12 Isometric Exercises For Full Body Strength Training

Medically reviewed by Dr. Sudhansu Singh, Physiotherapist
by Charushila Biswas
ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition

Imagine working out without moving a muscle! Join your palms and push them against each other. Do you feel the tension in your arms, shoulders, and chest? This is exactly what isometric exercise is. But do not underestimate these exercises.

There is no visible movement, but the target muscles contract and are activated. These are strength training exercises and burn approximately 2-5 calories per minute. They are also beneficial for people with knee and/or shoulder injuries and may lower blood pressure (1), (2), (3).

Here are 9 isometric exercises and how to do them. Do them at home or at the gym to see visible improvement in muscle tone and fitness. Scroll down!

What Is Isometric Exercise?

Isometric exercise is a static strength training exercise. It activates or contracts the muscles without visible movement of the body. These exercises use self-resistance instead of weights/resistance bands to contract the muscle fibers (4).

Isometric exercises are popularly practiced by physiotherapists for rehabilitation. They also reduce muscle fatigue, neck pain, and blood pressure and improve flexibility, core strength, and walking speed in elderly people (5), (6), (7), (8), (9). Let’s take a look at a few examples of isometric exercises below.

12 Examples Of Isometric Exercises

Before we begin, here’s the golden rule of performing isometric exercises:

Golden Rule: Squeeze your muscle fiber, take a deep breath, perfect your posture, hold it, and release.

1. Isometric Shoulder Internal Rotation

Muscles Activated – Subscapularis, pectoralis, and deltoids.

How To Do

  1. Roll a small towel and
  2. keep it between your right elbow and the area near the lower rib cage.
  3. Put your left hand against your right palm/fist.
  4. Push your right fist inwards or towards your body. Simultaneously, push your lift palm to resist the inward movement of your right fist.
  5. Hold it for 3 seconds and relax. Do it 10 times, twice a day.
  6. If you have an injury, do not exert too much pressure.

2. Isometric Shoulder External Rotation

Muscles Activated – Subscapularis, pectoralis, and deltoids.

How To Do

  1. Roll a small towel and place it
  2. between your right elbow and the area near the lower rib cage.
  3. Place your left hand against the outside of your right fist.
  4. Push your right fist outwards or away from your body. At the same time, push your lift palm inside to resist the outward movement of your right fist.
  5. Hold it for 3 seconds and relax. Do it 10 times, twice a day.
  6. If you have an injury, do not exert too much pressure.

3. Isometric Lateral Raise

Muscles Activated – Deltoids, serratus anterior, upper traps, and supraspinatus.

How To Do

  1. Stand straight with the legs shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and roll your shoulders back.
  3. Raise both your hands to the shoulder level.
  4. Hold this pose keeping your core engaged for 30 seconds.

4. Isometric Lying Leg Raise

Isometric Lying Leg Raise

Shutterstock

Muscles Activated – Hamstrings, quads, and abductors.

How To Do

  1. Lie down on your right side.
  2. Place your left hand on your waist. Bend your right elbow, place it below your right shoulder to support your body. Place your right forearm on the floor.
  3. Lift your left leg. Hold for 3 – 5 seconds and release.
  4. Do 2 sets of 8 reps on each side.

5. Isometric Quad Exercise

Muscles Activated – Quadriceps

How To Do

  1. Sit on a mat with your legs extended forward.
  2. Place a towel roll or a noodle under your right knee.
  3. Place both palms at the back on the mat for support.
  4. Press your knee down on the towel roll or noodle.
  5. Hold for 3 seconds and release.
  6. Do 10 times before switching legs.

6. Isometric Hamstring Exercise

Muscles Activated – Hamstrings, quads, and calves.

How To Do

  1. Sit on a mat with your right knee bent and left leg extended forward.
  2. Place a towel roll or a pressure measuring equipment under your right heel.
  3. Place both your palms at the back on the mat for support.
  4. Press your knee down on the towel roll or the equipment.
  5. Hold for 3 seconds and release.
  6. Do 10 times before switching legs.

7. Isometric Ball Squat

Muscles Activated – Quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

How To Do

  1. Place a gym ball between your lower back and a wall.
  2. Slowly walk forward to get into a squat pose. The ball will roll up to your mid-back.
  3. Hold this pose for 10 seconds. Keep breathing.
  4. Do 6 times.
  5. Avoid it if you are recovering from an injury.

8. Isometric Hip Abduction

Muscles Activated – Abductors, hamstrings, and quads.

How To Do

  1. Sit on a mat and keep both the knees bent.
  2. Place a resistance band or a strap right above your knees.
  3. Push your thighs outwards.
  4. Hold it for 3 seconds and release.
  5. Do this 10-12 times.

9. Isometric Hip Adduction

Muscles Activated – Abductors, hamstrings, quads, and glutes.

How To Do

  1. Sit on a mat, with both the knees bent.
  2. Place your right hand between your knees and your left palm on the mat for support.
  3. Push your thighs inwards.
  4. Hold it for 3 seconds and release.
  5. Do this 10-12 times.

10. Plank Hold

Plank Hold

Shutterstock

Muscles Activated – Abs, glutes, lower back, chest, shoulders, and arms.

How To Do

  1. Kneel down. Bend your elbows, fist your hands, and place your forearms on the floor. Make sure your elbows are below your shoulders.
  2. Extend your legs behind, one at a time.
  3. Keep your hips, back, and neck in one line. Hold your core tight. Keep your shoulders relaxed and rolled back.
  4. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  5. Do this 3 times.

11. Side Plank

Muscles Activated – Abs, glutes, lower back, chest, shoulders, and arms.

How To Do

  1. Kneel down. Place your palms on the mat. Keep your elbows below the shoulders. Extend your legs behind to get into a high plank position.
  2. Roll both your feet to the right, and as your core moves, take your right hand off the floor and extend it straight above. Look at your hand above.
  3. Hold this pose for 10-20 seconds before coming back to the high plank pose.
  4. Do it on the other side as well.
  5. Do 3 times.

12. Isometric Neck Exercise

Muscles Activated – Serratus, scapula, semispinalis capitis, splenius capitis, scalenes, traps, sternohyoid, sternocleidomastoid, omohyoid, and biceps.

How To Do

  1. Sit on a chair. Keep your back straight, shoulders rolled back, and chest up. You will do four isometric neck exercises.
  2. First exercise: Place both your palms on your forehead. Push your head forward and push your palms towards your head to resist movement. Hold it for 10 seconds.
  3. Second exercise: Place your hands behind your back. Push your head back and resist the movement with your hand pushing forward. Look up as you do so. Hold for 5-8 seconds before releasing it.
  4. Third exercise: Place your right palm on the right side of your head. Push your head towards your palm and your palm towards your head. Your head might tilt a little towards the right. Hold it for 5-8 seconds before releasing it.
  5. Fourth exercise: Place your right palm on the side of your right cheek. Rotate your head and look towards the right. But resist this movement with your palm. Hold for 5-8 seconds before releasing.
  6. Repeat all the exercises 3 times on each side.

Are Isometric Exercises A Good Way To Build Strength?

Yes, isometric exercises help build muscle strength. They are used by physiotherapists to rehabilitate muscles, restore muscle strength, and speed up the recovery process.

Apart from building muscle strength, toning, and injury recovery, here are a few more benefits of isometric exercises.

Benefits Of Isometric Exercise

  • It helps strengthen the muscles.
  • It improves muscle tone.
  • Improves body posture and spine alignment.
  • It helps recover from injuries.
  • May help lower blood pressure.
  • It helps reduce arthritis pain.
  • May help improve heart function.
  • Increases resistance power.
  • It can be done anywhere and anytime.
  • It does not require any equipment. At most, a set of dumbbells is enough.
  • Good for the elderly with limited movement.

Conclusion

Isometric exercises are great for toning and strengthening the body. These exercises also help reduce the risk of injuries and can be used to rehabilitate a recent injury/surgery. Talk to your fitness trainer and include these exercises in your workout routine to get a fit and fab body.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What is an example of isometric exercise?

An easy example of isometric exercise is joining your palms together and pushing them against each other. There is no visible movement, but you feel the muscles contract in your biceps and shoulders. This, in turn, helps strengthen these muscles.

Is yoga an isometric exercise?

Yes, yoga is an isometric exercise. It helps strengthen and improve the flexibility of the muscles.

What are the best isometric exercises?

Here’s a list of a few good isometric exercises:

  • Plank
  • Side plank
  • Wall squat or wall gym ball squat
  • Isometric lateral raises
  • Isometric leg raises
  • Calf raise and hold
  • Isometric neck exercises
  • Isometric shoulder internal and external rotation

What are the benefits of isometric exercises?

  • Isometric exercises improve muscle strength.
  • Burn calories.
  • Improve muscle tone.
  • Help in injury recovery.
  • Good for the elderly with limited movement and walking problems.
  • May lower blood pressure.
  • May improve heart health.
  • Good for people with osteoarthritis.
  • Build core strength.

Are isometric exercises aerobic or anaerobic?

Isometric exercises are anaerobic.

Do isometric exercises raise blood pressure?

Yes, isometric exercises may also increase blood pressure. Talk to your doctor if you have high blood pressure before doing isometric exercises.

9 sources

Stylecraze has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
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    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20883233
  • Anwer, Shahnawaz, and Ahmad Alghadir. “Effect of isometric quadriceps exercise on muscle strength, pain, and function in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled study.” Journal of physical therapy science 26.5 (2014): 745-748.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4047243/
  • Carlson, Debra J., et al. “Isometric exercise training for blood pressure management: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Vol. 89. No. 3. Elsevier, 2014.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24582191
  • Kim, Mi-Kyoung, et al. “Effects of different types of exercise on muscle activity and balance control.” Journal of physical therapy science 27.6 (2015): 1875-1881.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4500003/
  • Mısırlıoğlu, Tuğçe Özekli, et al. “Does a core stabilization exercise program have a role on shoulder rehabilitation? A comparative study in young females.” Turkish Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 64.4 (2018): 328.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6648025/
  • Kim, Nyeon-Jun, et al. “The effects of isometric trunk exercises and dynamic trunk exercises on gait in elderly people.” Journal of physical therapy science 27.6 (2015): 1685-1689.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4499961/
  • Khan, Muhammad, Rabail Rani Soomro, and Syed Shahzad Ali. “The effectiveness of isometric exercises as compared to general exercises in the management of chronic non-specific neck pain.” Pak J Pharm Sci 27.5 (2014): 1719-22.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25262525
  • Wiley, Ronald L., et al. “Isometric exercise training lowers resting blood pressure.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 24.7 (1992): 749-754.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1501558
  • Rio, Ebonie, et al. “Isometric exercise induces analgesia and reduces inhibition in patellar tendinopathy.” British journal of sports medicine 49.19 (2015): 1277-1283.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25979840

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Charushila Biswas

Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. This prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.
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