Are you getting stagnant with your regular strength training routine? Try adding some isometric exercises into the mix!

Isometric exercises

These are contractions of a particular muscle or group of muscles. During isometric exercises, the muscle doesn’t noticeably change length and the affected joint doesn’t move.


Isometric exercises don’t effectively build strength but can add variety into your regular routine.

You mostly see isometric exercises in a rehab or physical therapy setting to help maintain muscle strength.

Benefits of isometric exercises

– The exercises usually require a full exertion from the muscle. Giving maximum effort is the secret to strengthening. They are also used when maximum strength isn’t necessarily the goal.

– Isometric exercises may be helpful to someone who has been injured or has a condition such as arthritis, which could make movement painful or be aggravated by moving a joint through the full range of motion.

For example: if you injured your knee, your physical therapist might recommend isometric exercises involving the group of muscles that helps stabilize the knee to maintain strength during recovery.

– Recent studies have shown that isometric exercises may also help lower your blood pressure. Check with your doctor before beginning isometric exercises if you have high blood pressure or any heart problems.

Avoid holding your breath and straining during any weight training exercise, as this may cause a rise in blood pressure.

Training using isometrics

There are two ways of training using isometrics: maximal muscle movement and sub-maximal muscle movement.

Maximal movements

Incorporates immovable objects into the exercise, like a door frame or a wall. These are the type that is good for strength training and conditioning.

Sub-maximal movements

These use movable objects, like free weights or elastic bands; these are often used more for rehabilitative purposes because the level of exertion required is not as great.

isometric exercises_25 top maximal isometric movements

Below are my top maximal isometric movements to up the intensity to any strength training.

1. Wall sits

Place your back against a wall and lower yourself until your upper legs are parallel to the floor. Your knees should be at 90 degrees. Hold your arms out in front of you and hold the position. Add some variation and do a single leg wall sit. For modification, if you cannot go down to 90 degrees, do what you can safely.

2. Planks

Start by lying face down on the ground. Place your elbows and forearms underneath your chest. Prop yourself up to form a bridge using your toes and forearms. Maintain a flat back and do not allow your hips to sag towards the ground. If it is too hard on your elbows, begin on your hands with your arms extended out. Add some variation by doing side planks, single leg or single arm planks.

3. Isometric Push Ups

Starting in the push up position with arms fully extended, lower yourself to about half way to the floor. Hold this position for max time and remember to breathe. For added intensity, do one arm or one leg. For modification, use your knees instead of feet.

4. Bridges

Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Press your hips up as high as you can while leaving your shoulders on the ground. Contract the glutes. For added intensity, place a weight on your pelvic area, raise one leg, or plant heels on an exercise ball.

5. Isometric Pull Ups

On a pull-up bar, use a reverse grip (palms facing towards you). Pull yourself up so you are a the flex phase (chin on bar) and hold. For added variations, you can add a weight belt. If you need to modify, use a pull up assist machine or theraband around the foot.

Start with a max hold and record your results. Try to do these 1-2 times per week. Add 10-30 seconds each week. For a big challenge, aim to hold for 5 minutes each.

Happy Isolations!

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