Isometric Exercises: Build Muscle Without Moving

It can be a struggle to find the time and equipment to fit in weekly resistance training workouts, but we aren’t going to let that stop us! Resistance training is one of the most effective ways we know to build lean muscle, burn body fat, ramp up our metabolism and keep our bones strong. But, what if I told you that in the midst of your busy week you could do your resistance training without any movement? That’s right!  These types of exercises are called isometric exercises, or isometrics. They are efficient, subtle and so convenient that you can perform them anywhere, even while sitting in traffic!

First, let’s take a few steps back and review the types of muscle contractions.

1. Concentric contraction is a muscular contraction that occurs when the muscle is shortening during exercise. The bicep is concentrically contracted when lifting the dumbbell during a bicep curl.

2. Eccentric contraction is a muscular contraction that occurs when the muscle is lengthening during exercise. The bicep is eccentrically contracted when lowering the dumbbell during a bicep curl.

3. Isometric contraction is a muscular contraction that occurs when the muscle in a static position, so no lengthening or shortening. The bicep is isometrically contracted when holding the weight in a static position at a 90 degree angle.

Concentric and eccentric contractions are utilized daily by lifters. The third kind, isometric, is often overlooked. By engaging in isometric contractions, you can develop leaner muscles, improve joint stability, and improve core strength without the need of equipment. You will even have a lower risk of injury when compared to traditional dynamic exercises. In addition, the effort it takes to align, stabilize, and elongate your body while maintaining a still posture is incredibly mindful and boosts cognitive function.

If you are a beginner to exercise, then pick a few isometric exercises from the list below and try to hold the contraction for as long as you can with good form. A goal is to complete 2-3 repetitions, holding for 30 seconds or longer, resting for 45-60 seconds between reps. Remember that you can do these exercises anywhere, so get creative!

1. Hamstring Bridge

Hamstring bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent on the floor. Keep your toes facing forward and your ankles directly below your knees at hip width. Stretch your arms straight beside you. Press through your heels to lift your hips off the mat to create a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Contract your hamstrings and squeeze your buttocks together.

2. Plank


Place your forearms under your shoulders and extend your legs behind you so you’re flat like a board from toes to head. Continue to engage your core by squeezing your abs in and thinking of pulling your belly button to your spine.

3. Wall Push

Wall push

In a lunge position, place your hands on the wall at about chest level. Lean forward into the wall and keep your core engaged while you push as hard as you can through both hands evenly.

4. Wall Sit

Wall sit

Stand with your back against the wall and feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees, bringing the top of your thighs parallel to the ground and rest your arms to the side. Avoid leaning forward by keeping your back straight and core engaged. Think of pressing through your heels and squeezing your feet together to engage the inner thighs.

5. Palm Push

Palm push

Stand with your back straight, chest up and core engaged. Bring your palms together in front of you at chest level with elbows out wide. Push your hands together with as much force as possible engaging chest and arm strength.

6. Wall Extensions

Wall extensions

Stand with your back against the wall. Bend over at the waist and place the outer edges of your fist against the wall. Try to push the wall back behind you with all your strength!

7. Push-up Hold

Push up hold

From plank position, extend your arms into a pushup position and keep the elbows in and head down to align the spine. Continue to engage your core by squeezing your abs in and thinking of pulling your belly button to your spine.



Building a Healthy Plate – Vegetables

When building a healthy plate at meal time, you want it to be filled with one half non-starchy vegetables, one quarter lean protein and one quarter quality carbohydrate. Read on for part three on vegetables, in our three week series on building a healthy plate. Perfect-Plate


Vegetables are natural, nutrient rich foods that provide the vitamins and minerals vital for health and maintenance of your body such as potassium, fiber, folate and vitamins A, E and C. Vegetables are low in calories and have practically nonexistent fat and cholesterol content. Eating a diet rich in vegetables may reduce your risk for stroke, cancer, heart diseases, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and many other chronic diseases. So, how many vegetables should you be consuming each day? For each meal you should aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables. This will equate to approximately 1 cup of most raw or cooked vegetables or 2 cups of raw leafy greens per meal, but don’t hold back! J Your vegetables may be consumed in any form: raw, cooked, frozen, canned, or dried. If you are one of the many individuals who find vegetables to be bland, try experimenting with different seasonings. On the other side, covering your vegetables with high fat sauces and dressings will contradict their health benefits mentioned above. Below are some vegetable ideas to fill your plate:



Building a Healthy Plate – Quality Carbohydrates

When building a healthy plate at meal time, you want it to be filled with one half non-starchy vegetables, one quarter lean protein and one quarter quality carbohydrate. Read on for part two on quality carbohydrates, in our three week series on building a healthy plate.





Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of fuel. Without adequate carbohydrates in your diet you may find it hard to sustain your daily energy levels. For this reason, make sure you start out your day with a carbohydrate and continue to include a serving of a quality carbohydrate in each of your main meals throughout the day. When you think of quality carbohydrate most people usually think whole grains, however there are many other foods that are also considered carbohydrates like fruits, legumes and vegetables.

Since so many different foods can be categorized as carbohydrates there is a fine line between consuming the right amount to support your daily energy needs and overconsumption. Carbohydrates are basically sugars that breakdown in the body to form glucose. Although glucose is your body’s main source of energy for your brain, muscles and other essential cells, and is naturally regulated by insulin, overconsumption can lead to excess sugar in your body which may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

When portioning out your carbohydrates, aim to fill one fourth of your plate with quality carbohydrates. This ends up being approximately the size of your closed fist; 300 grams of carbohydrates a day is what you should aim for. When choosing your carbohydrates, pick those that are found in nature; whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Stay away from any processed carbohydrates or foods including refined sugars. When looking at the sugar content in food, try to stay away from any foods containing more than 10 grams of sugar. To put this in perspective, a can of Coke has about 40 grams sugar which is more than the recommended daily limit.

Here are some quality carbohydrates:


Building a Healthy Plate – Lean Protein

When building a healthy plate at meal time, you want it to be filled with one half non-starchy vegetables, one quarter lean protein and one quarter quality carbohydrate. Read on for part one on lean protein, in our three week series on building a healthy plate.



Eating a natural amount of protein—about one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day (not exceeding 200 grams regardless of weight)—is important in getting our biological functions back to normal to maintain a healthy weight and lower body fat. An easier way to portion out your protein source is to use the palm of your hand as a guide at each of your meals.  Protein keeps us satisfied and fuller for longer so we aren’t reaching for low quality foods a few hours after lunch. It also helps our metabolism to burn body fat instead of lean muscle tissue, so we look strong and healthy!  D.K. Layman from the University of Illinois says, “Use of higher protein diets reduces lean tissue loss to less than 15% and when combined with exercise can halt loss of lean tissue during weight loss.”

Researchers are continuing to uncover numerous health benefits resulting from a more balanced intake of protein. My favorite comes from Loren Cordain here at Colorado State University,  “There is now a large body of experimental evidence increasingly demonstrating that a higher intake of lean animal protein reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, insulin resistance, and osteoporosis while not impairing kidney function.”

If you want to dial down your hunger during the day, burn more body fat and maintain the lean muscle tissue from your workouts then swap the sweets, unnecessary starches and processed foods with a few of the best lean protein sources below. Yum!


Earn HEALTHpoints, Win a Fitbit

Want to win a Fitbit Charge? Earn 300 or more HEALTHpoints in August and you could be one of the lucky winners! For more information on HEALTHpoints, visit, log-in and click on the HEALTHpoints tab. Good Luck!



Congratulations to the July HEALTHpoints winners of Colorado State Parks Passes:

  • June – Denver, CO
  • Jessica – Brighton, CO
  • Cherie – Colorado Springs, CO
  • Jami – Castle Rock, CO



A Healthier Way to Vacation

When you think of vacation, usually you think of relaxation, adventure and a chance to get away from the everyday hustle and bustle. Typically, eating right and exercising are not the first things that come to mind. But you can still focus on healthy eating and active living while on vacation without feeling like you’re missing out on the full vacation experience.

Plan Your Vacation Around Activity

Sand volleyball, swimming, golfing, biking, snorkeling and walking around site seeing are all easy and fun to do during a vacation. When you are having fun, you are more likely to participate in those activities and less likely to think that you are actually exercising. Plan your days with something active and adventurous in between all of the lounging and eating that can happen.

Bring Your Own Snacks

Whether you’re driving or flying, snacks tend to be expensive and limited to unhealthy options. Most airports have increased prices on food and vending machines leave you with choosing between cookies and chips. Bringing your own snacks helps you to be prepared to tackle cravings and hunger pains that happen with long layovers and traveling. Bring fresh fruits, cut up vegetables, pretzels or air popped popcorn along and you can actually save money.

Fill Up on Healthy Foods First at the Buffet

Walk around the buffet once to pick out all of the healthy options you have. Focus on getting plenty of fresh fruits, greens and lean protein sources first to help fill you up before indulging in some of the treat foods. Then, if you eat some less healthy options throughout the day, you will have at least eaten plenty of produce and fiber beforehand.

Treat Yourself

Choose your splurges wisely, but do allow for some splurges—I mean it is a vacation! Consider your favorite things and enjoy them, but pass on the things you can easily get at home that add extra calories. For instance, soda and bread at dinner are things we easily come by every day  but fancy desserts or a city’s signature food is hard to duplicate.

Unplug and Unwind

These days, it’s harder than ever to put down our phones and unplug from all the technology we are around every day. The point of a vacation is to eliminate stress and steer clear of work in order for your brain to fully relax. Try your hardest to resist the temptation of checking your emails and always having your phone around. Leave your phone in the hotel room one day and bring a disposable camera to still capture all the memories.