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Family Sports & Fitness

Isometrics: Ten Second Workouts

Do them at school. Do them at work. Do them while you watch TV. Almost anyone at any age can use isometrics to get a full-body workout – without special equipment or setting aside special time.

Isometric exercise isn’t a substitute for traditional strength training, but it may be just what you need when you don’t have time for your regular strength routine, or when it’s time to add a little boost to your regular workout.

Understanding Isometrics
•  Isometrics uses resistance to increase muscle strength
•  Isometric training usually involves exerting maximum force
•  Muscle strength is increased when resistance is so high that the
   muscles can’t move an object
•  Isometrics activate and train all of the available muscle fibers,
   leading to more significant strength improvement in less time

An isometric contraction occurs when a muscle contracts without changing its length or causing any movement of the bones to which it is attached, for example:
•  When you pause anywhere along the lifting or lowering phase of a bicep curl,
   your muscles are working without shortening or lengthening
•  Pushing against a wall
•  Pulling up on a window that is stuck

Limits to Using Isometrics
The biggest limitation of isometric exercise is that each isometric hold increases your muscle’s strength only in that exact position
•  Doesn’t increase strength through a full range of motion
•  Requires you to do many exercises, each at a different joint angle, in order
   to strengthen a muscle at all points in its full range of motion

Isometric contractions also restrict blood flow and can cause sharp rises in blood pressure during the exercise
•  Check with your health professional before beginning any exercise program
•  Isometric exercises can be unsafe for anyone with heart disease or
   high blood pressure, and women who are pregnant

If you experience any unusual symptoms (headache, nausea or dizziness) while doing isometric exercises, stop immediately

No one will know you are exercising all day long when you add isometrics. They’re also a great way to train your muscles to handle real life strength needs:
•  Carrying a heavy backpack of books
•  Lifting and holding several bags of groceries
•  Squatting to clean under the bed
•  Holding a baby in your arms

Try It!
Remember to breathe properly, especially during the maximum contractions of isometric exercise
•  Press your palms together as hard as you can to exercise your arm
   muscles effectively any time
•  Sit in a chair with your abs engaged (tightened) and your feet held
   just slightly off the floor to give your core muscles a good workout
•  Make it harder by pushing down on your knees with your hands
   while trying not to let your feet touch the floor
•  Clasp your hands behind your neck, elbows wide, and push your
   head back while trying to push it forward with your hands to work
   upper back and neck muscles
•  In your regular strength training workout, pause and hold close to
   the top of the lifting phase or the bottom of the lowering phase
   (without actually getting there)
•  When doing squats, lunges, and pushups, pause after lowing
   yourself down and hold your body steady
•  During biceps curls, triceps extensions, chest presses and similar
   resistance exercises, pause halfway through your lifting  phase
   and hold the weight steady
•  Make it harder by pausing just before you lower back down to
   the starting point of the exercise
•  When doing crunches, pause at the top of your crunch and hold
•  Make it harder by pausing just before you reach the starting point
   of the exercise (shoulder blades just hovering above the floor)
•  In any exercise program, add an isometric exercise for secondary
   parts of your body
•  When doing sit-ups, instead of keeping your elbows straight and
   locked, bend them just slightly and try to hold that position, giving
   your arm and shoulder muscles a workout along with your core muscles
•  While walking, hold your arms out to the side or in front of you

Get everyone in the family thinking about adding isometrics throughout the day:
•  When waiting in a line, ask everyone to do an isometric exercise, then guess
   what each other is doing
•  Before dinner, have each family member choose a muscle and perform one
   isometric exercise for 10 seconds

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