Isometrics are hold exercises. they are one of the 3 basic movement types so naturally you have to do them. Most of the big power moves are isometric exercises. Here I am going to show you 5 beginner isometric exercises and why you need to be doing them.
How can I start isometric training? I haven't trained in a while and I can't do an L-sit
The first thing to know about isometrics is that they are always hard. When you start out they will be hard, and they will get easier. But you will always find they give your muscles a good workout regardless. So the second thing to know about isometrics is that you shouldn't be discouraged from doing them.
Some basic isometric exercises will be familiar to you like the plank. But there are hundreds of exercises you can do from simple to extreme like the planche.
The Crow Stand Is A Great Isometric Exercise For Beginners
Getting Started With Isometric Exercises
Isometrics are simply holds, so any exercise can essentially become isometric if you stop moving at a point of tension like the bottom of a push up.
Isometrics can be very powerful when you mix them into other exercises. If you were doing a set of pull ups, you could do a 5 second hold at the top of each rep. Doing this amplifies the difficulty of the exercise because it forces your muscles to stay contracted for a longer time.
One of the biggest advantages of isometric training is that you can often do the exercises at home. They don't usually take up much space, the length of your body or less, so you can squeeze them into the smallest of spaces.
A lot of isometrics can be done at home in very little space - Planche Lean
Why Should I Do Isometrics?
Isometrics make up ⅓ of your training. There are 3 basic movements, Push Pull and Hold. If you neglect one of these there will always be a hole in your development.
This can have consequences further down the line when you decide to do something that requires it.
Isometrics build endurance in your muscles. In any given exercise, your muscles are tight, holding your body in place. Working isometrics into your workouts will not only wear you out, but provide massive strength benefits too.
You will quickly build stability in a given hold and that will transfer into strength within a movement around that position.
Holding a pull up at the highest point in your movement will help improve your pulls and build towards muscle ups
Isometrics Fill The Progressions
Using holds in your exercises will help bridge the gap between progression exercises. If you are struggling to complete a movement, or you plateau at a particular exercise it can be frustrating. Isometrics are great to throw into the mix to help get past this.
So if you struggle to do pull ups, try isometric holds at various stages of the movement. A hold at the top of the movement is going to help you squeeze the last few inches. A halfway hold is going to help take you from half to full reps.
Scapula holds and near dead isometrics are going build strength at the start of the pull between dead hang and halfway.
This also works with typewriter exercises. Say you are building up to typewriter pulls, get up in a wide grip, then move out to one side as far as you can and hold before coming down.
Scapula Pulls are going to build the bottom of your pull up movement and will develop serious shoulder strength
Basic Isometric Exercises
Ignoring the improvised isometrics, because I would be listing every exercise ever, here are a few beginner isometric exercises to get you started. Each of them will help build up strength and skill to tackle more challenging ones later on, so it's worth giving them all a go next time your training.
Planks are the staple isometric exercise. You may not have heard of isometric exercises but I’m sure you have heard of the plank. It is great for building up your core and you can do all sort of variations like side planks leg raises and more.
This is one of my favourite isometric exercises because it has several benefits. The most important of them is locked arm strength. Maintaining solid locked arms is key to mastering a lot of power moves like the planche, back lever and human flag.
These are another classic exercise, simply lean your back against a wall with your legs out at 90 degrees as if you were sitting on a chair. Wall sits are great for your lower body and core.
Stepping it up a bit here, the crow stand is a simple balance exercise that you may struggle with at first, but you will learn to hold quite quickly. And it will build some pretty good core strength as well as preparing for other exercises later on. The crow stand will do wonders for your training so get the down.
Tuck Sits And Hanging Tucks
Tuck sits are the first big step towards that L Sit. Lifting your body off the ground with your shoulders takes a lot of power but again you can get there quickly. Hanging Tucks are the same but from the bar, even though they are both core exercises, you will find they do just as much to your shoulders.
Hanging Tuck Isometrics will help build the strength to tackle L Sits and Leg raises, developing a solid core
Isometrics will help build strength in a movement very quickly and vice versa. So supported leg raises will help with the L sit and hanging L sits will help with hanging leg raises.
Because of this, isometrics are great to overcome little plateaus and help you push yourself and progress faster.
Where To Do Isometrics
Although most of the above exercises are more for home than the bar, you can use parallels bars or a low dip bar to train them too, and this will really challenge you.
You can learn a lot of simple isometric exercises quickly, you will find balancing a crow stand will go from 3 - 10+ seconds in a few sessions. But it will challenge you for a long time. The tension in your body doesn't stop just because you can hold it, you will still be working your muscles. So when you start progressing on to other exercises and variations, it is still good to mix these in too.
Isometrics integrate with other movements in a workout very well. Include a set of holds into your circuit, or add 5 second holds into your reps.
You can use them for finishers too - one of my personal favourites 🙂 - at the end of your session, just before you leave, do a hanging L, or supported L sit if you can. Do not let go of the hold. Hold it to the death. Make sure you keep breathing, but no matter how much your body shakes, hold tight. You will be trembling and shaking like crazy, but keep holding. It will burn and ache but keep holding . . .
Get The Isometric Workout
I’ve put together a simple workout you can do at home, in the gym or on the bar. It contains all of the basic isometric exercises and a few more bonus ones to help round off your training. All you have to do is pop your best email in the box, and I’ll send it to you before you finish your warm up!