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Everything You Need To Know About Isometric Exercises & How You Can Benefit From Them

Sharon AlphonsoSharon Alphonso  |  Apr 21, 2020
Everything You Need To Know About Isometric Exercises & How You Can Benefit From Them

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Most of us may not be familiar with the term ‘Isometric exercise’ but we’ve all tried it at some point in time. Remember the yoga poses such as chair and tree pose? Also, high plank, low plank, prayer pose and low squat are all examples of isometric exercise. The term “Isometric” is derived from two Greek words, “iso” that means equal in English, and “metria” that means to measure. Clubbing these two words together, you’re left with ‘isometria’ that simply means equal length.  

What are isometric exercises?

They’re basically contractions of one muscle or a group of muscles. During isometric exercises, a contraction causes the muscles to tense up without you having to move your body.  In a nutshell, they’re done in a static position and require no movement. It involves deep flexing of a muscle and the best part is that it does not require any equipment. Another pro of practising isometric exercises is that you don’t need to physically go to the gym to do it, they can be done in the comfort of your own home. People who suffer from arthritis may benefit from isometric exercises. Performing isometric exercises won’t only help reduce pain for them, but also build strength. If you have heart problems or high blood pressure, you should avoid doing isometric exercise as each exercise can cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure. Consult a doctor or a physical therapist before you go ahead with any isometric contractions.

Benefits of Isometric exercises

Isometric exercises help improve your posture and burn calories, which help aid weight loss. Since breathing is critical during isometric exercises, you develop proper breathing habits. Apart from these exercises, here are some other benefits of isometric exercises.

1. They Help Build Muscle

No matter which isometric exercise you try, it’s going to help build muscle strength and muscle size. You see, when your muscles stay tense and static for a long period of time, various chemicals and compounds are produced that help the muscle grow and become stronger. Tendons and ligaments hold everything in your body together. The more you exercise, the stronger your connective tissue will become. This helps your body to handle slips, falls and exertion better and reduces the risk of injury severely. 

2. They Don’t Require Much Time

Compared to cardiovascular exercises or weight training, isometric exercises deliver quick results. When you hold a position for a couple of seconds, it works on the targeted muscle and helps it to become stronger. If you’re not used to practising isometric contractions, you could experience muscle soreness for the first few times, it’s normal. Your body will get used to it after a while.

3. It Increases Flexibility

a women lying on a yoga mattress doing Isometric exercises

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Isometric exercises are all about holding an exercise for a couple of seconds and in that process, flexibility increases. Take the squat position for example. When you squat, your whole body and gravity create resistance to your leg muscles. The lower you squat, the more your flexibility improves. Stretching also helps to improve your flexibility and keep your muscles energised and relaxed.

4. They Improve Your Mental Health

Isometric exercises help improve mental health and concentration. While physical exercises cause you to sweat and your brain to release endorphins, isometric exercises help your body to react in a way that helps you feel calmer and more focused. People who suffer from anxiety and depression can find isometric exercises to be beneficial to their mental health. The next time you’re feeling stressed, sad or lethargic, place a yoga mat on the floor and try doing a plank or a tree pose, you’ll feel better instantly.

5. They Can Be Done ANYWHERE

As mentioned earlier, the beauty of doing isometric exercises is that it can be done anywhere. You don’t have to go to the gym and use the equipment for it. You can do it at home, at the park, in your office, anywhere! You just need a hard surface like a wall, floor or chair to perform some of the exercises. During this lockdown period, isometric exercises are a good activity to keep mind and body fit and healthy. 

6. They Nurse Your Muscles Back To Health

a women recovering from back problem doing Isometric exercises

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One of the main benefits of isometric exercises is that they nurse your injured muscles back to health. If you’ve recently gone through surgery or you’ve injured your joints and muscles, isometric exercises can heal your muscles. While getting a good night’s rest and eating healthy food can help your muscles recover, you also need to train them so that they can grow to be stronger and bigger. Isometric exercises won’t cause strain and are effective for those who are recovering from joint problems.

7. They Fight Muscle Loss

There is no better way to say this, but as you grow older, your muscles will slowly lose their mobility and flexibility. You won’t be able to digest amino acids and it will take your muscles a really long time to recover. Physical activity becomes harder for you to do and if at all you damage your muscles, it can take a long time to recover. Which is why you should make isometric exercises a way of life. They’ll help build muscle strength, mobility and endurance. The sooner you start, the more comfortable your life will be once you grow older. 

Isometric Exercises To Try At Home

The lockdown period is the best time to get familiar with isometric exercises. Since you don’t need special equipment for it, you can do it at home. You probably just need a yoga mat, chair and support from the wall to ace these exercises. So what are you waiting for? Get into your gym wear outfit and give these a shot!

Isometric Neck Exercises

a women doing Isometric Neck Exercises at her home

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If you experience pain and stiffness in your neck, you should try isometric neck exercises. An important reminder–always stay in your comfort range. If any exercise adds to the pain or causes more discomfort, stop doing this immediately. When doing neck exercises, always remember to breathe slowly and be conscious of your movements. 

Muscles activated: Serratus, scapula, scalenes, semispinalis capitis, splenius capitis, traps,  sternocleidomastoid, sternohyoid, omohyoid and biceps.

Static Flexion

Step 1: Place both hands on your forehead and slowly push forward against their resistance. 

Step 2: Hold the position for 5-8 seconds

Step 3: Release from this position and rest for 5 minutes and repeat. 

No of Reps – 3

Lateral Flexion

Step 1: Place your right hand on the right side of your face next to your ear. 

Step 2: Move your head from left to right

Step 3:  Hold resistance posture for 5 seconds and rest. Do this from the other side as well. 

No of Reps – 3

Neck Flexion

Step 1: Sit upright and slowly bend your head forward. 

Step 2: Try to touch your chin to your chest. 

Step 3: Once you do, hold the position for 5-8 seconds and release. 

No of Reps – 3

Isometric Shoulder Exercises

a women is doing Isometric shoulder exercises using a pair of dumbbells

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Always wanted to strengthen your shoulders? Then you’ve got to try these key isometric exercises! A word of advice, make sure to give your body frequent breaks. You should not strain the muscle, but help it become stronger. Isometric shoulder exercises should be done every alternate day. 

Muscles activated: Subscapularis, pectoralis, deltoids, serratus anterior, upper traps and supraspinatus.

Side Dumbbell Isometric Hold 

Step 1: Stand tall and keep your feet, shoulder-width apart. 

Step 2: Hold a dumbbell/water bottle in each hand.

Step 3: Lift the dumbbells up and make sure that they’re parallel to the floor. 

Step 4: Hold the positive for 30 seconds. 

Step 5: Relax and repeat for another round. 

No of Reps: 2

Shoulder Press

Step 1: Hold a dumbbell/water bottle in each hand

Step 2: Bend elbows in a 90-degree angle and make sure that your fists are pointing towards the ceiling. 

Step 3: Raise one arm while the other stays stationary

Step 4: Do the same on the other side

No of Reps: 4

Shoulder Flexion

Step 1: Stand tall and face the wall.

Step 2: Press your fist into the wall (place a towel there as it acts as padding)

Step 3: Hold this position for 15 seconds.

Step 4: Relax and repeat on the other side

No of Reps: 5

Isometric Leg Exercises

 A women doing side plank raises

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Isometric exercises make a great lower body workout. They help to mobilize your hips, activate glutes and provide a lovely stretch to your legs. Plus, they also work on improving your core strength and balance too!

Muscles activated: Hamstrings, quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors and glutes.

Extended triangle

Step 1: On a yoga mat, stand feet-hip width apart. 

Step 2: Bend your right knee into a 90-degree angle. 

Step 3: Place your right hand on the ground or catch your ankle

Step 4: Raise your left hand toward the ceiling. 

Step 5: Hold this posture for 10 breaths.

Step 6: Release and repeat on the left side. 

No of Reps – 2

Wall Sit

Step 1: Rest your back against the wall.

Step 2: Get into sitting position (as you would on a chair)

Step 3: Make sure that your quads and hamstrings are parallel to the ground. 

Step 4: Hold the position for 5 seconds

Step 5: Use hands support to bring you back into standing position. 

No of Reps – 3

The Warrior 

Step 1: Get into a lunge position by making sure your left leg is straight and your right leg is in a 90-degree angle. 

Step 2: While holding the lunge, raise your arms at shoulder height (should be parallel to the ground)

Step 3: Hold this position for 10 breaths.

Step 4: Raise your right knee, lower your arms and repeat on the left side.

No of Reps – 2

Isometric Back Exercises

a women doing Isometric Exercises for back at home

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If you have back pain, had surgery before or suffer from poor posture, you give isometric exercises a shot! They will strengthen your back muscles and reduce pain in the area. Here are a couple of isometric exercises that are worth giving a shot.

Muscles activated: Abs, glutes, lower back, chest, shoulders, arms and hamstrings.

Side Plank

Step 1: Place a yoga mat on the floor.

Step 2: Get into an elbow plank position

Step 3: Slowly twist your body and stack your legs on top of each other. 

Step 4: Raise your arm to the ceiling while keeping your core muscles tight. 

Step 5: Stay in that position for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.

No of Reps: 2

Superman

Step 1: Place a yoga mat on the floor and lie flat on your stomach. 

Step 2: Take a deep breath and raise both your legs and arms into the air. 

Step 3: Hold this position for 10 breaths and release. 

No of Reps: 3

The Bridge 

Step 1: Place a yoga mat on the floor and lie down on your back. 

Step 2: Place feet as close as you can to the butt

Step 3: Push the lower body up and hold this position for 10 seconds. 

Step 4: If you’re comfortable in this position you may also push your upper body up with your hands. The position needs to make your body look like a bridge. 

Step 5: Release and relax. 

No of Reps: 2

Isometric Exercise For Chest

Isometric exercise - A women is doing push ups

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Isometric exercises for your chest are amazing because they help to improve posture and help you stand tall and confident. Plus, it promotes lung expansion during exercise and improves breathing.

Muscles activated: Deltoids(shoulders), rhomboids, triceps, middle trapezius(upper back), serratus anterior and coracobrachialis.

Doorway Pull-Apart

Step 1: Stand in the middle of a doorway. 

Step 2: Place your hands on the sides of the doorway

Step 3: Exert outward pressure as though you are pushing the doorway. 

Step 4: Hold for 15 seconds and then release. 

No of Reps: 2

Prayer Press

Step 1: Sit on a yoga mat and join your hands into a prayer position.

Step 2: Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle. 

Step 3: Apply pressure to your palms and hold this position for 10 seconds. 

Step 4: Release and repeat. 

No of Reps: 3

Wall Push-Up

Step 1: Place your hands against the wall.

Step 2: Lean your body forward and make sure that your chest does not touch the wall. 

Step 3: Hold the position for 10 seconds and use your hands to push your body back to standing position. 

No of Reps: 4

Isometric Bicep Exercises

 a women doing Isometric Exercises for bicep with the use of dumbbell

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Always wanted fuller and stronger arms? You have to try isometric bicep exercises! If you don’t have weights at home, you can use your water bottle or towel to get the job done. 

Muscles activated: Biceps – wrist flexors, triceps, supinators, back and shoulders.  

Bicep Lift

Step 1: Stand tall and hold weights/water bottles in each hand

Step 2: Keep elbows close to your torso and make sure that your palms are facing up. 

Step 3: Hold this position for 10 seconds and come back to the initial position. 

No o Reps: 8

Iso Bicep Curl

Step 1: Sit on a chair and lean forward.

Step 2: Place your left elbow under your left knee and right angle in a 90-degree position.

Step 3: Hold a book and press for 10 seconds.

Step 4: Release and relax.

No of Reps: 7

Wood Chop

Step 1: Stand tall and use your hands to hold a book. 

Step 2: Twist your upper body to the right and press the book for 10 seconds. 

Step 3: Release and repeat on the left side.

No of Reps: 5

Isometric Ab Exercises

a women is doing isometric exercise for abs on a yoga mat

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Who doesn’t want to get rid of that stubborn belly fat, right? A strong core makes it easier for you to do physical exercises like rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, swimming, biking and golfing. If you want a flat stomach, you should give these isometric ab exercises a shot!

Muscles activated: Rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, erector spinae, transverse abdominis, core, hip flexors, shoulders, hamstrings, calves and ankles.

V-Hold

Step 1: Place a yoga mat on the floor and sit on it.

Step 2: Lift your feet off the ground and maintain a neutral spine

Step 3: Slowly extend your legs and hands till they’re parallel to each other

Step 4: Your upper body and lower body should look like a V

Step 5: Hold this position for 15-20 seconds

No of Reps: 3

Warrior 3 Pose

Step 1: On a yoga mat, place one leg forward and the other leg back. 

Step 2: Shift all your weight into the leg you placed forward and raise the back leg up.  

Step 3: Extend your arms forward and hold the position for 10-15 secs. 

No of Reps: 2

Dead Bug Hold

Step 1: Place a yoga mat on the floor and lie on your back 

Step 2: Slowly raise your arms and legs in the air. 

Step 3: While your arms remain straight, lower your legs to ground like a 45-degree angle.

Step 4: Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.

No of Reps: 2

FAQs

Is yoga an isometric exercise?

Yes, yoga is an isometric exercise. It requires you to hold a position for a couple of seconds and breaths. This helps build muscle, improve flexibility, improve mental health, develop proper breathing habits and improve posture.

What are the best isometric exercises?

Some of the best isometric exercises include squats, low plank, bent-over press against the wall, chair pose, tree pose and prayer pose. 

Do isometric exercises build muscle?

Yes, when done regularly, isometric exercises help to build strength and muscle. 

How long should you hold isometric exercises?

You’ll need to hold each contraction for at least 5-6 seconds. As your body gets used to it, you can hold contractions for a long period of time. Not more than 10-15 seconds. 

Can I do isometric exercises every day?

Yes, you can! Even if you set aside 30 mins a day to practise isometric contractions, you’ll do just fine. Also, flexibility and posture do not improve overnight. You must practise in tiny doses every day. 

Work it, babe!

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