Friends, if you’re looking for a distinctly different challenge to all of those bodyweight workouts out there right now, check out this body-weight only ISOMETRIC workout.
My guess is that dedicated isometric work is not part of your typical strength training program, and if you’re looking for a catch-all way to improve how you move, strengthen a variety of tissues, and embrace a unique challenge, I’d suggest that you explore isometric training.
Isometric exercises are, by definition, exercises during which your muscle contracts but doesn’t noticeably change length, and the affected joint doesn’t appear to move. Isometric exercise can be fantastic for developing your awareness of certain positions because minimal movement tends to mean maximal control. Basically, if the goal is to create tension but not move out of that position, it’s far easier for you to perceive when you actually do move.
My goal with practicing isometric contractions is to create as much tension in positions where my body would prefer to rely on extension strategies like Ribcage Boner or Porn Star, to “cheat” me out of tension.
You could try to overload yourself in position for a set duration of time, but I think right now a better course of action is to focus on increasing the duration that you maintain a position, either by timing yourself in seconds or by focusing on increasing the number of high-quality exhales that you have in a certain position.
Let’s say that a high-quality exhale is 8-12 seconds long, so start with 30 second / 3 exhale holds, and build out from there. I practiced this workout with my wife and she gave me the feedback that, “You exhale really slowly!” I sure do, because I’m trying to create the highest-quality tension possible. As you do more sets of this, our natural tendency will be to exhale faster to get it over with faster – acknowledge the inclination to breathe faster, and then make sure you’re keeping the slowest, fullest exhale possible!
Start with 3 exhales per position per side, and focus on adding a breath each week or each time you do this workout. Once you’re getting into holds that are 60-90 seconds, we can start looking into finding ways to add load – but the important thing right now is learning to create tension!
In this workout, I’m doing:
Iso Hamstring Bridge
Start with a 90/90 Hip Lift position, shift into one hip, lift the other foot, and drive the heel down to create as much tension in the hamstrings and adductors as possible.
Iso Split Squat
The goal here is to practice the Split Squat with the same positions and sensations as the Iso Hamstring Bridge. Start from the bottom position, draw your front leg back to find inner thigh and outer glute sensations, and reach with the opposite hand to find your serratus and obliques.
The goal of the Iso Push-Up is to create as much plank tension as possible in the bottom of your push-up while acknowledging that all of that tension through your shoulders drive a whole lot of extension. I’ve found that this is the hardest exercise of the five to maintain a high-quality exhale, so really make sure to focus on getting all of that air out with each breath.
Iso Prone Prisoner*
This exercise is deceptively hard. Slide your ribcage as close to your pelvis on the floor, and resist loosing that position and letting your spinal erectors take over. You should feel your abs working to create pressure, and your upper back and shoulder muscles working to keep your elbows away from the floor.
As each exercise starts to drive a little bit more extension as we go, Bear Breathing serves as a reset or sorts, returning us to a more maintainable alignment so we can finish this set off of with better positions. Imagine that each exhale is the burner on a hot air balloon, lifting you higher into the sky. As you reach through those armpits, you’ll likely feel your serratus and core muscles turn on, so focus on maintaining that breathing quality through the end!
This is a fantastic opportunity to learn how to get stronger without relying on heavy weights, and an isometric workout like this one can be an eye opening experience to how we can learn to generate tension in different positions so that our bodies are even better prepared for the training that we prefer to do.
If you give this workout a try, let me know what it feels like while you’re doing it, and if you experience any soreness in the days that follow. Since there isn’t much movement, my guess is it won’t make you very sore – unless you’re finding yourself in better positions than you’re used to, in which case, you might be feeling a whole lotta sore after this one!
I’ll be posting as much content as I can create to help you out in the coming weeks and months, so please leave a comment or ask a question if I can help in any way. Cheers!
One Reply to “Bodyweight-Only Isometric Workout”
Love the bear breathing and prone prisoner. Those are new and will be an addition to my own workouts. I’ve got a big list article of isometric exercises if you’d be interested in linking. Loving your very helpful quarantine posts.