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When we’ve only got five minutes to fit in some movement during the day, most of us will go for a sweaty, high-intensity, heart-racing workout. And more often than not, we neglect those simple but effective strength building routines that could be just as effective (if not more).
Sound about right? Let us introduce you to isometric holds. These small but mighty movements focus on maintaining a static position.
Laura Byrne, a qualified personal trainer who runs independent studio Fit & Food, explains how they work.
“The absence of contraction or extension of the muscle allows for tension to be maintained,” she says. “The benefits? Builds strength, increases core stability, reduces risk of injury through stronger connective tissue and enhances performance. Oh, and finding the willpower to conquer these challenging holds as you push through the tremble…there’s a huge mental gain here too.”
You might have seen others in the gym or online doing isometric holds and think they look relatively easy, but try Byrne’s five-minute routine and you won’t ever doubt the power of them again.
Timing: Complete each exercise for 30 seconds. Rest for 5 seconds between each exercise. Repeat the sequence 2-3 times.
1. Calf Raise Squat Iso Hold
Start standing with your feet hip width apart. Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the ground and knees at 90 degrees.
Staying in the squat position, raise your tip toes and flex the calf muscle so that only the ball of your feet remains on the ground.
Now lift both arms and raise above your head and hold, maintaining straight arms throughout.
Try to avoid looking straight down in this position. It’s best to keep your gaze at approximately a 45º angle to the ground and chest facing upwards.
Maintain this position for 30 seconds.
2. Half RDL (Romanian Dead Lift) Iso Hold – Left
Keeping your legs along train tracks (i.e. there should be a gap between them, avoiding a tightrope stance where they are directly behind one another), step your right leg back a foot width to a split stance position.
Now place your arms across your body and whilst keeping your shoulders back, load your front heel and hinge backwards raising your back leg. Your leg should be lifted only as far as the height at which you can maintain a straight back or that feels comfortable for the hold. You will still feel this even if you can’t lift the leg very high.
Try to avoid looking straight down at the floor. It’s best to keep your gaze at approximately a 45º angle to the ground to keep your spine neutral.
3. Half RDL (Romanian Dead Lift) Iso Hold – Right
Repeat the movement as above, but on the other side.
4. Glute Bridge with Calf Raise Iso Hold
Lie on the floor face upwards. Bend your knees to a 90º angle, keep your feet firmly on the ground and ensure they are hip width apart. Place your arms at your side, flat against the floor and palms facing down.
Now tilt your pelvis so your lower back moves towards the ground and press your heels into the floor, activate your glutes to lift your hips off the ground.
If this is enough, maintain this position for 30 seconds. If you are looking for a bit more, now raise your heels off the ground in a calf raise position.
Hold this position for 30 seconds, ensuring you squeeze your glute muscles and maintain a tight core throughout to maintain activation without letting your hips drop.
5. Push Up Iso Hold
Set yourself up in the high plank position, with your hands placed firmly on the mat sitting directly beneath your shoulders. Your feet should be shoulder width apart as well so that your body is in a nice straight line.
Now perform a push up but stop when you get to the bottom position of the movement. i.e lower your chest almost to the floor, leaving just a few inches.
Ensuring your core is engaged and you have maintained that lovely straight line, hold the movement for 30 seconds. Breathe!
Move celebrates exercise in all its forms, with accessible features encouraging you to add movement into your day – because it’s not just good for the body, but the mind, too. We get it: workouts can be a bit of a slog, but there are ways you can move more without dreading it. Whether you love hikes, bike rides, YouTube workouts or hula hoop routines, exercise should be something to enjoy.
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