What is an Isokinetic Dynamometer?

Mal Baxter

An isokinetic dynamometer is a piece of equipment used in physical therapeutic and sports fitness contexts that often resembles a positioning chair attached to an adjustable strength machine and computer control unit. Essentially, the device measures performances of different muscle groups; however, complex applications enable a wide range of sensitive force measurements for numerous angles and speeds. Clinicians can program a sequence of test and exercise modes that target all of the body's peripheral joints. Measurements may include strength, torque, resistance, and fatigue.

An isokinetic dynamometer may be used to evaluate muscle performance of professional athletes.
An isokinetic dynamometer may be used to evaluate muscle performance of professional athletes.

The performances of target muscles are recorded onto the computer, expressed as torque, or the force applied in a certain distance from the axis of joint rotation. An isokinetic dynamometer can accommodate many varieties of muscle movements, such as isometric, isokinetic, and isotonic movements. The dynamometer modulates forces to prevent injury, as it reacts to external forces and ceases function when an applied force stops. This functionality makes the machine a vital component in physical therapy and rehabilitation testing.

An isokinetic dynamometer may be used in physical therapy.
An isokinetic dynamometer may be used in physical therapy.

The technology accommodates many evaluative and rehabilitative methods in all the major joints of the body. Among the possible movements, an isokinetic dynamometer might be used to measure flexion, pronation, abduction, and other movements, as well as their counter forces. Computer and touch panel control allow operators to make adjustments to forces, speeds, and ranges of motion for specific patient requirements. Biofeedback data is collected and made available for analysis and printout.

The automated force limits programmed into an isokinetic dynamometer allow movement within safe ranges not to exceed desirable force levels. This allows the equipment to aid in reducing joint effusion and developing range of motion and strength. Attachments provide for interfacing with joints such as ankle, knee, and shoulder. The motor may rotate and shift to fit the required position, and work with seat and stabilization adjustments to provide for optimal positioning.

The isokinetic dynamometer may be used to test and evaluate muscle performance for professional athletes. Professional sports organizations use the technology to better assess athlete health, performance, and risk of injury, and also to spot any potential areas for improvement. By isolating individual joints, specific muscle groups can be targeted and performance compared.

Not only does this equipment assist patients in rehabilitation from injury; it may help them develop function in new limbs or muscle tissue. With precise measurement of torque and range of motion, muscle performance remains safely under accurate control. Testing then offers reliable data from which to implement more effective outcomes.

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Discussion Comments


I had no idea what a dynamometer was until my brother started explaining his physical therapy treatment to me.

He is a carpenter by trade, and builds houses for a living. He is right handed and had an injury to his right hand while at work.

Since he needs full use of his hands in order to make a living, it was important that he get the right treatment.

He told me he was using a hand held dynamometer for many of his exercises. He had to do quite a few repetitions a day and at first these were very painful and hard to do.

As time went on and he began to get some of his strength back, they became easier to do. He was eventually able to return to work, but it was a few months before he had full strength in his hand.


My husband had some major injuries after getting thrown from a horse and had to spend several weeks in physical therapy.

Using an isokinetic dynamometer was part of his recovery process. Most of the impact from his fall was on his right side, which affected his shoulder all the way down to the bottom of his right leg.

Since we didn't have access to this type of machine at home, most of his physical therapy was done away from home. This isokinetic exercise was crucial for him to regain his strength and the proper use of the muscles and joints that were affected from his injuries.

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