Isometric contractions, also known as static strength training, can help build balance, muscle, strength, and range of motion. Unlike isotonic muscle actions, where the muscles visibly change the length and simultaneously develop tension, isometric exercises activate the muscles by generating force without visibly changing muscle length or moving the joints.
Isometric exercises focus on the static engagement of muscles without movement of the joints. These low impact exercises are used during recovery periods and allow the muscles and tendons to slowly advance on to more vigorous movements using resistance bands or even weights.
A typical example of an isometric exercise is holding a plank position for a set amount of time. When performing an isometric workout, there is no impact making this form of training especially suitable for rehab and injury prevention.
Generally speaking, there are three different ways in which a persons muscles contract and move; concentric movements, eccentric movements and isometric. If we take the squat as example, the concentric part of the squat is when you move up with the eccentric part being when a person moves down. An isometric squat is when a person reaches the bottom of the movement and simply holds for a few seconds. However, it doesn’t just apply to someone lifting heavy weights. As isometric exercise is holding either a weight or just your bodyweight for a period of time, helping to increase time under tension.
Below are 12 effective isometric movements that specifically target the legs .
Benefits of Isometric Training
Personal trainers, rehabilitation facilities, and coaches use isometric training to prepare athletes and rehabilitate general populations physically. This type of training can be an effective way to maintain muscle tone, improve flexibility and athletic performance and can offer a significant reduction to painful tendons.
Overall, isometric exercises are beneficial for improving muscular endurance. When compared to dynamic training, which is best for increasing muscle mass, isometric exercises have shown to be a better form of exercise for physical rehabilitation.
12 Leg Isometric Exercises
These isometric leg exercises involve contracting your muscles and holding them steady without moving the joints.
1. Wall Sit
The Wall Sit is a classic isometric exercise that builds lower body strength and endurance as it targets your quads, glutes, hamstring, and calves.
To perform the Wall Sit with proper form, do the following steps:
- Lean against a wall with the feet wider than your shoulder width apart.
- Lower yourself and bend your knees to a 90-degree angle while pressing your back against the wall – If this is uncomfortable use something like a foam roller behind your back
- Ensure your knees and hips align with your toes to prevent knee pain.
- Stabilize your body by gripping the floor with your feet and resting your head and upper body against the wall.
After reaching the bottom of the squat, hold the position for 30 – 60 seconds and focus on engaging your muscles.
2. Hamstring Hold
The Hamstring Hold is a great isometric leg exercise for muscle growth in your hamstrings and glutes, and it also increases flexibility in your hamstrings and hips.
Here’s how to do this exercise.
- Sit and stretch your legs out in front of you.
- Flex your foot, pointing your toes towards the ceiling and keeping your heel on the ground.
- Lift your hips off the floor.
- Engage your core and press your glutes and the back of your legs into the ground.
- Hold your hips in the air and focus on contracting your hamstrings and glutes.
- Keep your knees slightly bent to prevent any strain on your hamstrings.
- Hold for a few seconds and then lower back down.
3. Calf Raises
Calf Raises are significant for building lower body strength, endurance, and targeting your calves.
To do Calf Raises:
- Stand with arms at the sides and the feet shoulder-width apart. For an added challenge, also hold a light dumbbell in each hand.
- Raise yourself and stand on your toes, pressing into the ground to lift your heels.
- Hold your core in for stability.
- Stay in this position for 30 – 60 seconds, and then go back to the starting position.
4. Glute Bridge
The Glute Bridge is a good isometric exercise to activate the glutes and hamstrings while also working the core. This type of exercise strengthens your hamstrings and shapes your backside.
Here’s how to implement the Glute Bridge
- Lie on your back, placing your feet flat and your knees bent.
- Press your feet into the floor and lift your hips.
- Squeeze your hamstrings and glute while lifting your hips as high as you can.
- Hold this position at the top for 10 – 20 seconds, making sure to keep your core engaged and hips even. Then, lower back down and repeat. Make sure to keep your feet flat and your head and shoulders pressed into the ground throughout the exercise.
5. Warrior 3
Warrior 3, also known as the quad hold, are isometric contractions that targets your quads and glutes. This move will strengthen your calf, foot, hamstring, and glute. It creates stability in your whole body, and it can also strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. Warrior 3 improves balance and helps you prevent injuries from falls.
Here’s how to do the Warrior III.
- Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width stance and arms at the sides.
- Let your weight rest on one foot and lift the other foot off the ground.
- Bend your standing knee and lift your raised foot behind you, keeping your hips level and your body in a straight line.
Make sure to keep your hips level and your core engaged as you hold this position for a few seconds. Maintain a straight line from the head to the raised heel, and keep your core tight and back flat.
6. Split Squat
Split Squats are an isometric lunge exercise that activates your glutes, stretches your hip flexors glutes, and works your quads. This isometric move also improves your balance, core strength, and range of motion.
To do a split squat hold with proper form:
- Start in a hip-width stance and arms at your sides.
- Step one foot forward and sink into a low lunge, ensuring your weight is centered, and your chest is up nice and tall.
- Hold the position as long as you can, up to 60 seconds, while engaging your core muscles.
- Keep your weight balanced on both feet and your core committed to keeping your torso steady and upright.
7. Squat Pulse Hold
The Squat Pulse builds muscle, power, strength, and overall body coordination. This isometric leg exercise is an excellent way to fatigue muscles in the lower body
To execute the Squat Pulse:
- Stand with the feet slightly wider than hip-width and your arms at your sides.
- Take a deep breath keeping your core tight, bend your knees, and sink into a low squat. Ensure that your weight is centered and your chest is nice and tall.
- While holding the squat position, lift your heels off the ground a few inches, hold for a few seconds, and then lower back down.
- Press your feet on the floor while engaging your quads and glutes.
8. Plank Knee Tucks
A Plank Knee Tuck is an advanced isometric exercise that’s not advisable for beginners. It is a cross-body action that involves all your core muscles to move the knee from a plank position to touch the opposite elbow.
- Start in a high plank with hands directly under the shoulders and feet hip-width apart.
- Engage the core and ensure your body is in a straight line.
- Then, bring one knee up towards your chest and hold it for a few seconds. Keep your abs engaged and your hips level as you maintain the knee tuck.
- Then, switch sides and repeat. Keep your elbows slightly bent, and your core engaged throughout the exercise.
Exhale before moving your knee down and across. It helps to tuck your ribs in as it will help you to rotate across when you draw up from your abs.
9. Single-Leg Glute Bridge
The Single-Leg Glute Bridge is an outstanding isometric exercise that helps to isolate your glute muscles while incorporating your other posterior muscles. As a unilateral glute bridge variation, it can target muscle groups throughout your body. These include your hip flexors, hamstrings, gluteal, and lower back muscles.
To perform the Single-Leg Glute Bridge:
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent.
- Lift one foot off the ground, extending your leg in front of you.
- Lift your hips off the ground and focus on squeezing your glutes while pushing into your other leg.
- Keep your back pressed on the ground and focus on letting your extended leg form a straight line with your back.
Make sure to keep your hips level and your core engaged as you hold this position for a few seconds. Then, lower your hips back down and repeat on the opposite side. Keep your head and shoulders pressed into the ground throughout the exercise.
10. Sumo Squat Hold
The Sumo Squat Hold is a great isometric exercise that works not only the quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves like the standard squat but also activates the inner thighs.
To implement the Sumo Squat Hold:
- Start with the feet wider than hip-width apart and your toes turned out.
- Clasp your hands at your chest, bend your knees and sink into a low squat. Drop as low as you can, ensuring your weight is centered and your chest is nice and tall.
- Keep your abs and chest engaged as you hold this position. Continue pushing your heels into the ground while engaging your glutes and quads.
- Engage your inner thighs and then come back to the starting position.
11. Standing Glute Squeeze
A Standing Glute Squeeze is an excellent way to activate the glute muscles so that they work properly. It can help you get more out of your other glute exercises, such as squats and lunges. Moreover, you will gain from improved balance, which protects against weak glute muscles and significantly lower back pain.
This is how to perform the standing glute squeeze with proper form
- Start with feet wider than hip-width stance and the arms at your sides.
- Shift your weight to rest onto the right foot and lift the left foot off the floor.
- Bend your standing knee and lift your lifted foot behind you, keeping your hips level and your body in a straight line.
Keep your hips level and your abs in as you squeeze your glutes for a few seconds.
12. Frog Squat Hold
The Frog Squat Hold is one of the best isometric leg exercises to build glute strength. It targets the quads, glutes, and hamstrings to a lesser degree. This isometric exercise can help to stabilize the knee joint in various movements.
To execute the Frog Squat Hold:
- Start with feet wider than hip-width apart and your toes turned out.
- Hold your hands out all the way in front of your body.
- Bend your knees and push your hips back, ensuring your knees are centered or perpendicular to your feet.
- Squat down until your hips are parallel to the ground, and you can touch the floor with your fingers. Take a deep breath as you hold this position, and exhale as you come back to the starting position.
There a many benefits of isometric exercises, not least because they can really help to tear up those muscle fibers helping to build mass and muscle strength. These 12-leg isometric contractions activate your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Lastly, engage your core muscles to move efficiently and increase the exercise’s effectiveness.
By incorporating isometric resistance training into your exercise routine can help with better joint movement across your entire body and is even a great way of reducing high blood pressure.