Isometrics are a type of movement were the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction i.e. your holding a static position against resistance.

These type of movements are often left out of most strength training programs. Through my experience I have found them to be very beneficial for adding strength and improving form on all of my main lifts.

When you perform any type of major power movement, before you even start performing the lift, you should be getting your body tight and activating certain muscles that are going to keep you in the correct position and stop the weight from forcing you out of position.

Example:

When we look at the squat, the key thing to remaining upright is engaging the lats and core. A verbal cue I often use when training clients is ‘tight back and big belly’. What were looking for here is to squeeze your elbows into your side and under the bar by engaging the lats, while simultaneously bracing the abdominals and pushing your stomach out (against a belt if your wearing one).

So right there in that example we have two isometric contractions occurring while you perform the squat. So of course getting stronger at holding those contractions will have a beneficial carry over to your main lifts.

The Movements

- Bodyweight or Weighted Plank
– Oblique Dumbbell Hold
– Pull-up or Chin-up Static Hold
– Hyperextension Barbell Hold

Each of the four Isometric movements that I discuss will have a massive carry over to every single power movement you do in the gym, whether its one of the big 3, Over-Head Press or Bent-over rows. By being able to maintain correct positioning and posture throughout a movement, its going to lead to greater strength gains and will significantly reduce the risk of injury. So lets get to it!

Bodyweight or weighted plank

How to do it: Keeping your body in a straight line, the only points of contact on the floor should be your feet (which are together) and your forearms (shoulder width apart). The key to doing the plank correctly is keeping the abdominals engaged, so many times I’ve had people say that their lower back hurts when they do plank, this is because their not contracting their abs correctly so their lower back is taking the slack.

Before you start adding any kind of weight to your back, be sure that you can do at least a full minute just bodyweight while keeping your abs engaged.

Benefits: Any power movement you do your core should be engaged, this is what keeps your back from getting rounded and forced out of position in the squat and deadlift. Another example is the Over-Head Press, having a rock solid core that can maintain position will prevent you from hyperextending your lower back while pressing the weight over head.

oblique dumbbell hold

How to do it: Standing with your feet just narrower than hip-width apart, have a dumbbell or any kind of weight in one hand. Keeping a good posture, maintain an upright and centred position. Repeat exercise on opposite side.

Benefits: Again this is going to reinforce that solid core strength that will help maintain your balance and posture when moving through an exercise. If you compete in Strongman or enjoy doing StrongMan style training, this movement will help massively in the Circus Dumbbell event. This particular isometric movement also carries over very well to any kind of sport were you moving in unbalanced positions, for example defending take downs in Combat sports or fending off tackles in Rugby.

pull-up or chin-up static hold

How to do it: Grab the pull-up bar just wider than shoulder width and pull your self up into the top position. Focus on keeping good thoracic extensions (look up and chest up) and try to keep the tension on the lats rather than the biceps. If you have any kind of issue with external rotation of the arms then stick with the Chin-up grip rather than Pull-up.

Benefits: This is going to make you stronger at maintaining a strong contraction in the lats and keeping your upper back tight. This is essential in all of the main lifts, particularly the Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press.

Hyperextension barbell hold

How to do it: Perform a regular Hyperextension while holding a barbell, keeping your arms locked out straight hold at the top of the Movement, focus on keeping your back fully extended and don’t allow it to round.

Benefits: This Exercise is great for strengthening the Posterior Chain, and is a great way to get better at maintaining a flat back when Deadlifting.

Apply them to your training

What I like to do is perform one of these exercises at the end of each of my training sessions to finish off, I suggest doing each one of them once a week, it can be done after any training day, whether its upper or lower body.

To begin with do 3 sets of 30 seconds, add weight as you see fit. Remember the key to all of the movements is maintaing correct position and posture.