Isometric contractions, a.k.a. static contractions, occur when muscles exert force – causing tension, but without a changing their length. They are closely identified with common flexibility activities like yoga and stretching, but also apply to strength training and especially abdominal development in all three areas, i.e.:
- Rectus Abdominus (your “six-pack” muscles)
- Transverse Abdominus (muscles that pull in the stomach, keeping it flat)
- Obliques (v-shaped muscles tapering the waist line, i.e. “love handles”)
Why Isometric Abdominal Exercises?
Unlike isotonic contractions, which cause muscle shortening (e.g. bicep curls, tricep pulldowns), isometric exercises do not involve any pulling or lifting motion. This makes them particularly desirable if your goal is a lean, washboard “six-pack”. Remember – you do not want bigger abdominal muscles that only lead to an unwanted bigger waist; instead, your goals are strength and better definition in the core midsection.
Sample Isometric Abdominal Exercises:
1. Isometric Stomach Flattener
- Take a chair; sit up tall and straight.
- Take a deep breath and contract your stomach as hard as possible.
- Tense up your stomach as if bracing for a punch – still keeping it well contracted.
- Breathe out tightly making a hissing sound. You should feel your abdominals getting tighter.
- While breathing out, crunch your abs really hard; rotate your pelvis upwards and your rid cage inwards.
- Breathe all the way out.
- Finally, relax!
2. Front Plank Exercise
Bridge and plank exercises are great for beginners and experts alike. For example, the basic isometric plank works the front abdominals. Keeping your body straight, put your forearms on the ground. Get up on your toes to put your body in a straightened position. Hold yourself in this fixed position for thirty to sixty seconds.
For more of a challenge, try a three-point plank with one leg completely in the air.
3. Side Plank
Work the side and front abdominals with this classic exercise:
- Lay on one side.
- Lift yourself into position by placing your forearm under your body and pushing up.
- Your feet should be on top of each other, and your body should be straight.
- Hold yourself in this fixed position for at least thirty seconds.
As you improve your performance, support your weight on your hand with elbow locked straight rather than on your forearm.
For a good breathing exercise to cap things off, consider the following “Lats” (Lattimus Dorsi) exercise:
Standing with feet shoulder width apart. Clasp hands together with arms outstretched in front of you. Knees slightly bent. Take a deep breath and with back perfectly straight, stretch arms out and hold position for thirty seconds (shorter if you fatigue). Gently hiss out your breath instead of holding it in.
Benefits of Isometric Exercises
1. Great Beginners’ Exercises: Instead of worrying about what body parts to move, isometrics offer a low-impact way of developing great abdominals thanks to your own body resistance.
2. Time-effective: Targeted isometric abdominal exercises require as few as five minutes, and can easily be incorporated into a compound exercise, full body workout.
3. Can be performed anywhere: Whether you are in a hotel room, at home, or at a friend’s garage, space is never an issue for these exercises.
4. Scalable for Greater Results: These exercises can be done equipment free; however, by adding external resistance (e.g. resistance bands, specialized isometric equipment, free weights) you can increase the challenge and get even better results.
5. Flexibility Transitions: With some minor adjustments, many isometric exercises can become isotonic (i.e. moving) for even more results.
Isometric contraction exercises have always been a part in my workouts, and not just for the six-pack. Add a couple to your workout, and don’t forget about your nutritional needs! A general rule of thumb is to get more protein into your diet to encourage a lower body fat level. Still, don’t neglect your carbohydrates or you will lack the energy needed to carry out full workouts and showcase your new physique!
Source: http://www.total-ab-workout.com/isometric_exercises.html (Total Ab Workout)