Isometric exercises

Isometric exercises

The essence of isometric exercises is that within 6-12 seconds the maximum effort is spent to counter the resistance of an object. This is what distinguishes isometric exercises, in which muscle contraction causes only its tension, from isotonic exercises, during which, due to muscle contraction, its length changes. One of the most popular isometric abdominal exercises is the plank .


First, it is a tremendous time saving. It only takes a few minutes to engage the muscles with these exercises.

Secondly, in such a short time, the muscles do not have time to get tired to such an extent as during a regular training (lasting 1-2 hours), after which it takes 24-36 hours for the muscles to fully rest, and without sufficient rest, as has already been said many times, neither the strength of the muscles, nor their mass increases.

Since the time required for rest is reduced when doing isometric exercises, you can train much more often.

Finally, one of the biggest benefits of isometric exercises is that it is very convenient to develop and strengthen the muscles that need it most at the moment.

When performing traditional isotonic-dynamic exercises, the maximum muscle tension lasts only a few seconds, that is, in the sum of all the exercises done (in 1-2 hours), no more than 2-6 minutes per workout. Isometric exercises can be done with just a few minutes a day to accomplish the same task. At the same time, the increase in muscle strength in this case is not inferior to the increase in strength when doing isotonic exercises.

When doing isometric exercises, the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the muscles contract. The cells are forced to work more intensively and do not expend as much energy as during isotonic muscle movement (in which most of the energy is spent on ensuring the movement itself). Thus, all muscle energy when performing isometric exercises is spent only on tension, and not on movement. Therefore, muscle development takes place in a much shorter time.

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Types of isometric exercises and methods of their implementation

By the nature of the performance, isometric exercises are divided into three groups:

  • isometric-static exercises in their pure form, when maximum muscular tension opposes resistance, which cannot be overcome;
  • exercises with weights, during which they stop for a few seconds (thereby creating isometric tension);
  • exercises with the maximum possible weights, the initial phase of which has a pronounced isotonic-dynamic character, but the main phase is isometric-static, since already at a distance of 12-15 cm from the initial position of the bar, an obstacle is installed that stops the movement.

With the help of such exercises, you can make the muscles experience maximum tension in the most effective and necessary phase of the movement at the moment.

Isometric exercises can most effectively increase the strength of the muscles that are lagging behind in development, or muscle groups that are of paramount importance to the athlete for one reason or another.

To perform isometric exercises, a special simulator structure was created, which is easy to make yourself. It is an iron frame (110-120 cm wide and 200-230 cm high), on both sides of which a metal pipe can be fixed.

But isometric exercises can be performed without special devices, using any solid object fixed in space for them, which provides the muscles with such resistance that they, even being in maximum tension, are not able to overcome.

Basic isometric exercises :

  • bench press;
  • traction;
  • squatting.

Success can be achieved by doing all 3 of these exercises: one bench press, one deadlift, and one squat.

To this three, you can add 2 other exercises:

  • lifting on toes;
  • lifting the shoulders.

More experienced and enduring bodybuilders can do the “three deuces” system (when each of these exercises is performed 2 times) or the “three threes” system (when the exercises are performed 3 times) for the best results.

There are several options for the position of the bar when pressing:

  • low position (at the level of the chin);
  • middle position (at eye level);
  • the upper position (3-5 cm below the bar that was squeezed out to failure).

There are also three positions when pulling:

  • low position (at knee level);
  • middle position (at hip level);
  • top position (at waist level).

There are also three positions when squatting:

  • low position (squat);
  • middle position (half squat);
  • upper position (squat on slightly bent legs).

If one exercise is performed from each group, the middle position is most often chosen as the most effective.

A series of isometric exercises of 5 exercises, each taking 12 seconds to complete (plus a 1 minute break after each exercise), lasts a total of 6 minutes. This series can be repeated 2-3 times, maximum 6 times (periodically changing the position).

Stresses, depending on the duration, can be:

  • short (6 seconds);
  • medium (9 seconds);
  • long (12 seconds).

The intervals between exercises usually do not exceed 45-60 seconds, which, as a rule, is enough to restore normal breathing. The entire static isometric workout should not take more than 15-20 minutes.

When performing isometric exercises for the first time, care must be taken: at first, the tension should be limited to 6 seconds, given that it should not be maximum. After some time, you can go to 9-12 seconds of maximum tension with holding your breath.

Isometric exercises can be performed daily, since after them you do not feel much fatigue. But at the same time, you should not abuse too much volume in an effort to achieve noticeable results as quickly as possible.

Despite all its advantages, isometric exercises cannot completely replace dynamic ones, which allow you to develop certain abilities that cannot be achieved with the help of isometric exercises alone.

Objectively approaching the assessment of isometric exercises, it is necessary to note a number of their weaknesses in comparison with dynamic exercises: they do not supply the muscles with blood so intensively, contribute to muscle shortening, and do not develop coordination of movements and motor abilities of muscles.

Static exercises, while increasing the strength of the muscles, at the same time lead to the loss of the muscles’ ability to move quickly. Dynamic exercises, due to the optimal ability to conduct excitation (innervation), are very effective in this regard.

With the simultaneous development of static and dynamic strength in an athlete, innervation does not deteriorate: the muscle strength acquired through static exercises is also manifested in speed strength. Moreover, the results of dynamic training are significantly improved.

Today, the optimal method for the development of muscle strength, which combines static exercises, developing strength, with dynamic and relaxation exercises.

Bob Hoffman, in his book “One Minute Every Day – For Physical Stamina, Strength and Health” suggests doing 12 isometric exercises without shells for 1-2 minutes.

The author offers a set of exercises that do not require any special equipment, recommends using a wooden or metal door frame (door jamb) or a regular wall that is available in any room as a counter object.

Here are the 12 exercises.

  1. In a standing position (without tilting your head back and not bending your knees), press on the upper frame with the palms of your hands, which are slightly bent at the elbows.
  2. Sitting down, apply pressure to the upper frame.
  3. Rise on your toes as high as possible and stay in this position for 6 seconds. Despite the fact that this exercise is only partly isometric, it is very effective.
  4. This exercise develops the muscles in the neck. To perform it, stand with your back to the wall, feet shoulder-width apart, hands on the belt. Press the back of your head against the wall, placing something soft under your head.
  5. This exercise is similar to the previous one, but you need to press on the wall not with the back of your head, but with your forehead.
  6. To develop the muscles of the arms, do the following exercise. Put the palms together and press with one hand on the other.
  7. This exercise is similar to exercise 6, but you need to connect your hands only with your fingers.
  8. Press with both hands on the vertical parts of the door frame.
  9. Press on the horizontal part of the door frame alternately with one or the other hand, slightly bent at the elbow.
  10. Press with both hands, straightened at the elbows, on the vertical parts of the door frame.
  11. Pull the object attached to the door frame downwards.
  12. In a sitting position (bending your knees at different angles), apply pressure on the vertical parts of the frame with your legs.

The duration of each exercise should not be more than 4-6 seconds.

It is useful to combine this complex with a variety of movements that develop speed and flexibility (sports games, running and swimming). Many bodybuilders use them as a supplement to their core workouts.

Often, the new is the well-forgotten old. Many effective methods of physical improvement, used earlier, today are perceived as a new word in the development of sports. And this is not surprising. These techniques and shells have passed the test of time. Moreover, the kettlebell takes one of the first places in this row in terms of its versatility.

Isometric Exercises, Samson’s System 

Isometric (static) exercises are those exercises in which the length of the working muscle does not change. Accordingly, there is no movement in the joint. Isometric exercises have been known for a long time, but we owe the creation of a system based on them to Alexander Ivanovich Zass, also known as Iron Samson, who, with the help of his system, achieved incredible strength, despite the fact that the athlete’s own weight did not exceed 80 kg. He believed that the basis of strength was the strength of the tendons, not the volume of the muscles. Isometric exercises are good because the workout takes no more than 15 – 20 minutes and does not require a lot of equipment.

In modern strength sports, isometric exercises are used to increase strength, to overcome dead spots, to overcome stagnation in training. Below are Samson’s main exercises with a description of the muscles involved.

exercise 1

Chain in bent arms at chest level. Try to stretch the chain with muscle effort. The exercise targets the latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids and triceps.

exercise 2

Chain behind the head, at the level of the back of the head. Try to stretch the chain with the effort of the triceps.

exercise 3

The chain is on outstretched arms above the head. Try to stretch the chain. The exercise is aimed at increasing the strength of the latissimus dorsi.

Exercise 4

Chain behind the back. Try to stretch the chain with your arms forward. Exercise develops strength in the chest, triceps and deltoids.

exercise 5

After exhaling, wrap the chain around you. While inhaling, try to stretch the chain with tension in your pectoral and lats.

Exercise 6

With one end of the chain underneath with your left hand extended, try to stretch it with your bent right hand. Then we change hands. The exercise develops the strength of the biceps and triceps of the arms.

Exercise 7

Standing with both feet in the middle of the chain and grasping its ends with your hands, try to stretch the chain with the effort of trapezoids.

Exercise 8

Starting position, as in exercise 7, the elbows are pressed to the body, we try to stretch the chain with the effort of the biceps.

other exercises

Having understood the basis of this method, you yourself can come up with more than a dozen of similar exercises aimed at developing the strength of any muscles in the human body.

General rules for performing isometric exercises 

Exercises are performed while inhaling. The effort during the exercise is gradually built up to the maximum. The exercise time is no more than 5 – 6 seconds for beginners to practice this method and no more than 10 – 12 seconds for experienced users, while the maximum effort lasts no more than 2 – 3 seconds. The total time for an isometric workout using this method is no more than 15 minutes. The number of sets of each exercise is 2-3 sets. When performing isometric exercises, blood pressure can increase greatly, so if you have pain in your head, you should stop exercising immediately.

Isometric training according to the Samson method can be carried out not only with a chain, but also with a metal rod or a wooden stick, a towel or a piece of thick rope, etc. Imagination has no boundaries. To avoid injury before training, you need to warm up thoroughly – injured tendons heal much longer than injured muscles, so you need to be especially careful when performing isometric exercises

Isometric training in unusual conditions 

It is not always possible to carry out a full workout in the gym for various reasons. In order not to waste time and keep muscles in good shape, some systems can come to the rescue, including the isometric method.

Isometric Public Transport Workout 

You can carry out a workout even in a crowded transport and at the same time not look like an idiot in the eyes of others. We can say that others will not even notice anything. This method has been used with success by the author of this article during frequent trips to the subway. Here are some exercises that apply to your case. The starting position for all exercises is standing with both hands on the top rail.

exercise 1

Grab the handrail from above. Push the upper handrail up with both hands. Triceps, deltoids, chest work here.

exercise 2

Grip from above. We pull the handrail down. The latissimus dorsi and biceps work.

exercise 3

Top grip. Trying to stretch the handrail to the sides. Triceps and lats work.

Exercise 4

Grip from above, shoulder-width apart. We pull the handrail with our hands towards each other. Chest, biceps, deltoids work.

exercise 5

Bottom grip. We pull the handrail down. Similar to exercise number 2, but here the load on the biceps falls more, and the serrated muscles of the back also work.

other exercises

Based on the above exercises, you can come up with many more when traveling on public transport. Do not forget only the rules of isometric training outlined a little above. The author even successfully practiced isometric supersets while on the subway. For example, first push the handrail up for a few seconds, and then immediately pull it down. With frequent use of this technique and a corresponding increase in strength, be careful not to break the handrail in the subway or trolleybus, otherwise you will have to compensate for material damage.

Isometric Lecture Training

Well, what else can a student do in a boring lecture, how not to train his muscles imperceptibly for others and, especially, for the teacher? The author, being once a student, came up with some simple isometric exercises that allow you to usefully spend time at unloved lectures, such as Marxism-Leninism.

exercise 1

Grasp the seat on which you are sitting with both hands and, straining the traps and biceps, try to lift it up.

exercise 2

Grasping the seat with both hands, try to push it down. If the body rises above the seat, you can put your legs under the seat. Triceps, chest, deltoids work.

exercise 3

We put our hands under the desk and try to raise it. Designed primarily for the biceps.

Exercise 4

At lectures, it is convenient to do several more types of exercises – isometric and dynamic exercises for self-resistance, static muscle tension (Anokhin’s volitional gymnastics) and some others. Within the framework of this article, I will give an example of some isometric exercises for self-resistance, invisible to others. The hands are on the sides of the knees. We try to bring our knees together with the effort of our hands, but we do not allow this to be done with the effort of our legs. The muscles of the chest, arms, and also the abductor muscles of the legs work. Remember to pretend that you are listening carefully to the instructor during the exercise.

exercise 5

Hands are on your knees. Trying to spread the knees to the sides, but with the effort of the legs we do not allow this. The adductor muscles of the legs, lats, traps, triceps, posterior bundles of deltoids work.

Exercise 6

With the palm of the bent left hand, press down on the palm of the bent right hand. At the same time, the right hand presses upward, as a result, no movement occurs and we all also smile sweetly at the teacher. Then the hands switch roles. The biceps and triceps of both arms work.

Exercise 7

We bring our hands with palms to each other at the level of the abdomen, so that it is not noticeable from the side, and press them against each other. The muscles of the chest and arms work.

Exercise 8

We clasp our palms together with our fingers and try to spread our hands to the sides. At the same time, trapeziums, deltoids, triceps, and forearms work statically.

I suggest that you work your own imagination, work is enough for him.


In conclusion, I would like to say that the field of use of isometric training is unlimited: they can be performed in the most unusual conditions, including being in prison. It is known that Grigory Ivanovich Kotovsky was engaged in isometric training while in prison, and thanks to them he was always in excellent physical shape.

There are many isometric exercises that do not require any special equipment and can be performed in any environment, such as pushing a wall or a tree. Or, drowning in a swamp, pull yourself by the hair, like Baron Munchausen. A story about this is beyond the scope of this article. Several articles will be devoted to isometric training.