Isotonic exercise: How to improve your squats and pushups with these simple tips and tricks

Woman squatting (Image via Pexels/Leon Ardho)
Woman squatting (Image via Pexels/Leon Ardho)

Isotonic exercise involves muscle shortening and lengthening under a constant load. In simpler terms, these are exercises that require motion. Hence, they are also known as dynamic exercises.

Almost all weightlifting exercises are isotonic movements. Here are some examples:

• Squats

• Push-ups

• Bicep curls

• Bench presses

• Deadlifts

• Leg raises

The shortening and lengthening contractions of the muscles involved in isotonic movements are called concentric and eccentric contractions, respectively.

Bicep curls (Image via Pexels/Andres Ayrton)
Bicep curls (Image via Pexels/Andres Ayrton)

For example, while performing bicep curls, the biceps shorten as the weight is lifted up towards your chin (concentric contraction) and lengthens as you lower the dumbbell down to the starting position (eccentric contraction).

How are isotonic exercises beneficial?

First, isotonic movements help build strength, mass, and endurance. This is due to the constant pressure on the muscles being shortened and lengthened. Adequate nourishment and supplementation post-workout will aid in boosting muscle mass and strength. Constant repetition of the movement improves endurance of the muscles and, subsequently, movement of joints.

Regular practice of isotonic exercises will also enhance the overall flexibility of the joints and improve posture to an extent. When vitals run smoothly, the body recovers faster from trauma, keeping it as healthy as it can be.

Man performing chest press. image via Pexels/Brune Bueno
Man performing chest press. image via Pexels/Brune Bueno

As mentioned earlier, squats and push-ups are two popular examples of isotonic exercises. These are two compound movements considered essential in strength training.


The squat is an isotonic exercise that works all the major muscles of the leg, i.e., the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and the adductors.

How to perform a squat:

• Stand straight with your feet hip-distance apart and your shoulders tall. Ensure your back is straight.

• Making sure your feet are firm on the ground, push your hips back and lower them down by bending at your knees and hips. Keeping your back straight, lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Inhale as you do this.

• As you exhale, push yourself up by straightening your legs to return to the starting position.


Given that squats are so popular among fitness enthusiasts worldwide, chances are you’ve already got them down to a pat. But how can you improve them?

Remember, it’s always going to be quality over quantity, so if you want to start lifting heavy or performing more reps, you have to go back to the basics.

Ditch the weights and preferably stand in front of a mirror.

Keep these tips in mind:

• Keep your posture upright

While squatting, it is vital to keep your core engaged. This ensures your back doesn’t cave in or your shoulders don’t droop. Keep your gaze steady ahead of you. If the squats suddenly seem harder, it is likely that your posture wasn’t right while performing them earlier.

• Increase your range of motion

Try to squat deeper towards the ground, beyond the parallel line mark your thighs have to reach. This will improve flexibility and condition you to push more.

• Take note of breathing patterns

Remember to inhale as you squat and exhale as you stand back up. The right respiratory patterns allow for adequate energy produced before each rep.

• Perform reps with bodyweight

Once you’re comfortable with these techniques, perform three to four sets of 12 to 15 reps of squats without weight. This will ensure your form does not break once you’re carrying weights.

When you’re able to perform bodyweight squats in perfect form with the pointers above, you can progress to picking up weights. You’ll find it easier to perform. But bear in mind to progressively increase the weights and not attempt to resume heavy lifting immediately.

Performing reps with bodyweight (Image via Unsplash/Sven Mieke)
Performing reps with bodyweight (Image via Unsplash/Sven Mieke)


A push-up is a calisthenic movement that works the chest, triceps, upper back, as well as the lats and core.

• Start by getting into a high-plank position on the ground. Keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Ensure your spine is straight and your feet are also shoulder-width apart.

• Lower your body slowly down to the ground while inhaling. Keep lowering yourself until your elbow is at a 90-degree bend.

• Exhale and push yourself back up to the starting position by straightening your arms.


Push-ups can be hard to achieve at first if one lacks the strength to push their body weight against gravity.

However, here are some tricks to help you with them:

• Practice inclined push-ups

Doing them on the floor is great, but to help improve your range of motion and strength, you have to go back to square one. Choose a surface that’s not below the level of your knees, and perform push-ups against it. Try to get your chest closer to the surface without letting your spine bend out of a straight plane.

• Focus on negatives

Slow down the motion of your descent to the ground and push yourself back up with force. Additional periods of tension placed on the muscles help build strength. This can be achieved by taking five to ten seconds to lower your body to the ground.

• Take note of breathing patterns

Remember to inhale as you lower yourself and exhale as you push yourself back up. The right respiratory patterns allow for adequate energy produced before each rep.

There's always room to improve (Image via Unsplash/Sergio Pedemonte)
There's always room to improve (Image via Unsplash/Sergio Pedemonte)

Isotonic movements are a staple for anyone in fitness. But just because you're doing something already doesn't mean there's no room for improvement. Try out these tips and tricks in your next few gym sessions. You'll be performing these exercises like a champ!

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Edited by Sandeep Banerjee
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