To clarify I'll provide some examples of what I mean by "holding":

Say when you are doing a situp, you can hold the position part way through and then just stay there and it will work your muscles. Another example is holding a dumbbell horizontally, or doing a chin up so that your biceps are approximately horizontal and then just holding that position.

Is doing exercise like this bad? Why is it never recommended to do this over doing the entire motion? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Are there dangers of holding?

  • @rrirower - Not sure that's a duplicate. That one asks about not doing the full ROM of the exercise (Nothing about holding it in a position), and this is about holding a midway position. – JohnP Sep 28 '15 at 15:00

There are some benefits, however there are also some attendant risks with isometric exercise.

First, isometric exercise doesn't really build much strength overall, they really only build strength in that one position. They can help maintain strength that you have already developed, however and it can be very useful in a rehabilitation type setting.

These types of exercises (Since there is no motion) won't really help speed or athletic performance either.

What they can do very well, is increase the effectiveness of stabilization muscles, as they are forced into greater and greater recruitment to sustain the isometric contraction. There is also some recent evidence that it can help to lower resting blood pressure. They can also be useful exercises if you have a lowered range of motion due to disease (arthritis) or injury.

These types of exercises do raise blood pressure during the exercise, and if you intend on doing them, be aware of intensity and not holding your breath, as these are two other factors that can also raise your blood pressure dangerously.


It's a good question. It's called isometric training and some people swore by it in the beginning of the steroid era because they used it as an excuse for their incredible gains (while hiding that they actually came from pharmaceutical companies).

It's not good or bad, it's a tool to increase time under tension. My personal opinion is that you should train a muscle the same way you are planning to use it, so if you find it useful to be in a position, train it. An example of that would be to progress a lift: if you find yourself for example constantly struggling in the same part of a bench press, removing some weight and pausing the movement in that part of the lift can help make you stronger at it, and overcome a plateau. Hypertrophy-wise, which might be what you are after, it was very big in the past with tempo reps (for example bench press 5x10 3-1-1 meaning 3 seconds eccentric/going down, 1 second isometric contraction at the bottom, 1 second concentric/going up) and is still present in a lot of bodybuilding programs. It will not make or break your program but it can be a fun addition if you get bored.

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