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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.