Disclosure: This post contains links throughout the article. Blue links are references to other websites that prove what I’m saying is a fact. Red links are links that connect to other articles I’ve done. Product review articles have a buy now red button at the bottom of the article’s end. I receive compensation from the companies whose products I review by providing a link to you. I will only recommend products I have used and know will work for you. To show good faith, I took photos of myself holding and using the product in my product article reviews.
There are two levels in calisthenics isometrics exercises: basic, and advanced. When performing the most straightforward version of isometrics, the basics might not seem much. The action of holding at the midpoint of a concentric, tension builds up over time. After that, you slowly perform eccentrics and do another concentric with an isometric hold at the midpoint of a rep. An example is lifting a dumbbell and doing a bicep curl. When you lift the dumbbell halfway, tension is overloaded, but when you lift it all the way up, stress dissipates. The advanced version becomes more difficult. You’re levitating your body weight in mid-air at a 180-degree angle in a horizontal plane. Why? Because the feet are off the ground without supporting the arms to lift the torso. You require a lot of torso and arm strength to hold a 180-degree angle in a horizontal plane.
An honest answer to this question is, do isometrics strengthen muscle? The answer is yes because isometrics is absolute strength in calisthenics. Basic and advanced isometrics determine how long you can sustain a hold before giving it out. Doing reps in calisthenics is muscular endurance because you can’t reach hypotrophy in the classical 8 to 12-rep range. Performing high reps in the 20 to 50 rep range will tire out the muscles and condition the heart. Lifting weights is absolute strength because you can strengthen by increasing the weight and performing 8 to 12 reps. Let’s dive into this article and see what are the best calisthenics isometrics exercises to strengthen the body.
What is Isometrics?
The activity generates a lot of time under tension when you are in a static position, like a squat hold. Another method of isometrics is trying to move an unmovable object, like a wall. The premise of isometrics is time under tension, and you can produce force far more than concentric and eccentric. The reason is that your muscles are under a lot of pressure from a static hold. Multiple muscles are activated, especially indirect ones, and blood flow constriction happens. Squeezing the veins and blood vessels puts the circulatory system under stress. In turn, the activity makes this an excellent exercise for the heart. It forces the heart to pump more, challenging to maintain blood flow and oxygen throughout the body. So you can build muscle and develop strength. To make this work far better, do a couple of reps and apply an isometric hold afterward.
Contracting and lengthening the muscles repeatedly and doing a static hold causes muscle soreness. Why? Because microtears occur in the muscle fiber when you’ve exercised well. Combining all three methods will cause muscles to grow and strengthen over time. The best part is that you can do this anywhere with your body. Let’s check out a couple of calisthenics isometric exercises. Beginning from the most basic types to the difficult ones. Look at an article on static stretching before engaging in any physical activity. This article shows you stretches to prevent you from underperforming and avoid tightness in the muscles.
Basic holds are enough to cause muscles to feel tired when applying eccentric and concentric movements. You must stop halfway at the midpoint of an eccentric or concentric movement to perform basic isometric holds. Before doing an isometric hold, you must complete a couple of repetitions. Then apply a hold when you are about to finish a set as you get tired. Hold a max amount until fatigue. Repeat the exercise over as many sets as you like. Remember to take a one-minute break and then return to the training. It’s that simple to do. Here’s a list of basic calisthenics compound exercises you can do and apply isometrics like the ones shown here in this article.
Both pushup variations require finding the midpoint where the most tension is built. The angles are different for each movement, so I’ll explain.
The horizontal pushup involves your anterior side facing the floor at a 180-degree angle. The elbows are to be placed laterally close to the ribs, and the hands placed laterally next to the chest. The toes are to be placed on the floor. Then you extend out your elbows and perform a full range of motion. The vertical pushup is about raising and lowering your torso. You must lean the torso at a 60-degree angle to engage the pecs. Then you bend your knees, flex your hips to engage the core and perform vertical pushups.
Once you’ve done a few reps, feel the midpoint before completing a full range of motion and hold. Doing pushup holds will target multiple muscles and force them to tighten. These muscles include the anterior deltoids, triceps, pecs, abs, obliques, and lats. That’s a lot of muscles working together to perform a pushup hold.
Pike Pushup Hold
This movement isn’t the same as a regular horizontal pushup. The mechanics of moving the body is different with this move. With the pike pushup, you raise your hips and you firmly place the balls of your feet on the floor. The torso is leaning in a down-forward diving position. Then you lean forward, bending your elbows and the head nearly touching the floor. Then you push your torso up back into position. The exercise is meant to exercise your deltoids and triceps, not your pecs. Feel the midpoint when performing the pushing action before completing a full rep.
The pull-up has two variations of it. There are horizontal and vertical. In the horizontal position, your body is placed at a 180-degree angle. Elbow placement is critical to know which muscles on the back are exercised. Place your elbows laterally to the rib cage to engage the lats and pull your elbows down.
The vertical pull-up involves expanding the chest to engage the lat muscles more. Hands are placed wide to engage the lats. Keeping the knees flexed allows better mobility to lift the body vertically. By pulling the torso up, the elbows are lowered until they reach the ribs laterally.
Once you understand body angle positioning and elbow placement for executing great pull-ups, you have to find the midpoint. Once found, remain in that static hold as long as you can before completing a full range of motion.
Supine Lay Hold
The exercise is done with an exercise ball to engage the core while the feet are anchored firmly. You position your body facing the ceiling and your butt on the ball. When you’ve done a couple of situps, lean back at a 180-degree angle. Do a static hold once you feel your core is tired from doing situps. This will cause your core to tighten drastically and strengthen over time when you do it repeatedly.
Executing this exercise is easy. You face the floor and position your body straight. Then you place your elbows on the floor and toes as support. The engagement of doing this hold will target your core, making them strong. Another way to make this harder is using an ab wheel. When you extend the body rolling forward, lock your elbows, keep your back straight, and hold before giving out.
Back Extension Hold
The exercise requires you to lie on the floor and extend your arms and legs. Once the limbs are extended, raise them slightly to engage the posterior chain. That’s all you need to do, and it’s one of the most straightforward exercises in calisthenics isometrics. You can also do this on an exercise ball as a secondary option. Anchor your feet, place your hip region on the ball, perform back extensions, and hold to strengthen the erector spinae.
Three types of hip holds will work with just the weight of your leg. Those movements are called hip flexion, extension, and abduction. Place your hands on something if you don’t have good equilibrium. Tension on the quads and hip flexors is created with hip flexion. Tension in the glutes is created by doing a hip extension. Hip abduction creates tension on the tensor fascia lata, gluteus medius, and minimus. Unfortunately, hip adduction will not create tension on the adductors while standing. When you adduct the leg back to the centerline, resistance dissipates. The only way to provide weight resistance towards the adductors is laying on the floor. While on the floor, you abduct either the left or right leg. Then, adduct back towards the centerline without completing a full adduction. You need to find the midpoint and hold until you can’t anymore.
An essential foundation for developing strength and growth in the quads and glutes is the squat. This exercise also applies the same mechanics for squatting into doing plyometrics. Plyometrics are jumping exercises that allow power development on the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. The difference is with plyometrics; you squat down and have your arms extended, then swing them forward for extra momentum when jumping. To do a squat hold, you need to find the movement’s midpoint during the concentric and eccentric motion. Squat down, then when you begin to raise your torso back up a few inches, you’ll start to feel tension.
Hamstring Curl Hold
The bodyweight hamstring curl works when you’re facing the ceiling. Start by performing a hip extension as you keep your knees extended before you do a curl. Start flexing your knees while keeping your hips extended and slide with the heels of your feet. Wear socks to perform the curl smoothly on flat surfaces like wooden floors. This will cause tremendous tension in the hamstrings, causing the muscles to feel the weight of the posterior chain. By doing this, the hamstrings contract. When you’ve reached the last rep, perform a hold at the midpoint while keeping the hips extended. The hamstrings will receive great tension and develop strength.
Reverse Back Extension Hold
Doing the exercise on a chair or an exercise ball is an excellent option at home. The exercise targets the posterior chain but mainly the glutes and erector spinae. To perform, lay face down and hold onto a firm object. When you lay, ensure your hip region is lying on an object. Begin raising the lower half of the body by performing hip extension. Once you get a few reps in, perform a static hold lifting the legs. This will cause tremendous tension in the posterior chain.
Calve Raise Hold
Many men say that the most problematic muscles to grow are the calves, and it’s true. Calve raises can be a straightforward exercise for the calves because it’s accustomed to the weight of the body. To make it harder, stand on some stairs and place the balls of your feet close to the ledge. The heel of the feet placed past the stair ledge allows for a more excellent range of motion. Then to finish, perform an isometric hold when you raise your heels after doing 50 reps.
Performing a static hold on the hamstrings with this movement is not an easy task. This works by leaning forward at a 45-degree angle and holding that position until you can’t hold it anymore. When the hamstrings give out, make sure to place both hands in front of you. Doing this ensures you won’t land on your face. Also, try to keep the hips extended when leaning forward. Extending the hips allows better engagement of the hamstrings. Find an anchor to place the feet to perform this fantastic exercise. Muscle engaged is hamstrings.
All these advanced isometrics in calisthenics require full extension of your elbows and a straight spine to perform these exercises. These exercises require a lot of patience and consistency if you want to be good at performing them. The holds I’m showing are brutal. It will take a while for you to perform if you are a novice. Also, your joints must be locked when performing some of the most challenging static holds in calisthenics. As of 2023, I’m still a beginner because it’s tough to learn. I keep failing, but I don’t quit because I know eventually, I’ll achieve success. If you struggle, take it slow and practice. That’s all you can do. Let’s dive into these exercises, a more complex type of isometrics in calisthenics.
Of all the exercises in isometrics, the L-sit is the easiest isometric in calisthenics. Just like the name says, you make yourself into an L shape. To do this, you must extend your elbows and knees and straighten your spine. Which muscles activate during the hold?
- Hip flexors
This exercise is challenging because the quads sustain the hold when you extend your knees. The quads are trying to keep the knees extended by supporting the weight of the lower legs. Another reason it’s difficult is that the abdominals and hip flexors are trying to support the entire leg’s weight. But it’s easy for the arms to aid the rest of your body weight. The deltoids, triceps, pecs, and lats activate when supporting the entire body weight.
The activity is more of a balance exercise, but it’s perfect to learn to transition to more challenging exercises. The difficulty of doing the handstand is feeling lightheaded if you are a beginner who hasn’t done this before. Also, it’s challenging to maintain balance as a beginner because you have to activate every muscle. Switching on every muscle by maintaining balance is, keeping the body in a straight line. But the most challenging part is carrying your whole body weight with your arms since you are upside down. This means you need a strong upper body to sustain yourself in balance. Muscles to sustain your balance is
- Erector Spinae
Doing the elbow lever is the most straightforward version of levitating your body while facing the floor. Even though it’s direct, the exercise isn’t that easy to do. You have to sustain the weight of the body by keeping the elbows laterally locked tight to the torso. Second, you need to extend the body into a straight line by holding the body’s weight with your core and glutes. Muscles activated to hold the body at a 180-degree horizontal angle are
- Erector Spinae
Hanging on a dip bar while the body’s at a 180-degree angle and facing the ceiling is difficult. The hands are aligned above the navel, and the legs are extended mid-air. This calisthenics movement is one of the hardest exercises in isometrics. Think of it like this; you’re like a weight scale, and the lower body will be heavy. There’s nothing to support the legs. To achieve success, you need a solid posterior chain to pull this off. Also, the lats aren’t the only muscles to sustain; you need a strong lower back, glutes, and abdominals.
Muscles involved in sustaining the body at a 180-degree angle are
- Erector spinae
Now, is the back lever easy to perform? No, it isn’t easy to achieve because the body has to be at a 180-degree horizontal position. As you can see, I’m not that great, but one day I will be. Use a loop resistance band to help with the learning process. Here’s a list of muscles involved in the activity.
- Erector Spinae
The lower back and glutes sustain the leg’s weight by aligning the body at a 180-degree angle. The abdominals help as supporting muscles to align the body in a straight line.
Another very difficult isometric exercise to perform because the body is at a 180-degree position facing the floor. Another reason for the intensity is the hand placement is aligned vertically to the hips. Doing this is to balance the body when levitating the body in mid-air. Here’s a list of muscles involved in the planche
- Anterior deltoids
- Posterior deltoids
- Erector spinae
I know calisthenics isometrics exercises help strengthen muscles over time when you’ve done them constantly because I’m doing it. The list of every single calisthenics isometrics exercise is what I do to improve and strengthen my body. But I also wanted to perform the most complex actions because they measure strength, coordination, and overall fun. Watching someone perform these feats of strength by levitating the body in the air looks fantastic. I’m sure you’ll get stronger and develop the skills to perform isometrics in your routine as I displayed in this article. To help with the process, I have an article to help explain the best way to assist you in mastering calisthenics isometrics.
Please comment below. If you have any doubts or questions, please be specific about the questions you have that you want me to answer. I’ll answer them as soon as possible. Thanks.