It goes without saying that core strength should be high up on your training priority list.
Isometric core exercises are one way of achieving abdominal strength and the best part about them, is that most of them require no equipment. This means you can do them anywhere, anytime and to your heart’s content!
In this article, I will be going over some of the best isometric ab exercises you can do. I will also be delving (just a little) into what ‘isometric exercises’ refers to, and why you should be doing them.
Isometric Exercises Vs. Dynamic Exercises
There are two types of exercises you can do: isometric and dynamic. The main difference between the two is that one requires movement whereas one is static.
When doing a dynamic exercise, your muscle/s go through a series of shortening and lengthening under tension, as you complete the movement for the set amount of repetitions. When doing an isometric exercise, one position is held for a specific amount of time, during which your muscle/s are continuously under tension.
Which is better? Neither. They’re different. The best approach is to perform a combination of the two types of exercises throughout your weekly workout regime.
Research has shown that isometric training can be beneficial in producing strength gains. The static nature of isometric exercises can be especially useful to those who have a limited range of movement, as they only need to be in a single position.
Let’s look at some of the best static core exercises!
Top 10 Isometric Core Exercises
All the exercises listed below are positions required to be held for a duration of time. The duration that you hold the positions for will depend on your current level of core strength. It is important to not overdo it and work well within your limitations to avoid compromising your lower back.
Technique is important, so read the notes and make sure you check out the video clips for some extra form guidance.
1. Pillar Hold
- Go into the top of a push up position with your palms flat on the floor and your arms fully extended.
- Your hands should be shoulder width apart and you should have a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Push up into your shoulder blades, protracting your scapular. Squeeze your glutes and tuck your pelvis under.
- Hold for 30+ seconds.
- Have your forearms on the ground, shoulder width apart and your feet on the floor.
- Push up onto your elbows so that your body is off the ground with only your forearms and toes on the floor.
- You should have a straight line from your head to your heels and your shoulders should be directly above your elbows.
- Keep your glutes activated to assist you in maintaining a safe position for your lower back (your hips shouldn’t be in the air or sagging downwards).
- Hold for 30+ seconds.
3. Side Plank
- Lie on your side with your legs stacked and your upper body propped up on your elbow.
- Push your hips up so that only your elbow, forearm and foot of your bottom leg are on the ground.
- You should have a straight line from your head and top shoulder to your top foot.
- Your shoulder should be in line with your supporting elbow.
- Hold for 20+ seconds on each side.
- You can do this on dip bars or on the floor. A good starting point for learning this exercise would be to do it on the dip bars.
- Start with a hand on each dip bar and support your body weight on fully extended arms, straight down by your side. Your body should be hanging in a straight line to begin with.
- Keeping your legs straight, raise them to be parallel to the ground. If the straight leg version is too challenging, try it with your knees bent, keeping them shoulder width apart, i.e. lift your knees instead of your straightened legs.
- Extend through your chest and try to send your hips forward.
- Hold for 15+ seconds.
- Start by sitting on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your feet off the ground and roll back onto your tailbone.
- Maintaining a neutral spine, extend your legs and your arms until they are straight and are running parallel to each other.
- Your torso and legs should create a ‘V’ shape.
- Hold for 20+ seconds.
6. Dead Bug Hold
- Lie on your back and raise your legs and arms straight up in the air. Your legs should be hip width apart and your arms shoulder width apart, both fully extended.
- From here, scoop your lower abs by tilting your pelvis inwards, removing any arch from your lower back and flattening your spine against the ground.
- Draw your belly button into your spine.
- Lower your legs towards the ground, as far as you can maintain a spine flat against the ground.
- Hold for 60+ seconds.
7. Half Dead Bug Hold
- Lie on your back and raise your legs and arms.
- Bend your legs at the knees and have them hip width apart with a 90-degree bend at your hips and knees.
- Place a palm on the top of each thigh.
- Flatten your spine against the mat, then gently push your palms into your knees, creating tension for you to resist against.
- Hold for 30+ seconds.
8. Warrior III Pose
- Stand in a split stance (one leg forward, one back).
- Shift your weight onto your front foot sending your back foot onto its toes.
- Your arms should be by your sides with a slight bend in your elbows to begin with.
- Maintaining a small bend in the front knee and your weight concentrated in the heel of your front foot, slowly hinge forward at the hips, shifting all your weight into your front foot and lifting your back foot and leg off the ground.
- Note, your back leg should only lift as far as your hip hinge/your chest goes down, so your body remains in a straight line from your head to your back foot.
- Once your body is parallel to the ground and you are in a stable and secure position, extend your arms forward, reaching in front of you.
- Hold for 15+ seconds on each side.
9. Bear Crawl Hold
- Go onto your hands and knees on the floor.
- Your knees should be hip width apart, directly under your hips.
- Your arms should be shoulder width apart with your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders.
- Keeping your back straight and your lower abdominals engaged, lift your knees an inch or so off the ground.
- Hold for 30+ seconds.
10. Pallof Hold
- Attach a single handle to the cable machine at shoulder height.
- Grab the handle between two hands and take a few steps out from the cable machine.
- Press the cable out in front of you until your arms are fully extended.
- Resist being pulled towards the cable machine by bracing your core and squeezing your glutes.
- Hold for 15+ seconds each side.
This handful of static abdominal exercises are some of the best ones out there. You’ll notice that this article doesn’t include an example workout like a lot of my others, as I would advise against an ab workout that consists of only isometric work.
A combination of isometric exercises and other movements is most beneficial. Whilst isometric core exercises will strengthen and shape your core, they cannot be relied on alone to develop ultimate core strength and conditioning.
Strength aside, isometric ab exercises are great for postural corrections, injury rehabilitation, balance and developing your mind to muscle connection.