Isotonic vs. Isometric Exercises

December 8, 2021

Did you know we exercise our muscle groups through both isotonic and isometric movements?

According to CA’s personal trainers, the more you understand your muscles, the more you can take care of them. That’s why we’re talking about the key differences and benefits of both of these muscle movements. Keep reading to learn more!

Isotonic exercise

Isotonic exercises involve a range of motion — you can think of these as “moving” exercises. Your muscle is either lengthening or shortening without an increase of tension (in other words, you are applying a constant amount of weight).

The majority of gym exercises are isotonic; squats, bench presses, bicep curls, pull-ups, push-ups, etc. Most aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, rowing, running, hiking, skiing or even dancing are also fall into this category. Even everyday tasks like cleaning or mowing the lawn can be considered forms of isotonic exercise. These exercises are ideal for increasing strength, speed and overall athletic performance.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Strengthens range of motion to improve functional fitness
  • Boosts your heart health
  • Exercises all major muscle groups 
  • Increases muscular endurance 
  • Builds up bone density


Isometric exercise

Isometric exercises are static, and contract your muscles without changing their length. These are moves that involve tension without moving or bending your joints — think planks, wall sits, bridges and hollow-body holds.

Since isometric exercises are stationary and more low-impact, they’re particularly effective for people recovering from joint chronic joint pain, surgery or injury. 

Here are some of the benefits: 

  • Improves bone density
  • Maintains your strength and stability
  • Reduces pain for arthritis sufferers
  • Improves cholesterol levels
  • Lowers blood pressure


Final takeaways

The more you understand the “why” behind your workouts, the more effectively you can plan a routine that targets your needs. One way to remember the difference between these exercises is to bring their Greek roots to mind. Isotonic means “same tension” (the weight on your muscles stays constant) while isometric means “same length” (your muscles do not get longer or shorter).

It’s also important to know that you have the ability to make certain moves isotonic or isometric depending on your goals. For instance, holding a plank for 30 seconds is an isometric exercise — but when you add side-to-side toe taps, it becomes isotonic.

Or, take the example of a squat. Doing a set of 20 squats is an isotonic exercise, but it can be made isometric when you hold a squat in place instead.

What’s most important is to choose the exercises best suited for your current state of health and fitness goals. In general, combining both isotonic and isometric movements is a great way to boost your overall fitness. According to

“There are several factors to consider when choosing isometric vs. isotonic exercise. For the average exerciser, isotonic exercise provides the most useful improvements for daily function, but isometric exercise may nonetheless have a place in your workout regimen.”


Boost your fitness know-how

CA’s personal trainers help you achieve your fitness goals in a way that’s safe and effective. They also empower you with the knowledge you need to take better care of yourself. Our trainers offer both in-person and virtual personal training options. All you have to do is show up!

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