Isometric exercises are my favorite! I mentioned them in the previous post, but they are so dear to us, I thought they deserved their own post :) They build lean muscle- sculpting with no chance of bulking up, they increase your muscular endurance (so you can carry that monster grocery bag all the way to your car in the far end of the parking lot), they help increase your resting metabolic rate (so that you can indulge in a cheat meal or two), are very safe and easy on your precious joints, and are the perfect way to work on your mental stamina! You have to really focus and fight to continue through the “barre shake” to get the best results, and that mental strength will grow over time, with each time you hear “mind over matter” in class. That ability to stay strong in your mind and push through the burn, is what will not only give you the control to change your body, but also give you the control and power to improve any other aspect of your life! (I know- cheesy, but true).
So let’s break that down.
1. They build lean muscle: Your muscles contain three different types of muscle fibers each with unique characteristics, optimal functions, and properties. There’s your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are the ones that are used and built when you are sprinting or power-lifting. They build sheer power and force. Then there’s your slow twitch muscle fibers, which are the ones that are primarily used and built during long-distancce jogging, high rep, low weight exercises, and isometrics. Then there is a muscle fiber that is basically the middle man of these. The slow-twitch muscle fibers that we focus on in barre, are much smaller in size than the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Although some say that “women can’t bulk up,” there are some women who are prone to that (and I, along with a few other friends, can personally vouch for that). When I use heavy weights, I get bigger, which is ok- nothing wrong with that! It’s just the truth. In addition, think of sprinters versus marathon runners. I know this is stereotyping, and not always completely accurate, but sprinters tend to build more fast twitch muscle fibers that lead to buff looking legs, whereas marathon runners tend to have very thin looking legs due to the small twitch muscle fibers that their endurance training promotes. They are both incredibly strong- just in different ways. I personally would rather focus on slow-twitch muscle fibers, and that’s one reason (but not the main one) I prefer isometric exercises or low weight-high rep.
2. They increase muscular endurance: Because isometrics build the slow-twitch muscle fibers, your muscles become stronger in those fibers' specific characteristics, which are endurance and stability. You may not be able to run much faster, but you will be able to run longer! Maybe you won't be able to pick up a ridiculously heavy box, but you can pick up a heavy one for a longer time!
3. They increase your resting metabolic rate: more muscle= higher metabolism. So even when you're not doing the exercise, you're still burning more calories, even just sitting on the couch the next day or even the next week! Try not to use this as an excuse to eat more than usual though if you're aiming to lose weight. However, if you simply want to maintain weight, then by all means, you should increase your caloric intake- lucky you.
4. They are safe on your joints, AKA low impact!! These exercises do not incorporate momentum at all; they completely rely on your muscular strength and endurance. You will not be thrusting heavy weights up above your head, or jumping up and down, etc. You will be practicing control and making your muscles do all of the work, and not just testing the laws of physics. We do this because we believe in working smarter, not necessarily harder, and more importantly, to keep our joints from absorbing that momentum and causing wear-and-tear.
5. They help tremendously increase your mental stamina: You'll no doubt hear phrases like "mind over matter," throughout the isometric portions of class. When you learn to take control of your body with your mind and fight through the burn and the shake, you learn that you really are stronger than you think. You leave with a barre high- feeling strong, capable, and invincible. You will be able to take that newfound mental strength in the form of confidence, motivation, and self-control, and apply it to every other aspect of your life. That's a pretty awesome benefit for simply closing your eyes and breathing through 60 seconds of tiny pulses!
Again, please please please comment if you have anything at all to contribute- questions or thoughts. I'd love to hear from you :)