This article is in association with
Isometric exercises are often looked at as fluff work to be left for the end of a weight-training workout. Holding a plank for 30 seconds is the ‘go-home’ move for many a gym goer. The science would suggest that you’re likely missing a trick if you’re not giving isometric exercises the respect that they deserve.
We take a look at the how and why, then hook you up with an isometric workout that you can do absolutely anywhere (with a sneaky device that will let you essentially hack your workout for maximum effectiveness.)
What are isometric exercises?
They are a way to strength train using a static contraction. Your typical way of strength training would take your joints through a complete range of motion. For example, a bicep curl would mean repeatedly shortening the angle of your elbow joint against resistance to achieve a contraction and, eventually fatigue the muscle.
Isometric movements keep the joint fixed while you flex and contract the muscle against resistance for a set period of time rather than for a number of reps. The plank and the wall squat are two examples, but we’ll hit you with some more workouts later.
Isometric exercise benefits
No need to take my word for it that isometric workouts are beneficial. Let’s look at some cold, hard evidence to see if we can get you from a half-minute squeeze to actually structuring your routine around isometric moves.
- Effective: a paper in the Journal of Sports Science found that isometric exercises matched dynamic weightlifting exercises for strength gained over a 9 week period. As an added bonus, the isometric group’s muscles were stronger in isometric contractions than the group that performed dynamic exercises. Other studies showed that isometrics are effective for both weight loss and muscle building too.
- Convenience: isometric routines can literally be done anywhere. Sitting at your office desk, on the couch watching TV, while you wait for your dinner to cook – wherever you can think to do them, they can be done.
- Time: if you’re short on time, isometric routines are fantastic. They don’t take anywhere near as long as a weight training routine at the gym.
- Injury: a muscular injury may cause you pain when contracting through a full range of motion. If you can find an angle that allows you to contract the muscle without pain or making the injury worse, you’re on to a winner. Isometric exercises allow for this
Isometric exercise device
Before getting to the Isometric workout, the best part about isometric exercises is that all you literally need is your body and something to push or pull against to offer resistance. Oftentimes your body can be what provides that resistance too. Having said that, there is one tiny piece of isometric workout equipment that can change the game for your routines.
One of the issues associated with isometric workouts is that they’re quite hard to measure. You can’t see how well your muscle is contracting, how much resistance you’re applying and, overall, how effective your workout is. It’s guesswork – and that makes progress difficult…until now.
The Activ5 is a tiny smart device that doubles up as your isometric exercise coach. It can measure up to 200lbs of force applied to it and is practically a gym in your pocket.
The device syncs with your smartphone to provide you with over 100 workouts for every scenario, contains training games and also acts as your coach, showing you how much pressure your muscles are applying and whether you need to increase or ease off. Who needs a PT?
With outlandish claims almost synonymous with new fitness products, it’s a pleasant surprise to see scientific studies that back the effectiveness of this portable piece of isometric workout equipment for strength, muscle and fat loss.
It’s recommended you pick an Activ5 up – it’s the isometric exercise device to have and will really take your isometric routines workouts to the next level.
Isometric workout that you can do absolutely anywhere
As promised, here is a 5-10 minute isometric workout that you can do anywhere and get great muscle building, fat loss and strength results. The pictures show the exercises performed with an Activ5, but they can be performed without. You’ll just know exactly how much pressure to apply for best results when performing each of the isometric exercises if you do use an Activ5.
Start with holding each exercise for 30 seconds to a minute for two sets. As you progress you can increase the time you hold the exercise and/or the number of sets performed.
Press your heel into the floor as if you are trying to push through the ground. You can do these with both feet together or if you have an Activ5 under your heel (pictures), try doing one leg at a time.
With your elbows out, hold both hands in the prayer position. Press both palms into each other and squeeze your chest muscles. If using an Activ5, you’ll want it between your palms.
Straighten your arms and place one or both palms by your side facing the chair.
Press the heel of your palms or the Activ5 into the chair by squeezing your lat and tricep muscles.
Bend your left elbow by your side, fist up. Place your right palm on top of your left fist, keeping your arm at 90 degrees.
Squeeze your left shoulder muscles as you press up into your palm or Activ5.
Bend and lift your left elbow to eye level. Make a fist with your left hand. Place your right palm on top of your left fist. Press with your left fist and right palm, as you squeeze your shoulder muscles. Repeat on the other side after 1-2 minutes rest.
Lean forward at the waist and place your left elbow on the inside of your left knee. Place your right palm on top of your left palm/Activƒ5 and squeeze. Keep both elbows bent at 90 degrees. Rest 1-2 minutes and switch arms
Abs and obliques
Place your left elbow on the inside of your right thigh, right above the knee. Contract your abs as you press on you right thigh or Activ5. Keep your chin tucked, and your right arm relaxed to the side. After 1-2 minutes of rest, switch sides
This full body workout was taken from a very small sample of exercises in the Activ5 app. The device contains over 100 exercises and workouts including isometric holds, pilates poses and yoga exercises.