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Isometric exercises can be effective not only in building strength, but also in maintaining that strength in your latissimus dorsi muscles. Commonly referred to as your lats, these muscles are the largest muscles in your back. If you want a healthier, toned and strong-looking back, consider incorporating isometric exercises into your training sessions. It should be noted; however, that isometrics are not for everyone. It is always best to consult your doctor before you start a training program with isometric exercises.
About Isometric Exercises
Unlike dynamic exercises, where the muscles are shortened and lengthened and are trained through a full range of movement, isometric, or static, exercises involve no movement; the muscles are contracted and held at a constant length for a given amount of time. Isometric exercises mimic everyday pushing and pulling actions, according to Lee E. Brown, author of "Strength Training." Pushing against a stationary object such as a wall or holding a weight still while keeping your muscles contracted are examples of isometric exercises. Brown also states that in addition to improving muscle strength, isometric exercises can lead to an increase in muscle mass and improvements in bone strength.
Pros and Cons
One of the biggest advantages is that isometric exercises can be performed anywhere -- at home, at the office or while traveling. Very little space is needed and you don't have to buy any special training aids, such as free weights or weight machines. Isometric exercises are easy on your joints because your joints aren't required to bear any weight. Even individuals who have limited joint movement can perform isometric exercises. However, Dr. Edward R. Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic does not recommend isometric exercises for individuals who have high blood pressure or a heart condition. During an isometric exercise, tension is generated within the muscle, blood flow is reduced, and this can cause an increase in blood pressure.
About Latissimus Dorsi
The latissimus dorsi muscles are fan-shaped and make up a large part of your middle back. These flared muscles start at your spine and sweep around your sides over the back side of your ribs and under your armpits. In addition to keeping your torso stable, your lats function by pulling your arms down toward your pelvis, as when you do a lat pulldown exercise. When doing chinups, for another example, the lats help you lift your body up toward the bar.
Sample Isometric Exercises
Roll up a bath towel and grasp each end with your hands. Extend your arms over your head. While keeping your arms straight, pull your hands apart as if you were trying to rip the towel in half. Hold the pull for 15 seconds or as long as you can, and then relax. Repeat five times.
Fitness trainer Paul J. O'Brien suggests doing the isometric full bridge to focus on your lats. This is a more advanced exercise and does require a fair amount of flexibility and strength. To perform this exercise, lie on your back, bend your knees and pull your feet as close as possible toward your butt. Put your palms on the floor behind your head. Push with your legs and arms, arch your back and raise your body off the floor so you're supported with your head, hands and feet. Tighten your back muscles and hold the position for 15 seconds. Relax, lower to the floor and repeat. Work your way up to a 30-second hold.