Isometric Training for Athletes

Performance & Sport

As athletes, we are always looking for ways to improve our performance and take our training to new heights. Isometric training isn’t often considered to be one of the best ways to enhance athletic performance, but is there more to it than most people understand? Let’s learn more about isometric training and see if it can help you to become a better, stronger, and faster athlete.

What are Isometric Exercises?

Isometric movements are static contractions of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint. Your muscles are working hard, but the joint length is not changing. A common example of an isometric exercise is the wall sit. Once you get into the sitting position against the wall, your quad muscles are firing, but there is no movement in your knee, hip, or ankle joints.

When performing traditional lifts, it is the concentric contraction that limits the amount of weight you are able to lift. For example, if you are performing a bench press, you may be able to lower and hold a certain weight, but then are unable to lift that weight back into the starting position. Because of this, both the isometric and eccentric actions do not always get stressed or overloaded sufficiently. And it can be beneficial to train them separately in order to reach your max effort.

Types of Isometric Training

There are many different types of isometric training, but the three most common are: (1) Yielding Isometrics; (2) Extreme Isometrics; and (4) Overcoming Isometrics.

Yielding Isometrics, also known as isometric holds, are the most common. This type of training is performed by holding a position for time with submaximal weight, either bodyweight or with an external load.  Your muscles are contracting and holding position while trying to resist the eccentric forces. Some beneficial yielding isometric exercises that you could perform are the wall sit, push up plank hold, pull up hold, calf raise hold, reverse hyper hold, inverted row hold, and glute bridge hold. Almost any exercise can be turned into an isometric hold. Determine which movements you need to improve in order to excel in your sport and consider incorporating some isometric holds on those movements.

Extreme Isometrics are similar to yielding isometrics in that you hold a contracted position for time. The difference is that with extreme isometrics, the position you are holding is an extreme joint angle. These positions are much more challenging to hold and therefore, your time will likely be much shorter. In order to reap the same benefits, we suggest following the protocol below with an exercise such as an extreme isometric lunge.

  1. 10 second on, 10 seconds rest
  2. 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest
  3. 30 seconds on, 10 seconds rest
  4. 40 seconds on

Overcoming Isometrics are when you apply force against an immoveable object. The same isometric principal applies in that your muscles are contracting without any movement in the joint. The goal with these movements is to apply maximal force against the object quickly before resting. As challenging as it is, its important to try to reach your max force levels – you have to give it 100% effort in order to see the most benefits. This also means that these exercises can be dangerous if performed with incorrect form, so be sure that you that you are setting up properly and maintain your form throughout the quick exercise.

Benefits of Isometric Training

One of the greatest benefits of isometric training is that you are able to strengthen your muscles and perform exercises at your max capacity without the fatigue and soreness that you get from traditional lifting. This is especially important for athletes who require frequent training sessions and must be in top shape for game day.

Isometric exercises are also great for building a foundation of strength and stability for athletes (especially useful during the general strength phase of your training program) before progressing to more dynamic exercises that are essential for developing sport skills.

Traditional lifting is necessary for enhancing speed and explosiveness and it should be the main part of your training program. However, isometric training has many great benefits and can be added in to complement your training and help develop your strength.