If you’ve been running all over town (literally) on your quest for fitness, you’re not alone. We’ve been told that workouts should include weightlifting, running, and pushups. No pain, no gain, right? If the mere thought of burpees sends you running from the gym, we’ve got great news for you. Static hold exercises can help you condition your muscles and build strength as you target specific muscle groups with minimal movement. While cardio and dynamic exercises are great for burning calories and maintaining heart health, the benefits of static hold exercises make this type of training an important addition to any fitness routine.
What are isometric exercises?
Isometric exercises, also known as static hold exercises, place tension on targeted muscle groups without moving the joint, as you would in dynamic exercises. Muscles contract without lengthening or shortening, maximizing tension and remaining completely still. Sounds easy, right? You have never been in a wall sit competition with your best friend and it shows! Still not convinced? I’ve got one word for you: plank. Isometric exercises often rely on body weight to create tension, but some exercises involve holding weights. As you engage the muscle and hold, the tissue fills with blood, which creates metabolic stress. In most cases, we try to stay as far away from stress as possible, but this is good stress that builds strength and endurance. In a world that’s go-go-go, exercises that encourage you to stop can feel counterintuitive. Trust us, though. Adding static hold exercises to your routine will unlock a new level of overall wellness.
What are the benefits of isometric exercises?
The beauty of static hold exercises is in the benefits. We’ve compiled a list of seven awesome benefits of isometric exercises:
Prevent injury and support dynamic exercise
Just like a professional skydiver must pack their parachute before jumping out of a plane, isometric exercises set the foundation for fun and injury-free dynamic exercises. When you spend the time building strength and stability through static hold exercises, you can run, hike, and lift weights without worry.
Aid in recovery from a previous injury
An injury when you’re at your peak can feel like a major setback. Studies show that isometric exercises can lead to better joint mobility in patients with osteoarthritis in the knee, ease lower back pain, and manage chronic neck pain. Low-impact static hold exercises can be used to target muscles without injury and –under the proper guidance of a physical therapist or personal trainer– build strength post-injury.
Since static hold exercises increase tension in the muscle without shortening or elongating it, they’re a great way to maintain strength. Repeated static hold exercises are the key to toning and defining your hard-earned muscles. Some studies even tout static hold exercises as a way to build muscle through high-intensity contractions!
Lower blood pressure
If you’re concerned about high blood pressure, but thought running was your only answer, you’re going to love this! Don’t throw your running shoes away quite yet, but a 2013 study showed a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure after four weeks of isometric exercises.
Little to no equipment is required
On my very first overseas trip, a friend was stopped for overweight baggage. As I was wondering what a teenage boy could have possibly packed to exceed the 50lb weight limit, he pulled a set of weights out of his suitcase. He was determined not to miss arm day! Most static hold exercises can be done without any equipment at all. The benefit lies in the MVC or maximum voluntary contraction, number of repetitions, and the time held per exercise.
Suitable for athletes of all ages
After the age of 30, most people lose 3-5% of their muscle mass each year. Unfortunately, as we lose muscle mass, we also lose our sense of balance. By the age of 65, one in four adults will fall each year. It’s always best to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen, but the low-impact nature of isometric exercises can be modified to suit people of all ages.
Achieve perfect posture
Did you know that back pain accounts for 264 million lost workdays per year? That’s in a country with 153 million people in the workforce. Back pain is a big issue. As pain increases and cases of perfect posture decrease, we look to computers and cell phones– an ever-present cause for hunched backs and slumped shoulders. Strengthening your core and targeting your back and shoulders can help you regain perfect posture once more.
Which exercises are considered static holds?
After discovering the benefits of isometric exercises, you’re probably wondering about the top static hold exercises. We’ve got you covered with a list of the best static hold exercises you can perform with little to no equipment.
Planks, whether a high plank on hands, a low plank on forearms, or a side plank, are one of the ultimate static hold exercises. This hurts-so-good exercise targets your core, but it also works your arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, and glutes– so be sure to squeeze everything! For an all-in-one static hold that tones and strengthens your entire body, keep your body in a straight line as you support your body weight on your toes and balls of your feet and forearms or hands.
With your feet shoulder-width or slightly more than shoulder-width apart, keep your chest up as you bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Hold this position and feel the burn!
While a split squat shares many of the same characteristics, lunging is performed by stepping forward and back, while there is no movement of the feet in a split squat. Position one foot in front of the other and lower yourself until your back knee almost touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel with the ground. Squeeze and hold this position to activate your hamstring and glutes.
For a bootylicious backside, lie on your back with your knees pointed toward the ceiling and your feet flat on the floor. Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips upward and hold. For optimal hip activation, make sure your big toe and instep make contact with the floor and be sure not to hyper-extend your lower back. Beyoncé would be proud!
Hollow body hold
Work out like Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles when you master the hollow hold– a favorite of gymnasts worldwide! Lay flat on your back with your arms stretched over your head. Press your lower back into the floor, tighten your core and glutes, and lift your arms and legs off the floor. Hold for up to 30 seconds to win a gold medal in the hollow body hold! You’ll be ready for the uneven bars in no time!
Enhancewell Fitness tips for making the most of static hold exercises
Don’t forget to breathe
That seems like a silly reminder, doesn’t it? Of course you’ll breathe– but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it right. When you’re doing static exercises, a four-second inhale followed by a four-second exhale will stabilize your torso and make your exercise even more effective.
Trust your body
You know your body best. Push yourself, but listen when your body needs breaks. Exhaustion leads to bad form, and bad form leads to injuries. Protect yourself by exercising caution every time you exercise!
Work out with an expert
Even the best of intentions can result in pain if you neglect good form in your workouts. Don’t be fooled into thinking that minimal movement will minimize injury. Bad form (especially when repeated over and over again) is going to do more harm than good.
Enhancewell Fitness was founded to offer accessible online fitness opportunities with the personalized attention you’d expect at an in-person class. We guarantee small class sizes, with a maximum of 10 students, and ask that every participant leave their microphone and camera on. Don’t worry— we won’t make fun of heavy breathing! This isn’t a one-sided YouTube video, and keeping your camera and microphone allows us to interact with you and ensure you’re having fun while achieving results!
Enhancewell Fitness was launched during the pandemic as a way to maintain the camaraderie and banter of in-person classes in a safe, virtual setting. As the experienced Enhancewell Fitness instructor leads, they’ll check in with everyone, gently correct form, and encourage the entire class for a “we’re all in this together” feel in a fun, interactive setting. Prefer one-on-one lessons to group settings? Enhancewell Fitness offers private sessions for a fraction of the cost of live, in-person personal training sessions at the gym. Book a private lesson here. You’ll see the best results when you love and look forward to your workouts.
Enhancewell’s live low-impact classes utilize Pilates-based movements to help you see results. All of our 50-minute classes are $25, with discounts available for 6 or 12-class packages. Check out our schedule and book your first class! With classes seven days a week and timeslots ranging from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm EST, you’re sure to find a virtual class that fits your schedule!