When we talk about exercises, we often refer to them as either isometric or isotonic. However, there is a third type of exercise – isokinetic – that’s rarely discussed outside of physical therapy circles (despite its benefits for athletes).

But, what is isokinetic exercise, you might ask?

Isokinetic exercises are any strength training workouts that make your muscles move at a constant pace. Alternatively, an isokinetic exercise can also include lifting a constant weight throughout a specific range of motion.

Coming up, we’ll discuss isokinetic exercises in more detail. We’ll talk about the benefits of isokinetic exercise and even give you some examples so you can see how they are incorporated into workout routines.

Isokinetic Exercise Definition

If you’ve never heard of isokinetic exercises before, you’re not alone. This type of exercise is mostly used by physical therapists and often requires some specialized equipment. So, it’s not something you’d come across in a standard workout program.

Simply put, isokinetic means “at a constant pace.” The prefix “iso-” comes from the Greek meaning “same,” while the root “-kinetic” comes from the Greek word “kinetikos,” which means “to move.”

In an isokinetic exercise, you work your muscles by moving them at a constant pace. Alternatively, these exercises can also involve lifting a constant weight throughout the range of motion of a joint.

Technically, isokinetic exercise is best described as applying force at a constant speed throughout the rep.

According to Physical Rehabilitation of the Injured Athlete, this force is always applied against an equal amount of resistance. This resistance changes in coordination with the muscle to keep the muscles moving at the same speed throughout their range of motion.

An excellent way to visualize this is to think of someone using an elliptical. These machines create resistance throughout each part of the athlete’s stride.

So, in this example, if the athlete sets the machine to a particular resistance level and pedals consistently at an exact number of RPMs, they would be moving their muscles at the same speed throughout the exercise. Therefore, they would be performing a type of isokinetic movement.

Isokinetic Exercise Benefits

With isokinetic exercises, you can get a whole host of unique benefits that aren’t available through other types of workouts. These benefits include:

  • Improved range of motion for joints
  • Quick increases in overall muscular strength
  • Promotes the release of endorphins throughout the body
  • Helps muscles evenly gain strength throughout the entire range of motion
  • Injury prevention
  • Increased overall muscle flexibility
  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Boosted metabolism
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Can help people recover from strokes, medical procedures, and injuries
  • May be used to treat muscular imbalances before they cause injuries
  • Shown to help with osteoarthritis in older adults
  • Improvements in overall fitness
  • Helps with weight loss

Isokinetic Exercise Risks

Most forms of exercise have some sort of risk and some potential side-effects. However, isokinetic exercise is generally low-risk, particularly when performed under the supervision of a trained professional. In fact, isokinetic exercises are often used to help people with injuries because they keep your muscles moving at a constant speed that’s within your body’s limits.

Isokinetic Exercise Equipment

Isokinetic exercises are tricky to explain and understand because they are just not that common. If you’ve ever done isokinetic exercises before, it’s probably been under the supervision of a physical therapist.

Specialized isokinetic exercise equipment generally isn’t found at your standard gym. A dynamometer is a commonly used type of specialized isokinetic exercise equipment. These machines can produce the right amount of counter-force to provide resistance for isokinetic exercises.

Exerbotics is one of the best-known manufacturers of equipment for this kind of workout. They offer machines that can help people perform isokinetic exercises in a controlled environment. However, operating these machines requires the support of a physical therapist or clinical professional with specialized training.

That being said, a stationary bike can be considered a type of isokinetic exercise equipment. So long as the biker pedals at the same speed throughout their workout, they are technically performing a type of isokinetic exercise.

Isokinetic Exercise Examples

Isokinetic exercises aren’t that common because they often require specialized equipment. However, here are a few examples of this type of workout:

  • Stationary Biking – If pedaled at a steady RPM, a stationary bike can be considered a type of isokinetic exercise.
  • Running on a Treadmill – While running is technically isotonic exercise, if you run on a treadmill, you’re moving at a steady speed. This would make running on a treadmill a type of isokinetic workout.
  • Dynamometer – Dynamometers are some of the only machines made explicitly for isokinetic exercise. They can be used to do a variety of movements, such as leg presses, shoulder presses, squats, and chest presses. The difference is that these machines adapt to produce the right amount of resistance to keep you moving at the same speed throughout the exercise.

Isotonic, Isometric, & Isokinetic Exercises: The Differences

Isokinetic exercises can be directly contrasted with both isotonic and isometric exercises.

Isotonic exercises keep your muscles at the same level of “tension” or contraction throughout the rep. You’ve probably done quite a few isotonic exercises before without even knowing it. Examples of this kind of workout include bicep curls, bench presses, squats, and running.

Meanwhile, isometric exercises keep your muscles at the same length. Therefore, in an isometric exercise, your body is static and not moving. Planks are a good example of this kind of workout because they keep your muscles in a single static position.

Should I Do Isokinetic Exercises?

Isokinetic exercises provide a wide range of different benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. They are a great addition to any workout because they can help you quickly build muscle with fairly minimal risk of injury.

However, isokinetic exercise equipment is expensive and hard to find. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to access machines to perform these workouts unless you’re seeing a physical therapist. Therefore, while isokinetic exercises are useful for rehabilitating injuries and increasing your performance, you are unlikely to do them without the supervision of a fitness and health professional.