In an open space, ask each pair to explore as many different ways for two people to apply isometric pressure to their bodies.
For the purposes of this exercise, isometric is the equal application of pressure or resistance between two people who do not appear to be moving.
Provide a quick demonstration, such as two people facing each other and applying pressure to the open palms of their right hands in front of themselves.
Allow 2 to 3 minutes for each pair to discover multiple isometric positions.
If useful, swap partners.
Video Transcript for Isometric Stretch
presented by Mark Collard
Is anyone familiar with the term Isometric? What does it mean in your own words?
(In my own words? The muscle remains the same length but it’s contracted.)
Wow, that’s straight from Wikipedia. That’s awesome. That’s very, very good. That’s exactly that. An enormous amount of effort is expended but there is no movement. You don’t actually see the movement.
So this exercise is celebrating isometric movement or isometric stretch. So for example, Natalie you and I, and this is one of a million different ways you can isometrically oppose your partner.
Let’s say we start with our open palm and just place our palm up against each other. With our feet maybe shoulder width apart.
(Can we do it with this one?)
We can go this one, does that work better for you?
Fantastic. So the object is that our hands won’t move, but we plan to actually exert increasing pressure for a count of five. So for example it goes like this, so it starts with nothing, you’re basically just touching and then it increases, increases but the object the hands don’t move.
So you ready? For a count of five it increases. And one, and two, and three, and four, and five, now we hold it for five the same pressure. And two, and three, and four, and five. And now we decrease pressure. And two, and three, and four, and five.
This is a really good place to start is the use of your hands, but there are many other places of the anatomy that you can match with your partner and exert the same levels of isometric stretch.
Feel free to get your back on the ground, legs up in the air, whatever you choose but I would suggest starting with something relatively simple like your open palm.
See how you go. When you’re ready.
So we shouldn’t try the other hand, so what have you got an idea for. We could place a whole forearm.
(I was thinking of the…)
Oh yeah, yeah we can do that. So you ready? And one, and two, and three, four, and five. And hold, and two, three, and four, and five and hold. And two, three, and four…
(Here let’s pull.)
Do two more with your partner, find two alternatives. Look around, you might find an idea.
(Counting and discussion amongst group)
How To Play Narrative
I’m running out of ways to write ‘find a partner,’ so how about I just face the other way and you’ll magically find someone next to you by the time I turn around? Okay…
With a partner, move off to an open area for a few minutes and discover as many different ways two people can apply equal pressure to their bodies using one another – no props, no other weight, just the two of you.
The trick is, once you have established the position, you are to build the pressure for five seconds (without forcing the other person off-balance,) to hold that peak of pressure for five seconds, and then release the pressure gradually for the final five seconds.
That is, build for five, hold for five, and then release for five.
Invite a volunteer forward to demonstrate what it could look like.
Stand facing one another, and place your right hands against each other. As the three sets of five-second blocks tick away, it will seem as if your two hands are not moving – even though considerable pressure is being applied, ie that’s what isometric exercise is all about.
Encourage your group to be inventive, and explore how many different isometric exercises they can discover.
After a few minutes, swap partners and/or discuss what your group may have learned about exercise in general, and the levels of exertion they experienced.
Practical Leadership Tips
Scratching for ideas of what partners could do here? Think about the options available to two people when they are standing face to face, or leaning in to one another, side by side, back to back, lying on the ground next to, and end to end of each other. That’ll keep them busy for a while…
Your demonstration is crucial for your group to understand what isometric means and looks like. It will then be a lot easier for them to know how it feels when they try it out correctly.
Explain to any over-zealous pairs who happen to enjoy pushing one another over or off-balance, that their example is not isometric behaviour. You need to nip this in the bud early, otherwise, it sends a signal to the rest of the group that this may not be a safe place to play.
You could integrate Isometric Stretch as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of enjoying a short burst of physical activity with a partner.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully balance one’s effort against that of a partner may speak to the benefits of being mindful insofar as it demands constant and singular attention. You may also be able to apply the principle of balancing stress and pressure (as exercised in this activity) with the development of positive behavioural norms for your group. For example, all members benefit when the group is willing to acknowledge when the pressure or stress (perhaps related to a specific task) is too much and make appropriate adjustments.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Isometric Stretch could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Demonstrations: Upon bunching everyone up at the end, invite one or more partners to demonstrate an inventive isometric stretch they enjoyed, and ask everyone to try it.
Isometric Stretch Groups: Try groups of three or four people.
Take a look at Human Spring for a different application of isometric pressure that causes movement.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Has anyone heard of the term ‘isometric’ before in the context of movement and physical exercise? [allow time for suggestions…] That’s right, it’s a term used to describe the application of pressure or resistance to the body so that the muscles and joints involved do not move. It’s kind of weird, because we often think that the body has to actually move in order to benefit from exercise, but this is not true. This next activity is all about exploring the many different ways that isometrics could exercise our bodies…
Some Physical Educators suggest that isometric stretching is one of the best forms of exercise. It limits the amount of movement a particular muscle group or joint makes while still exerting considerable resistance or pressure to these points. Isometric forms are quite common in many branches of yoga and Chinese martial arts training. Today, I would like to explore some of the many ways we can exert isometric pressure…
Have you ever heard the terms ‘isometric’ exercise before? The term ‘isometric’ comes from the Greek words ‘so’ meaning same, and ‘metric’ meaning distance, suggesting that in isometric exercises the length of the muscle and the angle of the joint do not change, though contraction strength may be varied. Let’s take a closer look at this concept…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this simple, partner-stretching exercise:
Did it surprise you that it was possible to stretch and warm-up with little movement?
How many different ways did you discover you could apply isometric pressure with your partner? How many were unique?
In what ways did you respond to the pressure applied by your partner?
Did you express or demonstrate any empathy or compassion towards your partner? How?
How might the concept of ‘isometric’ apply elsewhere in our lives, work and play?
The inspiration for Isometric Stretch, and many more unique partner stretches, was sourced from the following publication: