Most strength-training exercises are considered isotonic, meaning they force your muscles to shorten and lengthen. Like in biceps curls, your biceps shorten while you pull the weight up to your shoulders and then lengthen as you lower the weight back down. Static strength-training exercises are a whole different ballgame. They're considered isometric, meaning your muscles hold you in a position. Instead of doing repetitions, you hold yourself still for as long as you can. There are static exercises that target the upper body, lower body and your core.
Abs and Lower Back
Isometric exercises are great for your core because your abs and lower back are constantly contracting throughout the day to keep you upright. Challenge your abs with the front plank. Lie on your stomach and set your elbows directly underneath your shoulders. Lift yourself up onto your elbows and toes so you make a straight line with your thighs and torso. Hold this position for as long as you can. The hundred is another exercise that forces your abs to contract isometrically. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lean back and pick your feet up off the ground. Hold yourself in this V-position as you pick up your arms so they’re parallel to the floor, and then bounce your arms up and down slightly. To hit your lower back, perform the bridge exercise. Lie on your back with your heels up onto a chair. Push your heels into the chair to pick your hips up off the floor as high as you can and hold.
Upper Body and Arms
The major muscles in the upper body include the chest, shoulders, back, biceps and triceps. To target your chest, shoulders and triceps, perform the chest fly squeeze. From a seated or standing position, press your palms together in front of your chest. Push your hands together as hard as you can and hold that contraction. For your back and biceps, perform lat pulldowns with a resistance band. Wrap the band around a hook attached to the top of a door frame and sit on the floor with your hands reaching up and gripping the ends of the band. Pull your hands down to your shoulders by driving your elbows into your torso. Fight to hold your arms in this position.
When focusing on your lower-body muscles, you'll want to hit your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. For the glutes, do static squats. With your hands on your hips or placed at the back of your head, set your feet to shoulder-width. Lower into a squat, stopping once your knees are bent to 90 degrees and hold this position. To target your hamstrings, complete kneeling hamstring curls. Kneel on the floor with your ankles held down by a partner. Tilt your body forward slightly until you feel a contraction in your hamstrings and then hold yourself in that position. Get your calves with static toe raises. With your feet set to shoulder-width apart, rise up onto the balls of your feet, bringing your heel up as high as you can. Hold this position. To make it more difficult, work one calf at a time.
Training and Benefits
The static contraction exercises will put your muscles under more stress than they’re used to. Your muscles have to hold you in a static position throughout the day. For example, when you’re sitting or standing, the muscles in your core are contracting isometrically to hold your torso erect. When you stay in a squatted position to button up the jacket of a small child, your legs are isometrically contracting to keep you there. The static contraction training exercises will force your muscles to hold you in a position for longer than they’re used to, which in turn will increase their isometric strength. Complete your static training exercises two days per week and perform each exercise for two sets.
Static strength-training exercises are extremely safe; however, when performing squats, be sure your knees never pass beyond the vertical line of your toes. If they do, you put unnecessary stress on your knee joints. If you find that your knees are going too far forward as you lower down, push your hips back behind you more.
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.