Isometric exercises involve contracting a specific muscle or a group of muscles. During an isometric exercise, there is neither a change in the length of the muscle nor any movement of the joint. This form of exercise tones the body, tightens sagging skin, and is an excellent way to circulate blood to the targeted muscles.
In this article, we have listed 18 best isometric exercises to build strength and tone the muscles.
Table Of Contents
What Are Isometric Exercises?
Isometric exercises involve the static movement of specific muscle fibers without altering the length of the muscles and the angle of the joints. They are done for general strength conditioning and rehabilitation, where the muscles undergo strengthening without placing any stress on your joints.
18 Best Isometric Exercises To Strengthen And Tone Your Muscles
Isometric Abs Exercises
1. Plank Hold
Target Muscles: Transversus abdominis muscle, gluteus minimus muscles, gluteus medius, adductor muscles of the hip, and obliques.
- Lie down on your stomach, keeping your knees bent and feet flat as close to your butt as possible.
- Position your elbows directly beneath your shoulders.
- Make sure your elbows and shoulders are in one line, forearms on the ground, and feet hip-width apart.
- Tighten your core and glute muscles. Lift your abs and hips toward the ceiling. They should be in a straight line with the shoulders.
- Flex your hips forward and hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Do this 3 times with 30 seconds hold.
Precaution: Do not place your butt too high or too low as it may strain your back.
2. High Plank
Target Muscles: Core muscles
- Go on all fours on the floor with both the hands in line with the shoulders and knees bent directly under your hips.
- Step one leg back at a time to come into the high plank position on your palms and toes.
- Squeeze your heels and glutes together, engage your core, and draw your navel to the spine.
- Hold this position for 15-30 seconds based on your comfort level.
Precaution: Maintain a straight line from head to heel, and do not drop your hip. Your hands and shoulders should be in a straight line, perpendicular to the floor.
3. Isometric Push-ups
Target Muscles: Abs, middle and lower back, triceps, and chest.
- Get into the standard push-up position. Your body should be in a straight line from the ankles to the shoulders.
- Lower your back and engage your core. Your chest should touch the floor as close as possible.
- Bend your elbows and tuck them beside your body.
- Hold this position for 5-10 secs and return to the normal position by stretching your hands.
- Do 3-5 reps with 10 seconds hold.
Precaution: Make sure not to bend your knees. Balance your body on your toes.
4. Isometric Low Plank
Target Muscles: Abs, middle and lower back, biceps, triceps, and glutes.
- Lower your body. Bend your elbows, keep your head up, and chin straight.
- Slowly push your upper body up as you straighten your elbows and support your body weight with your arms, shoulders, and palms.
- Hold it for 5 seconds.
- Lower your body and hold for 5 seconds.
Precaution: While lowering your body to the low plank position, make sure that your entire body from head to toe is in one line. If you have a knee problem, do not strain it further.
Isometric Shoulder Exercises
5. Bent-Over Press Against Wall/Wall Push-ups
Target Muscles: Arms, shoulders, and chest.
- Stand facing a wall a little more than an arm’s length away. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
Lean forward, placing your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height.
- As you inhale, bend your elbows and lean your upper body further toward the wall in a slow and controlled motion as if you are pushing the wall. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
- Hold this posture for 5 seconds. Come back to the original position, exhaling until your arms are fully stretched.
- Repeat 10-15 times, holding each posture for 5 seconds.
Precaution: Your neck should be relaxed, and shoulders should be tightened enough.
5. Overhead Hold
Target Muscles: Shoulders
- Raise both hands over your head and hold a dumbbell in each.
- Make sure the arms are fully extended and not bent as it might harm your shoulders.
- Hold the weights over your head for 30 seconds and lower your hand further.
- Stretch it again for at least 5 reps.
Precaution: Before increasing the weights, consult your trainer to understand if your shoulders are strong enough to withstand the weight.
7. Shoulder Raise
Target Muscles: Anterior deltoid, trapezius muscles, lats, and supraspinatus.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand without bending your elbows.
- Keep your fee, you can take wall support.
- Raise both the shoulders and try to touch your ears while holding the weights. Hold itt close together and your entire body straight. If needed for 10-15 seconds.
- Breathe out and drop your shoulders and hands downwards.
- Do 5 reps.
Precaution: If you have collarbone issues, be cautious while doing this exercise.
8. Isometric Shoulder Flexion
Target Muscles: Shoulder muscles
- Stand straight facing the wall.
- Bend the elbow of the shoulder you want to start with. Your shoulder and elbow should be in one line.
- Form a fist and place a rolled towel in between the fist and the wall.
- Gently press your hand into the wall, hold it for 5 seconds, and repeat on the other side.
- Do not bend forward and press against the wall. Press your fist to activate your shoulder muscles.
- Repeat 10-15 times to strengthen your shoulders.
Precaution: Do not push the wall. Push your fist to give strength to your shoulders.
Isometric Neck Exercises
9. Neck Stretch
Target Muscle: Neck muscles
- Place both your palms on your forehead and stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
- Push your forehead toward your palms and use them to resist the force. Hold it for 5-8 seconds for 3 reps.
- Put your hands behind your head. Push your head towards your hands and vice versa. Hold it for 5-8 seconds for 3 reps.
- Put your right hand on the right side of your head. Push your head toward your hand and vice versa. Hold it for 5-8 seconds for 3 reps. Do it for the left side as well.
- Put your right palm on the side of your cheek. Push your hand inward and use your face to resist it. Hold it for 5-8 seconds for 3 reps. Do it for the left side as well.
Precaution: Do not apply a huge amount of pressure while pressing your head.
Isometric Leg Exercises
10. Wall Sit
Target Muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Stand with your back to the wall and your feet 2 feet away from it.
- Sink your bottom down as if you are squatting.
- Hold this position for 10-15 seconds with 10 reps.
Precaution: Do not lean forward a lot. Make sure your back is straight.
11. Isometric Quads
Target Muscles: Quadriceps
- Lie on your back on the floor. Keep one leg straight and flex the other, placing the foot flat on the ground.
- Place a rolled towel under the straight leg’s knee.
- Inhale and raise your straight leg a bit, squeezing your thigh muscles. Hold for 10 seconds and drop it slowly.
- Practice the same with the other leg.
- Repeat the entire cycle for 5 rounds.
Precaution: Do not forget to place a rolled towel under the straight leg and use a flat, sturdy surface.
12. Weighted Calf Raise
Target Muscles: Calves, glutes, and arms
- Stand straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Place your hands by your side and keep the legs straight.
- Take a deep breath and raise your heels off the floor. Support your body on the balls of your feet, holding the weights by your sides.
- Hold this posture for 10 seconds. Drop your heels slowly while exhaling.
- Repeat the same for 5 rounds.
Precaution: Use weights that are not too heavy to carry and wear sports shoes.
Isometric Back Exercises
13. Glute Bridge
Target Muscles: Anterior deltoid, trapezius muscles, lats, and supraspinatus.
- Lie on a mat with your arms and shoulders relaxed.
- Keep your arms stretched vertically and close to your body and the palms facing down.
- Bend your knees and bring your feet close to your buttocks.
- Arch your back and push your pelvis up as much as you can.
- Tuck your buttocks and let your shoulders and arms support your body.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.
Precaution: Always breathe while performing this exercise as improper breathing may strain your muscles.
14. Warrior III
Target Muscles: Lats, shoulders, obliques, biceps, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
- Stand in Tadasana and start lifting the left leg slowly.
- Bend forward and balance yourself on the leg you are standing on.
- Keep your back erect and squeeze it. Your spine should be parallel to the floor.
- Bend forward and lift your leg more until your leg and spine should be in one straight line.
- Hold the balance for 10 seconds and repeat it for 5 reps.
Precaution: If you have knee pain, do not attempt this exercise without the help of your trainer.
Target Muscles: The back muscles (if done on all fours)
- Get down on all fours. Your hands must be in line with the shoulders and the knees in line with the hips.
- Look forward, tighten your abdominal and back muscles, and keep your spine straight.
- Lift one hand straight out in front of you. Hold it for 5 seconds and drop to the floor.
- Repeat the same with the other hand.
- Lift one leg straight back and hold it for 5 seconds. Drop and repeat the same with the other leg.
- Raise one hand straight with alternate leg raise, hold for 10 seconds, and repeat the same with the other side.
- Follow the entire cycle for 3-5 rounds.
Precaution: Start with hand and leg raise separately if you are beginner, followed by a single leg and hand raise.
Isometric Arm Exercises
16. Isometric Towel Curls
Target Muscles: Biceps
- Take a long towel and hold both the ends in your hands.
- Hold the lower portion of the towel with one of your feet.
- Try pulling up the towel. You will feel the stretch in your arms.
- Hold it for 3 seconds, relax, and repeat 10 times.
Precaution: Keep your back straight and flex your knees slightly while doing this exercise.
17. Barbell Isometric Curls
Target Muscles: Forearms, biceps, triceps, and shoulders.
- Hold a barbell. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and core engaged.
- Lift the barbell until your hands reach your shoulders.
- Hold this position for 20 seconds and feel the contraction.
- Do 5 reps to complete 1 set.
- Relax and lower the barbell to the starting position.
Precaution: Make sure to use weights that are neither too heavy nor too light.
Isometric Exercise For The Chest
18. Chest Squeeze
Target Muscles: Pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles.
- Stand straight with your legs hip-width apart.
- Put your palms together and press them. Hold for 10 seconds.
- Lift your right leg and balance. Hold for 10 seconds.
- Lower your right leg and lift your left leg. Hold for 10 seconds.
- Complete 5 reps for 1 set.
Precaution: Keep your back straight while doing this exercise.
Are Isometric Exercises A Good Way To Build Strength?
Yes. This is one of the best ways to rehabilitate muscles and restore muscle strength and is often preferred by physiotherapists. It helps build the strength of the weak muscles and relieve pain if you have knee or any other orthopedic problems.
As this form of exercise does not involve any joint movement but holding a particular position, it is effective in building muscle strength.
Golden Rule: Squeeze your muscle fiber, take a deep breath, perfect your posture, hold it, and release.
Doing isometric exercises offers various benefits to your body. They are listed below.
Benefits Of Isometric Exercise
- It helps in strengthening and conditioning the muscles.
- Strengthens the dormant muscle tissues on isolated muscles.
- It improves control over the body.
- Improves body posture and spine alignment.
- It helps prevent injury.
- Used in injury rehabilitation.
- It helps in the development of lean muscles.
- It improves bone density and makes it strong.
- Increases resistance power and endurance ability.
- Activates all the major units in the body.
- It can be done anywhere and anytime.
- It does not require any equipment, or at the most, a set of dumbbells is enough.
- It helps in graceful aging, keeping the body posture erect, even in old age.
There are certain glitches you cannot avoid. Overstraining muscle fibers may lead to loss of elasticity and a reduction in speed of movement. Hence, it is always better to combine isometric exercises with other different forms of exercise. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, with 8-9 hours of sitting on the job, or if you have knee or back problems, try out these exercises. But make sure to consult a doctor and perform these exercises under proper supervision and the guidance of a trainer.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Can you do isometrics every day?
Yes, you can do these exercises daily. These are 5-minute exercises that activate different muscle groups and energize them. When combined with a high-intensity workout, they help in promoting weight loss.
Do isometric exercises raise blood pressure?
Yes, isometric exercises increase blood pressure. Changes in blood pressure are directly proportional to age and exercise. Hence, it is better if seniors do these exercises under the guidance of a trainer (1).
Are isometric exercises aerobic or anaerobic?
Isometric exercises are anaerobic.
- Isometric exercise and its effect on blood pressure and heart rate; a comparative study between healthy, young, and elderly males in and around Raichur city, International Journal of Scientific Study.
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