Are Isometric Exercises Worth Doing?

As I alluded to in a previous article, I have suffered an injury to my foot that necessitates a cast, but I have continued writing articles and even decided to come up with a few pertinent to those in similar conditions.

What Are Isometric Exercises?

Isometric exercise is defined as any exercise in which the muscle and joint contract and “flex,” but do not extend—a static position, in other words. These can be done by resisting against any immovable force, such as a wall, a standard weight, or even one’s own body.

While in an ideal situation, I feel that having a full and natural path of motion will provide a superior workout, which is incidentally why free weights will always be superior to machines. Isometrics can still be a nice supplemental workout, as advocated by many of the earliest proponents of modern physical culture such as Monte Saldo and Eugen Sandow—as well as one of the few options for exercise available to those in restrictive situations. I myself have started to utilize isometrics while I am temporarily incapable of walking.

muscle control by maxick

My Isometric Routine

The routine that I started with, and still largely use (doing it twice a week as I would have done with standard resistance training) is taken from the “Black Monk” set of isometrics, which are claimed to have been invented by a group of Buddhist monks imprisoned in highly constricted conditions before ultimately escaping via applying nerve pressure to the guards outside (this printed set of isometrics is also where the pictures are taken from).

While I personally doubt this comic book-esque origin story, I do find that these exercises are fairly rigorous, and have reduced the amount of muscular atrophy that I have had in the month-plus of inactivity I have been through, and likely will continue to do so in the coming months ahead. This article will deal with the upper body isometric exercises.

The first isometric exercise I do is one I have previously discussed in my article on abdominal exercise: the abdomen vacuum. To do this exercise, stand up as straight as you can. In my case, I put my knee up on a  chair-place the hands on your hips. Take a deep breath while simultaneously “sucking in” the abdominal muscles—imagine that you are trying to touch your bellybutton to your spine.

Then exhale while simultaneously continuing to suck in your abdomen, Once you have completely breathed out, relax.

stomach vacuum

The first black monk isometric is to place the hands together in the prayer position at chest level. Take a deep breath and push the hands together hard, exhaling as you apply pressure (this method of breathing is done for all isometrics). Your arms should visibly be shaking. Do a couple of sets of these, making sure to catch your breath before the next set, and move on.


Next, lock fingers as shown and attempt to pull apart, do a few sets of these and move on. The actual document recommends four sets for adult men for all exercises, but I would start with one or two.


The next pose is the famous chest pose used by bodybuilders. Place on arm at the side, and bend 90 degrees at the elbow. Bring the other arm around and clasp hands—one palm should be facing up, one should be facing down. Inhale and apply conflicting pressure while exhaling. Then switch sides. Whether or not you want to do two sets or four sets for each side is a decision best left up to the individual.


Moving the arms down to waist level, make one hand into a fist, and clasp it in the other hand, exhaling and pressing as hard as possible. Then switch hands and repeat.


Bring the hands back up to chest level, make two fists, and put one fist on top of the other. Push the top fist down and the bottom fist up, keeping the two fists between the pectoral muscles and the bellybutton, then switch.


Bringing the hands back to the belly button, place one palm facing out and clasp it with the other hand, then push away/towards the torso.


The back receives its first workout with this exercise—place the arms behind the back and have them laying next to each other as pictured. Then push forward with both arms.


The hands and forearms are worked with the last two exercises: The first consists of grabbing each forearm with the opposite hand and squeezing very hard.


The second consists of the fingers being interlaced, and having the hands rotate in opposite directions. Then switch the directions the hands are rotating in.



While I admit I am not sure how effective these exercises are in comparison to standard resistance training (I would wager the latter is more effective), I can personally vouch for isometrics being useful in maintaining musculature and preventing atrophy when regular methods of exercise are not available. Isometrics are useful to learn should you find yourself inconvenienced, and as a supplemental exercise as well. Try for yourself!

Read More: 3 Ab Exercises Every Man Must Know

41 thoughts on “Are Isometric Exercises Worth Doing?”

  1. I’ve done some of these isometrics in the past but there’s one you listed here that I find particularly interesting: the last one where you’re twisting your hands in opposite directions. I think this will help in aikido class where there are a lot of wrist locks and twisting.

  2. Thanks man. I’m actually going on a long road trip so this is perfect.

    1. If your stuck sitting down for long periods, just straighten you back and slightly elevate your knees. It’s great for you stomach. If you’re stuck standing in line, slightly bend at the knees and support yourself with your glutes.

  3. Somehow i doubt ill be ripped like the illustrations by squeezing a stress ball.

  4. There are two types of Isometrics. Immovable Object, and static hold. Immovable Object, is pressing or pulling something that will not move. Static hold, is holding a stance, or position for a certain time period without moving, it can be done weighted or without weight. Isometrics don’t give a lot of hypertrophy, but In my experience they are essential for strength training. I’ve gained 50lbs on my 1RepMax in around 3 months for my FloorPress using Both Immovable and Static Isometrics (Weighted). Isometrics and dynamic lifting when used in conjunction can yield dramatic strength increases in short periods of time.

  5. Been out of the know a couple days, and apparently in that time lolknee and Monsieur were Banned? WTF?.

    1. “Been out of the know a couple days, and apparently in that time lolknee and Monsieur were Banned? WTF?”
      It is unwise to try to stump the Trump. Or to insult moderators and authors who are pro-Trump. It appears one or the other happened.

      1. I see they removed an earlier comment from someone with the handle “Another Fan Of Matt Forney”. I laughed when he complained that this article said nothing about Trump and went overboard praising Forney but obviously the moderator was not amused by his sarcasm!

      2. “It is unwise to try to stump the Trump. Or to insult moderators and authors who are pro-Trump.”
        Trump is the one candidate I can stomach, but that’s just ridiculous. What is ROK turning into: NRO or Redstate?

    2. On the Roosh forums you can see people regularly with 500+ posts get banned. They need to swing the ban hammer a little lighter. I’m surprised I havent been banned yet.

  6. Mixing them (iso and dynamic) as anyone that’s done even a little bit of gymnastics work can tell you, can develop tremendous functional strength.

    1. Oh yeah. We learned to do our Karate forms with dynamic tension. Incredible strength and calory burning.

  7. So next time I’m caught choking a chick, I can I can just say I’m practicing my isometric holds! Lol

      1. I usually say I’m trying a new type of CPR, a little unorthodox but effective! Lol

  8. Isometrics can be very useful depending on your sport, they make more of a spice than a meal though. John Jesse’s great old book on conditioning has some words, to which I would add Steve Justa on “aerobic” isometrics.

      1. Good info! Those illustrations look familiar, taken from the Art of Shen Ku guidebook?

        1. Hey, you’re a mod. Do you know who banned lolknee . and why? Thanks. Oh and Monseiur too.

  9. Excellent. Isometrics are always useful, and you can do them almost anywhere at almost anytime (Waiting in line, while stuck in traffic, during trips on the plane, etc.).
    Benefits are real and readily recognizable. Make some for the legs too! And play and experiment with the breathing. Do them with breating normally, while holding the breath, with empty lungs, and with a mix of all that. You will augment the adaptability of muscles to various real-life situations and you will tremendously increase the awareness of your body and inner workings, which is always useful.

  10. Seriously ROK needs to unban Lolknee, hes one of the best posters on here.

    1. His temporary ban has been lifted, but personal insults against ROK writers will not be tolerated and will result in permanent bans.

    2. why are people lobbying for this guy LOLKNEE? that’s a pretty beta action for the most part imo, if you want to go around talking shit, you get dealt with. If he is worth a shit in real life he accepted his ban and moved the hell on. he doesn’t need people going around asking for his forgiveness. its all fair because it isn’t fair guys. also who gives a shit why he is banned? this isn’t a free for all, there has to be some sort of order to things or we just basically become a bunch of 12 year olds on xbox live.

      1. Lolknee did move on. I speak with him regularly in an app and he honestly didn’t care. The outrage is because we here at ROK value freedom of expression and ideas, even if it’s brutal or off-color. To start banning people simply because they hurt your feelz put ROK on the same level as the Jezebel’s and I don’t think any of us want that. Of course a degree of order needs to be maintained, but Lolknee also wasn’t spamming the section like I’ve see legitimate trolls do. No warning or reason was given until after the ban and that was only because Lolknee sent a personal email to Roosh. Does hiding behind a computer banning people that speak critically of you sound masculine to you? Would you not at least open a dialogue with them first (especially someone who is a well-established member of the community)?

        1. Id say its foul on both ends. There is a certain level of “if you dont like it don’t watch it” right? or read it in this instance. I don’t think him leaving the community (if that’s what he is doing when you say move on) is exactly a super “masculine” move either. I agree on the trolls but if you recall his comments on that topic were long and many. a lot of the certified trolls in here are not persistent enough, I don’t think, to bother being banned. don’t get me wrong. I agree on some points of his but also I disagree with many too, as I read the whole entire thing as it was happening and to be honest I would have preferred to be reading some more constructive comments as is usually the norm here. Forney def went a lil “off the reservation” on some of his points but sometimes you have to assume some “tongue in cheek” ness when reading over the top political writing in a place like we have here at ROK. part of being a man and being masculine is retaining frame and I don’t think that lolknee did this. that being said a mods responsibility is to maintain order so that a productive discussion can take place. lolknee was heading productiveness off at every turn in that particular instance. I enjoy his comments as much as the next guy but we preach about consequences and how feminists and women don’t live in that reality as we red pill men often do, taking the brunt of such. Gotta roll with the punches. that said, I hope to see him back.

        2. Good, hope it gets resolved soon. and btw as a person who has been banned from a forum or 3. It never has warning, or an explanation, incase anyone thought that was something owed when banned. what may cause it is that, one, he isn’t really unbanned, was rebanned by another mod or when unbanned there is a “cooling off period” like next business day type of bs rule in the coding of the forum.

      2. Everyone talks shit here. The basic question is if you why are people getting banned for one bad comment when theyve made 1000 good comments? Looking at your history it looks like my comment has gained more likes that all of your comments put together. Maybe you should be banned.

        1. Did you even read that series of posts? It went in on the article writer several times with no provocation from the subject of the insult(s). Checking someone post count instead of looking and judging of the content of their comment is asinine. Our post count and our good vs bad count is of no consequence. In ALL aspects of life it is true that one adverse action or element can and will destroy something that took far more or longer to build. Destruction will always take less than Creation. Get off your high comment horse and get real.

        2. If you comment here to live outside of the “rules” or have “freedom” then i think you’ll find that place doesn’t exist. And complaining about it isnt going to force that fantasy land to manifest either. Im sure lolknee is fully capable of defending himself should he feel he needs to… If you feel my lack of posts warrants a ban.. I could really care less. Should that happen. Im sure ill be just fine as im sure lolknee is as well not pulling his hair out that he cant comment. Lets give him more respect than that. Unless you feel he wants to be treated like a woman feels she should.. Which i doubt he does.

  11. Depending on the exercises isometric are actually more effective than standard dynamic training. They are on par with psychometric training. I’ve researched this a ton. There are a lot of articles available on Google scholar that experiment with this sort of thing.

  12. Isometrics are great if you’re working on something challenging like a one arm chinup. Try holding yourself up with one arm while keeping your head above the bar or ring – the pump is unmatched.

  13. These are great. Just tested…
    You can simulate isotonic exercises by applying less resistance on one half, giving you some range of motion…

  14. I have been using isometrics for several years now and have good results from it. Heck that with plank exercises returned my posture that also fixed gut problems.
    Combining isometrics with a full stretch in between the flex period IMO is pretty darn close is full range of motion exercise and it really burns the bacon when you have for a muscle group a flex period at the end of the full range! This is harder to do than it actually sounds as you really have to put your mind to flexing the muscle while it’s stretched. You are using your conscious command to fire off the muscle cells while in the range where they are actually tuned for release, and then not contract on firing off, and this will flex the opposing muscles too.
    As for overall end results, don’t go thinking this will make you “ripped”. Exercise DOES NOT MAKE YOU RIPPED. Or as we say, abs are won in the kitchen, not the gym. I think that isometrics gets abandoned because there is no “instant 6-pack” that comes from building ab muscles around existing fat, giving the illusion of getting one through exercise (while there are people who seldom hit a gym who have 6 packs).

  15. Muscles won’t grow by doing isometric exercises, you need hypertrophy for that. But im sure there are benefits to those who have injured muscles or to those who want to improve muscle coordination and control.

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