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An introduction to Isometric Exercises (and a Quick Isometric Workout)

woman in black performing plank exercise outside
Isometric workouts might just be the entry into strength training that you've been searching for!
by Catherine Santino

If you're kind of new to the gym, it may seem like lifting weights for hours is the quickest way to build muscle. But the truth is, an isometric workout can be a great way to strength train — and it delivers all the same fitness benefits!

What exactly are isometric exercises, you ask? Well, according to Merriam Webster, isometrics are an "exercise or a system of exercises in which opposing muscles are so contracted that there is little shortening but a great increase in tone of muscle fibers involved."

Simple, right? Read on for an easy-to-understand breakdown of isometric exercises, as well as an example of a quick workout you can do anywhere.

Benefits of Isometric Exercises

This type of movement is great for new gym-goers and veterans alike. For instance, consider the plank. In this position, your core, glutes, and arm muscles are contracted, but also kept completely still. There are no reps involved! With this exercise, the muscle fibers are activated but act as equal forces against each other.

Despite their seemingly simple approach, there are numerous advantages related to isometric workouts. These exercises require no equipment, so they can be done anywhere, anytime. They're also a great option if you're looking for a low-impact workout, as placing a muscle group into a continuous hold allows you to effectively target the area.

A Go-To Isometric Workout for Beginners

Ready to give this type of workout a try? Here's an example of a quick, five-step isometric routine you can do at the gym, at home, or wherever you might be. Remember to dedicate a few minutes to warming up and cooling down before and afterward.

1. Plank

Begin with a basic forearm plank to get your body warmed up. Try to keep your core engaged and align your body so it forms a straight line from your head to your toes as you remain as still as possible. If you're able, hold this position for at least 30 seconds before taking a rest.

2. The Superman

This move can really tone your core, back, and hamstrings. To begin, lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended out in front of you. Then, slowly lift your head, chest, arms, and legs so your position mimics Superman flying to his next mission.

Try to hold this pose for 30 seconds (or as long as you can maintain your form) and then relax. Repeat 10 times, or until your form begins to waver.

3. Bridges

Looking to target your glutes and hamstrings? Bridges are perfect for that. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then squeeze your glutes and raise your hips up toward the ceiling until your body forms a straight line from the knees to shoulders.

Continue flexing your core and glutes as you hold this position for 30 seconds. Afterward, take a moment to rest. Repeat 5 times.

4. L-Sit

This one is a bit challenging, but it's important to occasionally push yourself on your fitness journey! Sit down with your legs extended out in front of you and your palms flat on the ground. Now try to slowly lift up your whole body (including your legs) while keeping your core engaged. See if you can raise yourself up so only your palms touch the floor.

Hold the pose for 30 seconds, or until your form starts to falter, and then relax. Repeat 3 times. If holding your legs out straight is too challenging, you can also try doing this exercise with your knees bent.

5. Side Plank

To begin, position yourself on the ground, laying on your side. Your forearm and feet should be on the ground and your legs should be straightened outward. Now extend your other arm straight above you.

Hold the position for up to 30 seconds, or until you notice your form starting to slip, and then slowly lower yourself down and switch sides.

These isometric exercises are great whether you're a beginner or just looking to change up your routine! As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.