An isometric hold is a form of exercise that involves a muscular contraction of a particular muscle or a group of muscles without changing the length of these muscles, and the affected joint doesn’t move. Your body will remain static position whilst your muscles are firing away to keep the body rigid.
One of the most basic forms of isometric hold is a plank. In this position, your body remains completely stagnant whilst you’re squeezing your core, glutes, quads, etc, the entire time to hold this position. Other examples of isometric exercises include wall sits, isometric pull-up hold, and static lunge
According to research, isometric training enables a closely controlled application of force within pain-free joint angles in rehabilitative settings. Therefore, this will be helpful to those that have an injury. For example, if you have arthritis, it could be painful to be using muscles to move a joint through the full range of motion. Isometric exercises could be a great alternative for these individuals to develop strength and improve physical function with less pain.
You can build muscle with isometric holds and you should include them in your workouts on a weekly basis. An effective way to build muscle with isometric holds is to superset them with dynamic exercises, which is performing 2 or more exercises back to back in a single set. For example:
This method of training is central to optimal hypertrophy due to time under tension. Imagine doing a certain number of pull-ups followed by holding at the top pull-up position for a period of time, you can create maximum tension at this angle and hold it for as long as you can withstand.
An empirical study has found that isometric exercise boosts intramuscular pressure, restricts circulation, and causing anoxia which is oxygen deficiency inside the muscles. This triggers the fusion of new actin and myosin in the muscle cells, to help them to survive - in simple terms, it stimulates muscle growth!
The plank is a great exercise that develops your core strength. It requires you to hold your body in a rigid line that is parallel to the ground. Your entire body must be engaged to maintain a good form. You can check out different variations of the plank in this article! To perform this, you will:
This exercise is great for conditioning your chest, triceps, anterior deltoids, and core without extending the range of motion. This exercise is perfect for beginners who are not yet able to do push-ups proficiently. You can check out different push-ups variations here! To perform this, you will:
The isometric pull-up hold is an effective way for developing the strength in your upper body muscles to be able to perform your first pull-up. This can also be used as a superset with dynamic pull-ups to further increase the muscular endurance in the lats, biceps, and forearms. There will be more time under tension with this exercise, thus, it will enhance your strength. To perform this, you will:
The dead hang is another great exercise that develops your static strength and works on your upperbody muscles whilst you remain in a static hang. This exercise will give you a crushing grip strength for your pull-ups, chin-ups, and will give your lats a nice stretch! If you want to learn more above the dead hang, here’s the video and article. To perform this you will:
The wall sit works on your lower body and actives the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. This exercise is simple and can be performed anywhere, it will activate the slow-twitch fiber (Type I Fiber), which is responsible for increasing your endurance. To perform this, you will:
The static lunge will develop your core strength along with providing the foundation for your lower body muscles to progress onto the dynamic lunge. A unilateral exercise such as this one will help you to build core stability. You can check out different variations of the lunges here! To perform this, you will:
This exercise is an awesome exercise that primarily works on your butt (gluteus maximus!) and the lower back muscles. It is a low-impact exercise that is great for beginners, as well as for those who experience knee pains when performing bodyweight squats. To perform this, you will:
As mentioned earlier, isometric holds will assist in building bigger muscles, if you increase the time under tension on your muscles, for example by supersetting them with dynamic exercises. This will stimulate hypertrophy, your muscle fibers will be placed at greater stress, which will cause your muscles to grow bigger and stronger..
Isometric exercises are beneficial for all levels, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced level in your fitness journey you can gain strength from practicing this. Beginners can develop their muscles and build strength to be able to perform their first pull-ups, push-ups, and squats through isometrics.
Moreover, advanced level athletes can further stimulate time under tension on their muscles through isometrics as it creates force overload. A study has found that isometric contractions assist in large and rapid increases in strength (40% in 8 weeks).
Isometric exercises are suitable for people who have injuries or medical conditions that have limited movement. Injuries often occur when a force is placed on a tissue that exceeds its capacity to cope with it. In isometrics, your muscles will contract without moving the surrounding joints, therefore, you can develop strength in the desired muscle without placing too much stress on the muscle or joint.
My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.