Isometric core exercises focus on your abdominal muscles as you hold a position and squeeze your core muscle group.
One of the most recognized isometric ab exercises is the plank, but we think you can do even more.
In this review, we look at how to perform the 14 best isometric ab movements to shock your core and get a real burn on your next workout session.
The best part is, with these exercises, you don't even need to go to the gym. You can do them in your office, living room, or just about anywhere.
You don't even need a personal trainer, though they can help push your iso holds longer.
Table of Contents
- Top 14 Isometric Ab Exercises (Fire Up Your Core!)
- Isometric Abdominal Training (IAT): Benefits Explained
- Isometric Ab Workout Routine For Beginners
- Frequently Asked Isometric Ab Exercises Questions
Top 14 Isometric Ab Exercises (Fire Up Your Core!)
Working your core means working your abdominals and glutes. What you may not realize, though, is that there are different exercises that will focus on the three main ab groups:
Rectus Abdominis Group: These are the coveted “6-pack” abs everyone is looking for.
Obliques (Internal and External) Group: These are the V-shaped muscles that taper your waistline.
Transverse Abdominis Group: These are the rear muscles that pull your stomach in and keep it flat.
With our list of the best isometric exercises for abs, you can achieve that washboard stomach right from the comfort of your own home.
Or you can incorporate these movements at your next gym session when working your core. Iso exercises can increase upper body strength while you also prevent injury.
1. Pallof Press Hold
The Pallof Press abs exercise can be done with a standing rack, or in your home with a resistance band and a door frame.
With this move, you add resistance that attempts to pull you to the side while using your core and glutes to remain still.
- 1Slowly lower the cable machine to chest height with enough resistance to be comfortable but challenged.
- 2Stand sideways, feet shoulder-width apart, with the right side facing the machine. This is your neutral position.
- 3Grab the D handle with both hands and far enough away to put tension on the cable.
- 4Hold the handle at your sternum and inhale.
- 5On your exhale, press the cable out directly in front of you, and hold for a two-count.
- 6Inhale and return the cable to your chest.
- 7Repeat for desired reps, then swap directions for the other side.
2. Bird Dog
The bird dog is another core-strengthening exercise focused on the obliques and rectus groups. It is also a standard yoga position, so you may already be familiar.
In this one, you are on hands and knees with a straight back, and you extend one leg and one arm (opposite sides) with a hold before switching.
- 1Begin on hands and knees with knees below your hips and hands below your shoulders.
- 2Extend your left arm and right leg out straight, keeping the rest of your body still, and remain tight.
- 3Hold for a 10-count and return to the starting position.
- 4Extend the right arm and left leg out straight.
- 5Hold for a 10-count and return to the starting position.
Expert Tip: Keep your head aligned with your spine, and do not rock your body.
Ensure your extensions are slow and controlled, and don't start counting until fully extended. Remember to breathe through the entire motion.
3. Hollow Hold
With the Hollow Hold, as with many abdominal hold exercises, you are working your rectus and transverse core muscles.
In this yoga pose, you want to lift as much of your shoulder blades and body off the ground as possible while maintaining control.
Arms and legs lift up, leaving your buttocks and lower back on the ground, and you use your core stability to control your balance.
- 1Lie flat on your back with your legs straight out and your arms extended over your head, so you are lying in one straight line.
- 2Lift into the “hollow” position by raising your legs and arms towards the ceiling.
- 3Press your lower back into the ground and keep your core engaged.
- 4Hold for a 10-count while maintaining your breathing.
- 5During the hold, do not rock or twist.
- 6For an added challenge, point your toes without your feet touching and hold for longer.
4. V-Sit Hold
The V-Sit Hold is a variation of an ab exercise routine where you reach up from your back and touch your ankles.
In this variation, though, your rep is a hold at the top of the move instead of a short rest on your back. This works all three ab muscle groups and your hip flexors.
- 1Start by laying on your back with arms overhead and legs out, feet together.
- 2Raise your feet until they are about 45 degrees from the floor.
- 3Raise your arms together until they are also 45 degrees off the floor. Your body should look like a V shape.
- 4Hold this position, pulling your core tight and squeezing your glutes.
- 5Keep your chin tucked and your spine neutral for a 10-count.
- 6Work to get to a 30-count or more as you get stronger.
The L-Sit can be done in a chair, using a handhold or dip bars on an ab-raise machine.
You are working your core muscles with all three ab groups, hip flexors, and hamstrings. It also incorporates your triceps and shoulders.
See Related - Best Dip Bar Exercises
- 1Begin by grabbing the dip handles and lifting your body up until your arms are straight.
- 2Slowly bring your legs up, straight until they are parallel with the floor.
- 3In this position, your body should look like an “L.”
- 4Hold for a 30-count and lower your feet towards the ground.
- 5Repeat for the desired amount of reps.
6. Wall Sit
This isometric ab exercise incorporates the rectus abdominal muscles as well as the hamstrings and glutes.
It appears simple since you have plenty of contact points, but the longer you go, the harder it becomes to hold and maintain your breathing.
See Related - Wall Sit Benefits & Techniques Explained
- 1Start in the standing position with feet flat and hip-width apart.
- 2Lean back into the wall and lower yourself until your knees and hips make 90-degree angles; your thighs should be parallel with the floor.
- 3Hold this position as long as possible. Aim for at least 1 minute.
Expert Tip: For an added challenge, hold lightweight dumbbells in your hands and hold them straight out in front of you, arms parallel with the floor.
7. Dead Bugs
In this variation of the Hollow Hold, you also include some movements to add tension to your obliques.
Instead of just holding your feet and arms straight out, you will bring one arm and one leg to tabletop position (bent knee above hips, hand above shoulder).
- 1Begin by laying flat on the floor, looking up at the ceiling. Arms extended overhead and legs straight out.
- 2Move your arms and legs into a reverse tabletop position. Your hands should be reaching to the sky, and your legs should be bent at the knee over your hips as if you were crawling on the ceiling.
- 3Lower your right arm next to your head and off the floor. Next, extend your left leg, straightening the knee and lowering the leg toward the ground and off the floor.
- 4Hold in this position for a 10-count.
- 5Return to the starting position and repeat by extending the opposite limbs.
8. Forearm Planks
The plank is one of the all-time basic strong core holds, and sometimes keeping it simple is the best option.
The plank works your rectus and transverse abdominal groups, but it is important to remember to breathe throughout the hold.
- 1Start in a push-up position and drop to your elbows: your palms facing down with forearms on the floor in a straight line, elbows under your shoulders.
- 2Lift your body off the ground, so you are only on your toes and elbows (forearms and hands, too).
- 3Dome your shoulders and squeeze your core and glutes to maintain a straight spine.
- 4Hold for a 30-count, working up to 1 minute as you get stronger.
Expert Tip: Maintain the push-up position instead of dropping to your elbow at the start for a High Plank variation. Or alternate and move between a High Plank and a Forearm Plank "up" position for an added challenge.
9. Side Plank Hold
The Side Plank Hold is a Forearm Plank variation that adds obliques to the workout.
You will still perform the forearm plank as outlined above, but then you will rotate your body, raising one arm in the air.
- 1Begin in the forearm plank start position and rise to the up position and hold for a 10-count.
- 2Instead of lowering your body to the ground, rotate out, swinging your right arm overhead and turning so your one foot is resting on top of your other foot, with the outside edge of your bottom foot on the ground. Keep the top leg still and tighten your core.
- 3Hold for a 10-count.
- 4Return to the forearm plank position and hold for a 10-count.
- 5Swing the left arm up overhead, switching to the other side
- 6Hold for a 10-count and return to the forearm plank position.
10. Tabletop Hold
The Tabletop Hold is very similar to the Dead Bugs, but it is designed for a beginner that needs stronger core strengthening before adding extra moves to their rep.
This move works the rectus and transverse ab groups and the hip flexors.
- 1Start by laying flat on your back with your feet together and legs extended out in a straight line.
- 2Lift your knees until they are above your hips and bend them, so your calves are parallel to the floor.
- 3Lift your head off the ground like you are doing crunches. Your arms can be behind your head or across your chest.
- 4Instead of crunching, hold this up position for a 10-count.
- 5Aim to increase the count as you get stronger.
11. Bear Plank
The bear plank is a tabletop plank variation that is a strength training yoga move designed for full-body inclusion.
You will need all three abdominal groups, glutes, arms, and legs involved here. This move seems simple as you are only lifting your knees off the ground.
- 1Start on your hands and knees, with hands below shoulders and knees below hips in tabletop position.
- 2Pressing your bodyweight into your hands and toes, lift your knees (bent) 2 inches off the ground.
- 3Maintain your breathing while pulling your belly button in towards your spine.
- 4Hold for a 10-count and lower knees back to the ground.
Expert Tip: Aim for longer and longer holds and keep your head in line with your spine and back straight. For added difficulty, have a partner place weight plates on your upper back.
12. Hanging L-Sit Hold
Just like the L-Sit, the hanging L-Sit Hold works your hip flexors, all three ab groups, and your hamstrings.
It also incorporates your forearms and triceps. The only difference here is that you are hanging from a bar instead of pushing up from a hand hold.
- 1Reach up and grab hold of the bar, arms at or just wider than shoulder width.
- 2Slowly bring your feet up, keeping heels and toes together and legs straight.
- 3Aim for your legs to be parallel to the floor or higher.
- 4Hold for a 10-count but aim for longer as you get stronger.
- 5Control the drop of your feet.
Also Check Out - 10 Pull Up Bar Ab Workouts
13. Cable Crunch Hold
This move involves using a cable machine and the low pulley as well as a normal crunch, but with a hold and weight resistance.
You want to lay on your back, head toward the cable machine, holding on to the D-handle at resistance.
This works your rectus and transverse abdominal groups as well as shoulder muscles and hip flexors.
Related Article - Best Cable Exercises For Abs & Obliques
- 1Start by laying flat on your back, legs together, fully extended, and arms extended, holding the D-ring or rope attachment on the bottom pulley.
- 2Tension should already be on the pulley, with the weight lifted slightly.
- 3Bring your knees (bent) up toward your chest and hands down toward your knees in a standard crunch position.
- 4Hold the crunch, engaging your core and holding the weight steady.
- 5Hold for a 30-count and return to the starting position.
This exercise is an excellent substitute for regular cable crunches as the isometric hold creates more tension on your muscles.
14. Ab Wheel Rolling Isometric Hold
The ab wheel is a great tool to help you increase your core strength.
Adding an isometric hold into it will increase the difficulty and engage your rectus, transverse and oblique groups as well as shoulders, hip flexors, and forearms.
This is an advanced move for those comfortable using an ab wheel. If you're not as confident, check out our guide to the best ab wheel rollout alternative exercises.
- 1On your knees, push the ab wheel rollout in front of you.
- 2Squeeze your entire core and roll forward until your arms are straight and fully extended.
- 3Maintain a neutral, straight spine and keep your head up, in line with your spinal cord.
- 4Hold for a 30-count.
- 5Roll back to the starting position.
Isometric Abdominal Training (IAT): Benefits Explained
Isometric ab training (IAT) is a system of engaging your muscles without movement.
Similar to clenching your gut to prepare for a punch that never comes, these exercises force you to tighten and hold various muscle groups to build strength.
There are many benefits to these types of exercises, including the following.
Isometric Ab Workout Routine For Beginners
As a beginner, you want to learn more about the positions, holding times and breathing before you take on more advanced exercises.
It is recommended to start with 3 to 5 positions and learn them well, holding for 30 seconds or longer each rep. Then you can move on to more advanced stuff.
On your next core workout day, try adding these five best isometric ab exercises into your routine and see how it makes you feel afterward.
If you want visible six-pack abs, start adding isometric abs exercises into your routine.
Frequently Asked Isometric Ab Exercises Questions
Do isometric exercises build six-pack abs?
Abdominal exercises will work out your core, of course, but being able to see your abs and the coveted 6-pack starts in the kitchen. Your diet must be spot on to burn the outer layer of belly fat that allows these muscles to show through. Once that is sorted, though, yes, isometric exercises will help the abs get stronger, larger, and more visible.
How long should you hold isometric exercises?
You want to improve your hold times as your fitness level grows, and there isn't an upper limit except what you set for yourself as a goal. The longer you hold, though, the less reps you need to complete. For beginner effectiveness, you should aim for 5 to 10 second holds.
Can you do isometrics every day?
If you are not adding weights or resistance to your isometric exercises, then yes, you can perform them every day. Known as submaximal isometrics (no weights), you are only engaging the muscle contractions and not tearing muscle fibers that need recovery time to heal.
How many sets of isometrics should I do?
Isometric sets should be limited to three at most. Two is more ideal if you are maintaining longer holds. You also want to rest a full 60 seconds between sets.
Do isometrics burn belly fat?
Burning fat starts with your diet, but the right exercise can help you burn calories that will eventually shed fat. Core isometric exercises will help burn belly fat, but only if you are eating right in the first place.
Core isometric exercises may seem easy enough, until you actually start to hold those positions.
It takes a lot of willpower to maintain the hold when your muscles are burning and you want to give up.
Adding a few of the listed movements into your routine can get a great core workout any day of the week. Rotate the options to prevent plateauing, and your goals will be reached in no time.
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Last Updated on December 3, 2022