Isotonic Contractions Might Be More Effective than Isokinetic Contractions in Developing Muscle Strength

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation

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Kenneth L Knight
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Christopher D Ingersoll
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John Bartholomew
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Isokinetic contractions are thought to be superior to isotonic contractions for developing strength because resistance during them is greater. Because isokinetic resistance is accommodating, however, it decreases with fatigue. It is constant during multiple repetitions, so an aggressive isotonic procedure should produce more force as the muscle fatigues, which would be an advantage in strength development.


To compare force production in isokinetic and isotonic muscle contractions at the beginning and end of a set of fatiguing repetitions.


Subjects performed 25 maximal-effort isokinetic knee extensions at 60°/s. After 25–72 hours, they performed maximal repetitions isotonically using 70% of the isokinetic peak torque with speed set at a maximum of 300°/s.


Peak force during the first 3 repetitions was greater isokinetically, but average force was similar. During the last 3 repetitions, isotonic force was higher than isokinetic force.


Muscle is more active as it nears fatigue during an isotonic contraction. These data support the hypothesis that isotonic contractions recruit extra motor units at the point of fatigue.

Knight is with the Physical Education/Athletic Training Dept at Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602-2116. Ingersoll is interim dean of the School of Graduate Studies and professor of athletic training at Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809. Bartholomew is with Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa.

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