Three Effective Isometric Movements
- Squats – descend into the squat as far as possible and hold.
- Hollows – while on your back, lift your arms and feet off the mat and press the hollow of your back into the mat.
- Farmer’s Carry – hold a heavy weight in one hand and keep your torso, shoulder, and arm tensioned while you walk purposefully.
When part of a full-body program, isometric strength work can be a very effective tool to build strength and stability, particularly in your core and hips.
While lifting heavy weight can be very effective in building strength for everyday endurance athletes, you can easily use your own body weight to get strong.
Plus, by manipulating how you move with isometrics, you can increase the stress on your target muscles and build better body control.
Isometric strength training locks in joints
Isometric strength training locks in a joint that is normally moving, plus requires the stabilizer muscles around that joint to prevent movement.
Not only can you practice and improve the movement of exercises like squats, you can build mobility and increase the joint range of motion by improving overall strength.
For everyday endurance athletes like runners and cyclists, isometric strength offers a way of not only building stability strength, particularly in the core, but also fatigue resistance and movement with one leg or arm exercises.
And there’s evidence that isometric strength training can improve your blood pressure, if that’s an issue for you.
Squeezing your muscles while moving increases stress
When you move weight, you raise it (concentric movement), lower it (eccentric movement), or hold the position (isometrics) and squeeze.
Each of these movements contribute different stresses to the muscles you’re targeting.
For example, in a bodyweight squat, you lengthen the quadriceps and shorten the hamstrings when you descend.
And if you hold the squat when you’re fully descended, you’re increasing the stress on your quads as well as building muscular control.
You’ll need more force to stand back up, and you’ll need to brace your core to help you stay upright.
Isometric strength can build glutes
Wall sits are another good example of a hip, glute, and leg isometric strength training.
Sit back against the wall with your feet under your knees.
Try to sit so your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Push your lower back into the wall and sit on your heels to make sure your glutes are firing.
Hold the position as long as you can!
Sometimes, coming up on your toes can change up the movement and strengthen your calf muscles as well.
Farmer’s and overhead carries build isometric stress in torso
Another good movement for isometric strength training is a farmer carry, where you hold a heavy weight in one hand and just walk.
The isometric part is to hold your arm, shoulder, and torso steady and practice your princess walk, one deliberate step in front of the other.
Walk 10 to 20 steps with the weight in one hand, then stop and rest a moment.
Put the weight in the other hand and work your princess magic.
The isometric stress from your fingers to your shoulder and within your torso builds a huge amount of stability.
Likewise, the overhead carry is another chance to practice your princess walk, and stress your torso, arm, and shoulder.
Core strength comes from isometrics
One of the most common isometric strength exercises is the front and side plank, either on your hands or your elbows.
Like the farmer carry or overhead carry, the plank builds a lot of stress into your shoulders and torso.
With the plank, you get the added bonus of isometrically stressing your glutes and legs.
Hollows and McGill Crunches are other amazing ways to isometrically stress your core to build strength and stability.
Isometric strength training part of full program
Ideally, everyday endurance athletes use isometric as part of a full strength training program.
For example, I might recommend that a client include farmer’s carries or overhead carries as part of a regular program.
And core work with planks is a part of nearly every workout plan.
If it’s feasible, I’ll still program heavy lifting into my athlete’s program, particularly with deadlifts.
But isometrics and bodyweight training can be a good substitute if needed.
Bodyweight is a very good way to build your core strength and stability.
Change up your program with isometric strength training
You can make a bodyweight workout session more challenging by adding in isometric strength work.
For example, if you do bodyweight squats or even add in dumbbells or bands, you can sink into the squat and hold it as low as you can.
Isometrics are a good way to change up a bodyweight program, as well.
So everyday endurance athletes don’t need a gym to build the kind of stability and strength you need to improve your fitness and performance.
Six-week bodyweight strength program
I offer a six-week bodyweight strength program that will build strength and stability for everyday endurance athletes.
To mix up the exercises, you can do the isometric work for any of the movements.
It’s really a progression of exercises that will stress your muscular system.
For example, we do several Animal Flow movements that build core strength and the ability to move in different planes that we usually do when we run or ride.
Want to know more about what you can achieve?
My purpose with Simple Endurance Coaching is to help everyday endurance athletes achieve their goals with more strength, endurance, and mobility.
If you liked this article, please share it with others.
Sign up on the website to get a free copy of my e-booklet, “The Simple and Mostly Complete Guide to Strength Training for Everyday Endurance Athletes.”
You can also opt in to receive my weekly blog post about what works in endurance sports.
Contact me or sign up for Virtual Coffee so we can discuss your goals, ask questions, and talk about making your endurance training more effective, fun, and Simple.
Paul Warloski is a:
- USA Cycling Level 3 Coach
- RRCA Running Coach
- Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
- RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
- Certified Personal Trainer