A gym full of exercise equipment is much like a toolbox full of tools, each designed for a specific purpose but each with its own pros and cons. While free weights are widespread, inexpensive to buy and extremely effective, they are also more capable of causing injury. Isokinetic equipment can be hard to find and expensive to purchase, but it is safe and highly effective.
Definition of Isokinetic
Isokinetic movement involves constant weight and constant speed applied to a muscle through its full range of motion. Isokinetic exercise requires both isometric and isotonic muscle contractions through a full range of motion, such as riding a stationary bike at the maximum revolutions per minute. An isotonic movement is where your muscles move at a constant speed through their full range of motion, while an isometric movement involves applying a constant weight against a muscle through the full range of movement.
In isokinetic equipment, hydraulic or electronic resistance mechanisms ensure constant resistance and speed through the full range of motion -- but this also ensures the huge price tag. The controlled and steady motion of isokinetic exercise equipment makes it preferable for physical therapy because it offers great variety as it provides you with a safe workout -- even if you are recovering from a recent injury.
Free weights are the oldest and simplest form of exercise equipment in the gym. They include dumbbells and the round metal plates that you slide onto barbells, which are both notorious for pinching fingers and falling on feet. Don't let that worry you, though. If you use light weights and take your time learning the motions, free weights can offer you limitless combinations of safe exercises.
While isokinetic equipment provides increased strength and muscle toning, free weights can help you build muscle definition -- and even larger muscles. Isokinetic exercise equipment can work more of your muscles because they provide resistance at points in the range of motion that other equipment and free weights cannot. The real key to muscle growth, however, is muscle confusion. This means you should always try something different in your exercise routine before your body becomes accustomed to your workout. Combining free weights and isokinetic exercises allows you to do so.
Scott Friedman is a writer based in Bend, Ore. Friedman was a technical writer for a USAID contractor and a community health system. He writes for various magazines and websites while running a proposal development firm, BDC International. He holds a B.A. in international affairs from George Washington University.