• Introduction
  • The basics of isometric training
  • Pros of isometric training
  • Cons of isometric training
  • List of isometric exercises and how to incorporate them
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources
  • Muscular endurance: muscle’s ability to contract as efficiently as possible for as long as possible.
  • Muscular hypertrophy: increased growth of muscle cells.
  • Muscular strength: the muscles' ability to produce maximal force.
  • Power: ability to produce as much force as quickly as possible.


Strength and power training comes in many different forms. In the past, isometric training was a common sight at the gym for people looking to increase their strength. And for good reason! It was scientifically proven to be an excellent way to gain both muscular strength and muscle mass.

However, isometric training also had its downsides. As time went on, regular gym-goers and athletes alike moved on to more functional training methods. After all, this provided much more benefits for dynamic movements that are useful in various sports and everyday activities.

But what is isometric training? In short, it refers to exercises where the exercising limb or muscle does not produce movement. The most common ways to perform this is by pushing or pulling against an immovable object, or holding a weight in a fixed position. 

This post explains the basics of isometric training, and whether it was a place in modern exercise science. There is also a list of isometric exercises that you can utilize in your own training routine. 

The basics of isometric training

Isometric training refers to exercises where the muscle is active, but the length of the muscle remains the same. This can occur in two ways; when the resistance is equal to the force that muscles produce (maximal effort), or when the weight is simply held in a static position. This is also why isometric action is sometimes called static muscle work. Some stabilizing muscles, such as the postural muscles of the spine, mostly perform isometric actions to keep you upright.

An important thing to remember is that the force production of a muscle changes throughout its range of motion (strength curve). Oftentimes when you get into the “sticking point” of a movement, it is at a low point on this strength curve. While muscle lengthening (eccentric) and shortening (concentric) actions are more common in training, isometric exercises are the only ones that can specifically strengthen muscles at their weakest point.

Many weightlifters use functional isometrics to increase the strength of their weakest range of motion. One way to do this is holding the weight at the “sticking point” for 5-7s during the very last repetition of a heavy weight set. Thus, the lifter needs to know exactly what angle the weakest point of the movement is – and isometrically hold the weight there.

Supramaximal isometrics are another common isometric training method. This is done by adding load to a contracted muscle until it surpasses the force that the muscle can produce. For example, holding a bench press at resistance above your one-repetition maximum (1RM). This greatly increases motor unit activation, resulting in stronger force production by your muscle fibers.

Isometric exercises are often done in tandem with traditional resistance training. They are proven to significantly improve the one-repetition maximum of certain exercises (e.g. bench press). For the most benefit, these two methods can be combined as a part of your overall training program.

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Isometric Training

Muscle contracts but limb does not moveIncreases strength & muscle massCan decrease muscular endurance & powerAcutely raises blood pressureCan cause irregular heartbeat & ruptured blood vesselsNot recommended if you have heart problems or high blood pressure

Pros of isometric training

Studies have proven isometric training to significantly increase the tension of the muscle. This, on the other hand, is related to improved performance in multiple activities. In addition to strength improvements, static exercises have also proven to increase bone density and muscle mass. However, studies suggest they may not be as effective as dynamic movements. 

Isometric exercises can be especially useful in enhancing stabilization, because muscles often contract isometrically to aid in stabilization. This also makes them beneficial for rehabilitation purposes. Due to their low-impact nature, isometric exercises are also well-suited for people with osteoarthritis.

Isometric exercises may also be beneficial for you if you want to avoid delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is because DOMS is a result of training-induced muscle tissue damage, and most of it occurs during the eccentric (muscle lengthening) phase of a movement.

Cons of isometric training

Because isometric exercises are performed at a certain joint angle, it only provides strength improvements in that specific position. This means you would have to perform isometric exercises for the entire range-of-motion of that muscle to increase strength across its full range. Additionally, static exercises may result in lowered performance in explosive, dynamic movements.

Isometric exercises also significantly increase blood pressure, which can lead to blood vessel ruptures and irregular heartbeat. Therefore, isometric training is not recommended for people with heart conditions or high blood pressure. Furthermore, since there is little blood flow to the working muscles, static exercises may reduce muscular endurance capability. With these drawbacks in mind, isometric training is not recommended if your goal is to improve your athletic performance. However, it does have its place in physical therapy and rehabilitation.

List of isometric exercises and how to incorporate them

Isometric training can be divided into two categories. This depends on whether you want to increase muscular hypertrophy or maximum strength. This also dictates whether you need to perform unweighted or weighted isometrics. 

  • Muscular hypertrophy: hold contraction at 70-75% of maximum voluntary contraction for 3-30s. Total contraction time >80-150s per session. At least 36 sessions.
  • Maximum strength: hold contraction at 80-100% of maximum voluntary contraction for 1-5s. Total contraction time 30-90s per session. Utilize multiple joint angles or a specifically targeted joint angle.

Use the reps/sets/intensity above and choose exercises below that benefit you the most. Remember, isometric exercises should be performed as a part of a well-rounded training routine. So, combine it with plyometrics, maximum strength, and muscular hypertrophy training for the best effect.


  • Get on all fours with your feet together. Your body should be straight from your head to your heels. Hands in line with your shoulders. Place them wider if needed.
  • Activate the buttocks, bring the shoulders down, and brace your core. Make sure your hips do not dip.
  • Hold until fatigued.

Wall sit

  • Stand with your back against a wall. Place your feet hip-width apart.
  • Squat until your hips and knees are 90 degrees. Make sure your shoulders and butt touch the wall.
  • Hold until fatigued.

Side plank

  • Start on your side with your feet together. Place one forearm directly below your shoulder.
  • Activate your core and raise your hips to form a straight line from head to toes.
  • Hold the position and do not let your hips drop.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Hollow-body hold

  • Lie down on the floor, extend your legs, straighten your arms above your head.
  • Engage the core. Raise your legs and arms off the floor.
  • Note: Squeeze your inner thighs together to maintain activity in the core. Do not leave room between the lower back and the floor. 

Calf raise hold

  • Place your feet shoulder width apart. Raise your heels and lift your body off the ground.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can before slowly coming back down.

Pull-up hold

  • Place your hands on a pull-up bar shoulder-width (or slightly wider) apart
  • Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar. Elbows close to a 90 degree angle.
  • Squeezing the shoulder blades together and hold for as long as possible.

Note that we are not responsible for any injuries that may occur during these drills or practices. Always remember to train within your own limits and at the guidance of a professional instructor.

Isometric training can increase the muscle's strength at a specific joint angle.

Final thoughts

Although isometric training may be past its hay day, it still has its place in as a more specific training method. For example, utilizing the strength curve mentioned above can improve strength in a muscle’s weakest point. Thus, reducing ”sticking” when lifting the heaviest of weights. 

Additionally, isometric training rarely needs a huge amount of equipment. In fact, you can perform them almost anywhere. Simply find a stationary object and push against it for 8-10s and repeat it a few times. So, no more excuses for not training even – if you do not have any equipment.

Did you learn anything new about isometric training? Let us know in the comments.


  • Bogdanis GC, Tsoukos A, Methenitis SK, Selima E, Veligekas P, Terzis G. Effects of low volume isometric leg press complex training at two knee angles on force-angle relationship and rate of force development. Eur J Sport Sci. 2019 Apr;19(3):345-353. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2018.1510989. Epub 2018 Aug 17. PMID: 30114973.
  • Lum D, Barbosa TM. Brief Review: Effects of Isometric Strength Training on Strength and Dynamic Performance. Int J Sports Med. 2019 May;40(6):363-375. doi: 10.1055/a-0863-4539. Epub 2019 Apr 3. PMID: 30943568.
  • Oranchuk DJ, Storey AG, Nelson AR, Cronin JB. Isometric training and long-term adaptations: Effects of muscle length, intensity, and intent: A systematic review. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2019 Apr;29(4):484-503. doi: 10.1111/sms.13375. Epub 2019 Jan 13. PMID: 30580468.

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