Most people assume that engaging in intense aerobic activity is the only way to build endurance. Although maintaining an elevated heart rate for an extended period of time does increase your cardiovascular efficiency, there are ways to enhance muscle tissue endurance without even moving. Isometric exercise regimens utilize a combination of stationary holds that are designed to improve stamina, flexibility, and tone.
Static resistance training causes the muscles to remain contracted in a stable position, thereby building a different type of strength than exercises that involve preset motions in which the muscles relax and contract intermittently. The following 5 isometric exercises have been shown to be the most effective in building overall muscle endurance:
1. The Superman Hold
An isometric superman hold differs from the more popular superman pushup because you’re not actually doing any lifting. Instead, you lie on your stomach with your arms extended above your head (as if you’re flying superman-style), your lower legs lifted slightly, and your head looking forward so that only your abdomen and thighs are touching the ground. Your legs, arms, and head should be higher off the ground than your lower spine, so you’re using the muscles in your back and core to keep the limbs and the rest of your body elevated. Maintain this hold for as long as 30 seconds and repeat up to 10 times.
2. Chinup Holds
Hold yourself at the top of a chinup for at least 20 seconds, or as long as you can muster. This position will provide exceptional results in the traps, delts, triceps, biceps, shoulders, chest, and lower abdominals. You can also hold yourself at the bottom of a chinup as well; hanging in this position is a good way to stretch and decompress your spine.
3. The Chair Pose
The chair pose is almost self-explanatory – squat down as if you are sitting in an invisible chair and hold the position for as long as you can. To bring your center of gravity lower and perform a more effective squat without losing your balance, simply lift your arms straight above your head and lean forward somewhat to prevent from falling backwards. This will allow you to squat lower and execute the position in full extension, while also helping with posture. Chair poses help sculpt the upper thighs and strengthen the muscles that surround the spine.
4. Stationary Lunge
Step forward with one foot as far as possible so that you’re crouched down with both your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Put your hands on your hips and flex your ab muscles for stability. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch to the other leg. Surprisingly, this position works the abdominals just as much as the legs if you keep your stomach muscles contracted.
5. The Bridge
Lie down on your back with arms at your side, palms facedown, and knees elevated and bent at a 90 degree angle so that the bottoms of your feet are touching the ground. Squeeze your glutes and lift your lower body and abdomen so that only your arms, upper body, head, and feet are touching the ground. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds. You can increase the difficulty by placing your hands on your stomach and/or lifting one leg. This is one of the best isometric positions for working your legs, glutes, and thighs.
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Sergio Martinez is a fitness professional and avid health blogger who specializes in physical therapy, endurance training, and optimal workout nutrition.