Maybe you are newbie to , hell the gym, period.  Maybe you are coming back from injury.  Maybe you are looking to blast through a pesky training plateau.  Maybe you are looking for a way to prep your core for beach season.  Whatever your reason, learning the art of moving without moving can help improve your strength and sexiness.

What the hell is this art of moving without moving?  Quite simple:  holding the body in positions for an extended period of time with or without implements.  You have most likely faced these types of movements in your training.  A couple of examples:

  • Planks
  • Ring support holds
  • Handstand holds
  • Holding at the top of the pullup.

Formally known as “isometric holds”, this training modality has a number of positive benefits to any level of ter or strength athlete in general.

Benefits of Isometric Training

1.  Improves body awareness and mental focus in a safe and controlled manner.


Holding the body in positions outside of normal resting states is a great way to teach athletic awareness.  Instead of focusing on form, the athlete is allowed to focus on the sensation of certain muscles being activated and/or learning how to activate certain muscle groups.  Due to the increased time under tension in one position, the athlete must also focus his or her attention on grinding out the set, but without the risk of putting themselves into unsafe positions.

2.  Helps rehabilitate injuries.


Let’s say you bang up your shoulder or screw up your knee.  Instead of placing the joint through a potentially painful repetitve range of motion, you simply hold the movement at a specified angle which does not cause pain or discomfort.  This allows neuromuscular function to continue while the body works to heal itself.  What would this look like?  Say a knee injury has occurred.  Once the initial inflammation and pain have subsided, try to incorporate squat holds at varying depths.  Start out at a 1/4 squat.  Really shallow.  Hold that thirty seconds to a minute.  Use weight that is appropriate.  Should bodyweight be all that can be handled at first, use it.  Gradually play with load and depth/angle holds as time goes on and pain continues to decrease.

3.  Supports foundational lifts.


For the competitive ter whose volume is high, isometric holds are a great way to add even more volume without putting the body through more wear and tear.  Spend time in positions which you are weak.  Do you struggle with split jerks or other overhead movements?  Incorporate some handstand holds at the end of your workouts.  Do you find it difficult to keep an upright torso in the bottom of a squat?  Try goblet squat holds.

4.  More muscle.  Less fat!


For the ter who isn’t looking to tear up the competition arena, isometric holds are a great way to build the core of your dreams.

Clearly, there are lots of great benefits to doing isometric holds.  Below you’ll find three of the best isometric exercises to blast your core, build some muscle, and safely shed some unwanted fat!

Steelworks Go-To Isometric Holds

1.  Ring Support


Spend time in ring support holds and you’ll not only realize a whole other level of core development, but you will also build strength in the pectorals and triceps.

Suggested training prescription:  Accumulate three minutes at the top of ring support.  Every time you come off the rings, add the rest time to the clock until you have three minutes of time spent on the rings.

2.  Goblet Squat Holds


Goblet squat holds with a kettlebell or dumbbell are not only going to strengthen your six pack, but also your quadriceps (front of the thighs – you need these to squat!), spinal erectors (the giant chain of back muscles running from your lower back to your upper back – very important postural muscles) and hip abductors (gluteus minimus and gluteus medius – essential for efficient squatting mechanics).

Suggested training prescription:  Accumulate three minutes in the bottom of a goblet squat.  Every time you come out of the bottom, add the rest time to the clock until you have accumulated three minutes of time spent in the squat.

3.  Single Leg Side Plank Holds


When looking to strengthen the core, don’t forget to work the different planes of movement.  Single leg side plank holds strengthen your side-to-side movements.  While there are not many of these movements in , the importance of frontal plane stability cannot be discounted.  For example, catching a heavy clean deep in the bottom of the squat requires frontal plane stability.  If weakness exists in this frontal plane, chances increase for the torso to shift side to side as the weight is racked and stabilized.  Side-to-side shifts increase the risk of damage to the spine over time.  If Olympic lifting (snatches, cleans, and jerks) are a stable of your training, single leg side plank holds should be a staple.

Suggested training prescription:  On each side, perform a single leg side plank hold 2 sets of 10 seconds with a five second break before switching to the other leg.  Do the other leg, then switch back to the original leg.  Complete 2 rounds of 2 sets of 10 seconds on, 5 seconds off per leg.

Whatever your reason for training, be it making it to the Games or getting ready for beach season, isometric holds are great tools that need to be incorporated into your training.

Email [email protected] with any questions you might have about isometric training or other strategies for fitness.