Understanding Isometric Exercises & their Benefits

May 18, 2023 7 min read

Understanding Isometric Exercises & their Benefits


The word "isometrics" is derived from the Greek words "iso" for equal and "metria" for measure. Put them together “isometria” and you have equality of measure or equal length.. The method of exercising your muscles isometrically involves no actual movement.

When muscle tension is produced without a change in muscle length or visible joint movement, the motion is called isometric. To put it another way, the tension between two sets of muscles is either matched or combined to match external forces applied to the body.

Isometric muscular activities frequently take place when the body is moving to dynamically stabilise the spine and peripheral joints. Both isometric and isotonic muscular activities are used in human movement. When doing a squat, for example, the hip adductor and abductor muscles contract isometrically, generating equal force at the knee, limiting unneeded movement, and preserving stability in the frontal and transverse planes while other muscles move the hips, knee, and ankle in the sagittal plane.


When carrying out static holds with weights, such as the front plate hold, or by using your own body weight in exercises like the plank, you can execute isometric workouts. The muscles still experience metabolic stress even when they are not being used, which causes the muscles to adapt and get stronger.

The best workouts for building stability and core strength are isometric ones. The muscles contract and obstruct mobility when you perform an isometric workout. Consider how the plank teaches the abdominal muscles to contract in a specific position, aiding in a better posture and the capacity to withstand pressures that lead to abdominal instability.

In order to increase stability and core strength, static holds are a great method. But how do they improve strength? Gains in strength are specific to the exercise's joint angles.For example if you perform quarter squats, for example, you will only strengthen your muscles at the quarter squat angle rather than a wider range of motion as you would with full squats.

You only keep one position during isometric workouts, thus you only develop strength in one position. Use a variety of joint angles when performing isometric exercises to guarantee that you gain a wider range of strength. As an example, imagine performing an isometric squat while holding static poses with the hips at different heights. 

Do you Gain Bigger Muscles with Isometric Exercises?

Adding isometric exercises to your exercise routine would be an excellent way to help in increasing hypertrophy. Increased time under tension has been connected to larger muscles. In general, the muscles will respond by producing more muscular fibres for a longer period of time.

This time under stress can be increased with isometric training by performing static holds between each rep. If you were performing barbell bicep curls, for instance, you could pause and hold the barbell for three seconds each time you reached the halfway point. Bicep curls will still be beneficial to you, but with a stronger stimulation to build more muscle.


Non Equipment Examples of Isometric Exercises

Planks - Place your elbows underneath your shoulders. Lift your hips off the ground while keeping your feet together. You should tighten your abs, activate your glutes, and droop your shoulder blades to maintain a straight line from your head through your spine to your hips.

Benefits - Lower back discomfort, which is commonly caused by a lack of core strength, can be caused by poor posture. This simple yet effective workout will strengthen the abdominal muscles by concentrating on the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, and gluteus maximus. By tightening them, you may make these muscles stronger and lay the groundwork for additional strength training.

glute bridge


Glutes Bridges - Lie on your back with your feet near your glutes and your knees aligned with your hips. Squeezing your glutes will tuck your tailbone in and pull your abs towards your spine. Hold this stance while pushing your hips up to create a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. To make it harder, you can always add weight plates.

Benefits: The glutes are one of the largest muscles in the body. They play a significant role in posture and are extremely active during actions like jogging. Weak glutes are a contributing factor in the majority of hamstring issues.

Split Squat (Crescent Lunge) - Step with one foot in front of you, bend your knees as much as you can, keeping your front knee behind your toes, and raise your rear knee slightly off the floor. After holding this position isometrically for 7 seconds, release it with a 5-second pulse that is +/- 3 inches up and down. Make sure to complete both sides of this isometric exercise for maximum results.

Dead Hangs - Take an overhand grip with your shoulders spread while holding a pull-up bar. To lighten your load or raise your legs off the ground, get up from a bench. Maintain this posture while keeping your arms straight.

Benefits: A top-notch upper body workout Your grip strength is already being increased just by holding onto the bar. Dead hangs are also fantastic for building shoulder strength and avoiding injuries. Because the scapula needs to be stabilised, the muscles that surround the shoulder joint become stronger as a result. You can prevent shoulder pain and damage by strengthening your shoulders. In this position, the back muscles and the spine are both stretched.

Wall Sit -  Place your back flat against a safe structure after locating one. Kneel down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then hold this position isometrically for 7 seconds. Finish by pulsing for 5 seconds while moving +/- 3 inches up and down.

Examples of Isometric Exercises using Gym Equipment

Side Plank with Row - Hold the typical side plank posture with both feet together, your body in a straight line, and your elbow beneath your shoulder. Hold onto a resistance band that has been wrapped around a stationary item, such as a power rack, and lift your hips off the ground. Pull the resistance band towards your hips for the desired number of reps once you are secure in this posture.

Benefits - The majority of us have performed a side plank and experienced the advantages of training our shoulders, abs, and hips on only one side. The glute medius for hip stability, the obliques and quadratus lumborum for rotational and core strength, and finally the shoulder stabilising muscles of the rotator cuff are key muscles that are addressed during this exercise. By including a rowing motion you get the added benefit of working the lats at the same time.

Isometric Barbell Squats - Choose the correct weight for your barbell before setting it up on your squat rack, such as the Jordan - Helix Squat Stand. Bear in mind to lighten the weight you typically use for squats. Perform your squat, stopping at the appropriate joint angle, holding the position for three seconds or more, and then rising back to the starting position. Complete the necessary amount of repetitions.

Benefits: An isometric Squatting while holding a barbell in place is known as a barbell squat. While the static squat on its own will aid in strength development, combining it with regular squats makes it a more effective exercise. Thus, the impact of hypertrophy will be enhanced. To avoid developing a weakness in the ignored joint angles, practise the static hold at various angles.

Overhead Kettlebell holds - A shoulder press is used to raise a kettlebell above your head after you've raised it to your shoulders. Hold the kettlebell in this posture while contracting your glutes and abs.

Benefits - The static overhead kettlebell hold is a wonderful exercise for developing shoulder stability and strength. By using just one kettlebell, you are also producing an offset weight that necessitates stabilising the entire midline of the body. 

Jordan Isometric Dumbbell Hold


Isometric Dumbbell Curls - Hold a dumbbell in each hand. With one hand perform bicep curls while with the opposite hand statically hold the bicep at a 90-degree angle. Swap arms to perform the same on the other side.

Benefits - Get bigger arms by adding an isometric exercise into your bicep curls.

Standing Cable Anti-Rotation - The standing cable resisted anti-rotation is another excellent example of a transverse plane isometric exercise. For this exercise you will need a cable machine such as the Watson Dual Adjustable Pulley (DAP) Machine  you perform the standing cable anti-rotation by standing with your feet hip-width apart and toes pointed straight ahead. Draw in your navel to brace the lumbar spine, contract your glutes and retract your head with the chin slightly tucked.

With both arms fully extended, hold the cable handle with both hands centered in front of the chest. The idea is to hold the posture for a targeted period without compensation, much like the plank, while resisting the external rotational force. The exercise could be regressed by repositioning the resistance to the sagittal plane and challenge the posture to resist either spinal flexion or extension.

The exercise could also be progressed to a standing iso-rotation, which is very similar to the standing anti-rotation except the iso-rotation requires the maintenance of posture while slowly rotating the leg closest to the source of resistance, arms, and torso together as a unit, away from the source of resistance, with a 1-2 second pause at the end of the motion before returning to the starting position. Again, the leg that you rotate towards should remain still, and aside from the rotation at the hip, there should be very little movement throughout the rest of the body.

Concluding Thoughts

Exercises that use isometrics typically require very little equipment and little room, making them relatively adaptable. To build strength, do isometric exercises on your own. When utilised for activities that build core strength, this is most advantageous. For these, the hold time should be 10 seconds or more. By lengthening each exercise's time under strain, you can also increase the hypertrophy impact. To do this, incorporate 3-second static holds into the routine exercise.


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