TYPES OF WEIGHT TRAINING
Prior to choosing any physical training regimen, it is beneficial to understand the various types of conditioning and the differences between each. Each type has particular advantages and disadvantages which should be considered when planning your training regimen.
Isotonics is defined as a contraction where the muscle exerts itself against a constant force through a variety of angles and muscle lengths. This type of training is the most conventional form of training used and includes free weights, and various weight training machines. Although there is a constant resistance, free weights and weight training machines do not allow for a constant muscle contraction throughout the movements. Rather, the contraction of the muscle is at its maximum at particular extremes within a given range of movement. For example, with a bicep curl, the maximum flex is experienced at a particular point of the range, as opposed to throughout the entire range. Consequently, the targeted muscle may not be fully strengthened with isotonics. Another disadvantage to this form of training is the potential of injury to joints.
Isometric refers to a static contraction in which the muscle exerts itself against an immovable object and the resistance is controlled by the force of the exertion. An example of this type of training is pushing against a wall. Isometric training devices can produce remarkable results in the area of strength training and endurance in very short periods of time and with less effort than isotonics. The disadvantage of this type of training is the fact that there is no range of motion involved, thus limiting the strength increases to static increases, as opposed to a sustained strength gain throughout an entire movement. For this reason, isometric training alone is hardly ideal for the athlete looking to increase sport specific strength, such as a tennis player looking to improve the power of his/her swing. Another drawback to isometrics is its potential to produce sharp hikes in blood pressure. One should always consult a physician before engaging in any isometric routine.
Isokinetics combines the benefits of isotonic and isometric exercise without the disadvantages. Similair to an isometric contraction in which the resistance is controlled by the exertion, an isokinetic device returns equal resistance to force applied while simultaneously providing for a full range of motion. Thus the resistance is always ideal for the strength of the user, no matter how much stronger they get as a result of the training. Its distinct advantage over an isotonic exercise is that it can provide maximum resistance throughout an entire range of movement and muscle lengths. Another advantage to this sort of training is minimal joint and muscle soreness, thus allowing far more intense workouts to be acheived while requiring less time for recovery. It is for this reason that isokinetics is the ideal choice for an athlete in rehab whereas it provides for remarkable increases to muscle strength and flexibility, with minimal risk of injury. Isokinetics is also ideal for improving speed, agility and leaping ability. Because of the unlimited range of movements available with an isokinetic device, this form of training is optimal for training specific sports motions, such as throwing a football or shooting a basketball. The only disadvantage of isokinetics is the cost of the machines. An isokinetic machine can often cost several thousands of dollars. Isokinetics is not to be confused with variable resistance training such as pulley and rowing machines, which cannot provide the equal resistance throughout a full range of motion isokinetic machines provide.
Plyometrics, or “explosive-reactive” power training, is a very popular training method amongst professional athletes. From sports stars like Usain Bolt and Lebron James to superstar trainers such as Tim Grover, plyometrics has been the choice to develop explosive muscle strength. Plyometrics involves powerful muscular contractions brought about by the rapid stretching of a muscle. A benefit and potential danger of plyometrics is that the involuntary muscle contractions it causes allow for a far greater force than a voluntary contraction could generate. This results in explosive muscle speed and power, but also requires a solid strength foundation in order to avoid serious injury. Plyometrics is perhaps the highest risk, highest reward training regimen out there. For this reason, such a training regimen should be preceded by core training and perhaps other forms of strength training like isokinetics, for optimal results. For the development of fast-twitch muscles, which are responsible for explosive leaping ability, agility, power, and basically any movement requiring speed, plyometrics is perhaps the most effective training solution when used properly. A plyometric training regimen should only be undertaken with proper guidance and/or supervision. Plyometric equipment and workout plans can be found here.
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