Most workouts involve a lot of movement – but sometimes, the best thing for your muscles involves staying still. Meet: isometric exercises.
  • 18 Dec - 24 Dec, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly

What is an isometric exercise, exactly? It involves holding a static position, where the joint and the muscle do not change. And it's used for both strength training and stabilisation (which can help prevent injuries). Isometric exercises are also great to help get strong if you're already dealing with an injury, since they don't add stress on your joints.

A couple of tips before you try isometric exercises for the first time:

1. Make sure the proper muscles are engaging in the correct way. Go for a couple of reps, to help identify which muscles should be firing during the static move.

2. Progress your isometric training. Once you’re used to an isometric move, try to increase range of motion or resistance (think: adding a dumbbell) to increase the benefits of your training.

3. Hold each move for 30 seconds and note how your body feels. Do you compensate or adjust to hold proper form? If not, go for 60 seconds.

Ready to give them a try? Mix these nine isometric exercises in to your usual routine, or dedicate a whole session to isometric moves:

Isometric chest squeeze

Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands, elbows bent, and weights held in front of you. Stand up straight with one foot slightly in front of the other, hips facing forward. Lift the dumbbells so your elbows are slightly above your shoulders, squeezing the weights together. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Shoulder raise

Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and keep them still at the top. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Biceps curl

With a dumbbell in each hand, stand so your feet are shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows and lift the dumbbells until your arms form 90 degree angles, forearms parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Isometric lunge

Stand up tall, then take a large step forward. From here, bend your knees and lower your body until your knees are bent to 90 degrees. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds then repeat on the other side.

Isometric squat

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped in front of your chest. Push your hips back and bend your knees until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Isometric bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor 12 to 16 inches from your butt. Brace your core, then press into your heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips toward the ceiling. Maintain space between your chin and chest and keep your upper back on the ground. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Side plank

Lie on your right side with your legs straight and stacked on top of one another. Lift your hips up as high as you can go, making sure your weight is resting on your right forearm and the outside edge of your right foot. Your elbow should be directly beneath your shoulder. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds then repeat on the other side.

Quad raise

Grab a small towel and roll it up, then place it under your right quad. Lie down on your back with your feet in front of you and hands at your sides. Lift your right foot up and engage your quad against the towel. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds then repeat on the other side.


Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a weight in each hand, arms extended down toward the front of your body, palms facing body. Keeping your back flat, hinge forward from the hips and lower your torso until it's almost parallel with the floor, letting your arms hang in front of your shins. Hold for five seconds. From this position, return to standing, squeezing the glutes as you do. Repeat 12 times.

Dumbbell floor press

Lie face up on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a weight in each hand and – keeping your elbows on the floor, slightly below shoulder height – lift your hands until your forearms form 90-degree angles with floor, palms facing forward. From this position, press the weights up, without letting them touch, until your arms are fully extended above you. Pause for a second at the top; slowly lower your elbows to the floor for a count of five seconds. Repeat 12 times.