinetic exercise also has a beneficial impact on the core muscles that support the spine and stabilize the body.

A 2008 study found that isokinetic training effectively restored imbalances in knee muscle strength in professional soccer players. Older research from 1999 found evidence that isokinetic exercise may be effective in treating knee osteoarthritis in older adults. Participants in the study who did the exercises three times a week for eight weeks improved function, strength, and pain measures.

There’s also evidence from a 2016 study that isokinetic muscle strengthening increases the effects of aerobic exercises in people with obesity. As part of the study, isokinetic exercises were found to improve muscle strength, increase lean body mass, and reduce body fat. The participants who did the isokinetic training in addition to aerobic exercises showed greater improvements than those who did only aerobic training.

Risks of isokinetic exercise

In general, isokinetic exercise is a safe form of strength training since you don’t have to overcome that initial moment of inertia. Inertia is when you start to move weight from a dead stop.

Isokinetic exercise is also safe for people with injuries. The resistance makes it harder for you to push yourself beyond what your therapist recommends. You’re also less likely to pull muscles or have complications, like sore muscles, from the exercises.

How to begin an isokinetic exercise program

Each machine has a specific purpose and can be used to tone or work specific areas of your body, such as the quadriceps, knee extensor muscles, or abdominal muscles. The resistance can be customized and adjusted to suit your needs. This is useful if you’re rehabilitating from an injury.

Start your exercise program based on your personal goals and situation. You should begin with little to no resistance, and slowly build up your resistance and repetition count.

You’ll need isokinetic machines to do most of the exercises. Some of the machines are more complex, and you’ll need a skilled user to teach you how to use them. This person will also know how to do tests and measurements. Certain specialist machines are found in sports science labs and rehabilitation centers.

Depending on how complicated the machine is to use and its availability, it’s possible for you to do the exercises on your own. However, you may wish to join a class or exercise under the supervision of a trained professional, especially when you first begin.

If you’re using a machine such as a stationary bike or a treadmill, do 30 to 60 minutes per session. You can increase the pace and duration as you go. It’s recommended that you work out at least three days per week, with a day or two of rest in between workouts.

Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions of strength exercises. Make sure you always move slowly and with control. Use weights that are heavy enough to fatigue your muscles without straining. Increase the resistance as you gain strength.

Exercise safety tips

It’s important that you exercise safely to protect your body. Balance strength training with exercises that promote cardiovascular health and flexibility.

Always start by warming up the body with dynamic stretches, jogging, or brisk walking. Then do some gentle stretches to loosen up your body.

Drink plenty of water and maintain proper hydration before, during, and after your workout. Take at least a few minutes to cool down after your workout. Doing gentle stretches will also help to prevent soreness and injuries.

Pay attention to your body. Take your time, and breathe regularly. Stop working out if you feel pain or discomfort, and always use proper form and alignment while completing the exercises to prevent injury. Take plenty of rest, and schedule days off from exercise, especially if you experience pain and fatigue.

Takeaway

Talk to your doctor or physical therapist before starting any new exercise program. This is especially important if you’re healing from an injury or have any other medical concern. You may be advised to do the exercises under the guidance of a qualified professional. You can combine this type of muscle training with aerobic and flexibility exercises.

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