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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Top 10 Isometric Exercises and Benefits,

Top Isometric Exercises and Benefits

Reading Time: 4 minutes 45 seconds


DATE: 2024-04-08

Three main muscle contractions occur during exercise or human movement: concentric, eccentric, and isometric. Concentric muscle contractions occur when a muscle shortens. Eccentric muscle contraction is the opposite; it is when the muscle elongates or lengthens. The eccentric portion of a lift is the point where muscles can produce the greatest force. Eccentric training is often used mainly to build muscle mass. 

On the other hand, isometric muscle contractions are a bit different. Isometric contractions refer to muscle contractions where there is no change in muscle length. It’s common for people to jump to conclusions and assume that because it is a muscle contraction, there must be movement.

This is not true, because an isometric contraction produces no change in muscle length. This is due to no movement occurring at the joint. Isometric contractions allow clients to withstand weight at a fixed angle. This produces many additional benefits.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the top isometric exercises. It’s important to know when and how to implement isometric exercise training to benefit your clients’ goals to build strength. There is a time and place for everything. Isometric training can take your clients’ results to the next level.

Isometric Contractions: Breaking It Down

Let’s break down a biceps curl to analyze all three muscle contractions associated with strength training. When a client begins to curl in the upward direction, the bicep must shorten. This is the concentric contraction of the lift.

Once the client reaches the end range of motion, they must lower the weight back down. As the client brings the weight back to the starting position, the biceps muscle lengthens. This is the eccentric muscle contraction.

So, when does the muscle isometrically contract? Well, it doesn’t, unless your client holds the weight halfway through the curl. This locks in the joint at a fixed angle, which forces muscles to contract in order to hold the weight up.

Why might you choose to perform isometric exercises? Why would holding the weight at the halfway point be better than performing curls concentrically and eccentrically?

Benefits of Isometric Exercises

There are many ways to utilize the benefits of isometric training. Time under tension (TUT) is a major component that adds value to isometric exercises. Time under tension refers to the amount of time your muscles undergo resistance. TUT is not just for muscle growth but also produces benefits for a wide variety of fitness goals. 

This includes increasing muscle size and muscle strength. More importantly, this leads to improved neuromuscular control, higher bone mineral density, and lower body fat percentages. Neuromuscular control plays a major role in balance and coordination while also increasing performance. 

A common approach to increasing time under tension is tempo training. This can be as simple as slowing down your lift so that the number of reps you're completing takes longer. If you complete 6 reps and the set lasts 20 seconds, that’s better than completing 6 reps in 10 seconds. Tempo training can help you achieve this.

So, why not utilize isometric exercises to increase TUT? Wouldn’t this lead to optimal results? Adjusting the time that your muscles remain under tension can enhance results, which is why you should implement isometric exercises.

Top 10 Isometric Exercises

A muscle contracts to produce force. The type of exercise your client performs will determine the use of muscle fibers. Time is an integral part of clients seeing results. If clients are limited on time to be in the gym, it’s your job to help them optimize the time they have. Using these isometric exercises for 10 minutes or less could potentially equate to a 45-minute workout of regular weightlifting.

#1. Plank

The plank is an effective exercise to strengthen the core. It does not require any flexion or extension of muscle groups. Simply hold your body up on all fours until you are completely fatigued. Be sure to brace your core muscles to keep your body in position.

#2. Hollow Body Hold

Another isometric core exercise is the hollow body hold. Lying flat on your back, keep your arms and legs up off the ground. Hold this position until fatigued. Be sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight and engaged for the entire set.

#3. Wall Sit

The wall sit is deceptively simple. Find a wall to rest your back against. With your hips and knees at 90 degrees, hold for a set duration. This isometric exercise will target the lower body. The quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings should be utilized.

#4. Goblet Squat

Squat down and hold a weight at chest level. Be sure to squat down to where your thighs are parallel with the ground and hold. Hold for a set time and repeat. This is a great way to increase the difficulty of a wall squat or air squat. 

#5. Static Lunge

In a split stance position, lower your back knee down towards the ground. It should remain right above the ground while you hold. Add weight to increase the challenge. This exercise targets the lower body, including the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

#6. Glute Bridge

Start your glute bridge by lying flat on your back, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Raise your hips up towards the ceiling and squeeze your glutes. Hold for at least 45 seconds. Then lower back down slowly and rest. Be sure to drive through your heels. This will help activate the glute muscles. 

#7. Calf Raise Hold

In a standing position, raise your heels and lift your body off the ground. Hold this position on your toes for 1 minute. Slowly lower your heels and body back down. Rest and then repeat for a certain number of sets. 

#8. Pull-up Hold

Find a bar and pull yourself up towards the bar. Try to get your head above the bar. Hold for 60 seconds, then lower back down slowly. Rest and repeat. This is an effective back exercise to target the traps, rhomboids, and lats. 

#9. Push-up Hold

In a high plank position, lower your chest down towards the ground. Once you are about halfway, hold for 60 seconds. To increase the difficulty, add weight on top of your back or perform a barbell bench press and hold the weight halfway.

#10. Isometric Biceps Curl

Lastly, one of the most popular isometric arm exercises is the isometric biceps curl. Curl the dumbbells or barbell up to the halfway point. Hold for your desired set time and then rest.

Boost Your Strength and Expertise

Isometric exercise training allows you to achieve optimal results in a short period of time. You can expect improvements in your range of motion, strength, and body composition. The effectiveness of an isometric exercise is what matters. They provide safe and low-impact exercise options, which makes them a versatile style of training for the masses.

Expect connective tissue like tendons and ligaments to get stronger, leading to less injury. The best part of isometric training is that you do not need equipment to perform a workout. 

Ready to take your personal training to the next level? Step it up with ISSA’s Elite Trainer Certification

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