12 Best Isometric Ab Exercises and Core Workouts

The isometric ab exercises are possibly the safest and the most effective way to develop a strong and sturdy core.

They strengthen and tone abdominal muscles, improve hip mobility, build up endurance, help you build six-pack abs, and provide stability to your lower back.

In this article, I’ve shared some important isometric abdominal exercises that work well for both men and women. So if you work out at home, you can include some of them in your core workout regime.

How Isometric Exercises Work

The isometric exercises require you to keep your muscles tight in a static position for a set period of time.

Your muscles do not move, flex or extend but still get decent contraction during the isometric movements.

The isometric is a low-impact strength training where muscle endurance matters more than the heart rate. And it is great for those who want to work on their abs and oblique without feeling out of breath.

Studies have shown myriads benefits of isometric training, including increased endurance, good for rehabilitation, and building strength.

So, it can be a great addition to your workout training if you want to challenge and enhance your abdominal muscle strength in a different but effective way.

12 Best Isometric Ab Exercises to Sculpt Your Core

Here are some of the crucial isometric exercises that can bolster your core and help you build sculpted abs.

1. Forearm Plank

Forearm plank Exercise

The plank is one of the best isometric exercises for strengthening core muscles. It fires up the abdominal muscles, burns decent calories in a quick time, and increases endurance.

It requires you to hold your body weight on your forearms and toes while keeping your core tight as long as you can endure.

Doing a forearm plank for 30 seconds to 2-minute every day will be enough for you to build a strong core.

How to do it:

  1. Get into an up position of a pushup with your arms straight below your shoulders and body straight from top to bottom.
  2. Bend your elbows and place your forearms on the ground, supporting your body weight.
  3. Keep your legs straight and feet together behind you. That’s the start.
  4. Brace your core and hold in this position for as long as possible.
  5. Repeat two to three times.

Tips: If it feels challenging, you can try high plank. High plank is easy and suitable for newbies.

2. Side Plank

Side Plank Exercise

The side plank primarily strengthens the oblique. For a stronger core, strengthening the oblique muscle is as important as strengthening the rectus abdominish.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your right side, place your right forearm on the ground underneath your shoulder, and keep your legs straight in a stacked position.
  • Keep your left arm on your side, lift your hips off the floor and maintain a straight torso. That’s your start.
  • Engaging your core muscles, hold in the position for 15 to 30 seconds. Once you complete, switch to the other side and hold for the same duration.
  • Repeat twice on both sides.

Please note: Side plank may not be a good exercise for people with lower back pain as it puts more stress on lumber spinae.1 Calatayud J, Escriche-Escuder A, Cruz-Montecinos C, et al. Tolerability and Muscle Activity of Core Muscle Exercises in Chronic Low-back PainInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(19):3509. Published 2019 Sep 20. doi:10.3390/ijerph16193509

3. Floor L-Sit

The floor L-sit can be effective in targeting the abdominal muscle, arms, and shoulder. However, it is challenging and requires you to hold the entire body weight on your arms.

If you do pilates or calisthenics training, you can also include it in your workout program to increase your strength, balance, and flexibility.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your arms straight beside your hips, and your palms firmly on the floor.
  2. Pressing your palms into the ground, lift your legs and glutes off the floor and stay in that position for as long as you can.
  3. Return and repeat twice.

4. V-sit hold

The V-sit is an excellent core workout because it works the entire core muscles, such as the obliques, rectus abdominish, transverse abdominis, and hips.

A study has shown V-sit stimulate core muscles more than the front and side planks and can be an excellent exercise for those who want to forge their abs.2Oliva-Lozano JM, Muyor JM. Core Muscle Activity During Physical Fitness Exercises: A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun 16;17(12):4306. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17124306. PMID: 32560185; PMCID: PMC7345922.

How to perform V sit hold

  • Lie on the floor on your back with your legs straight in front of you and your feet together.
  • Lift your legs off the ground and hold them to 45 degrees angle with your torso.
  • Slightly lift your torso off the floor and take your arms straight out so your body forms a V shape.
  • Hold in the V-up position for as long as you can and then return to the normal position.

Tips:

  • Maintain a strong core and neutral spine position throughout the movement.
  • Challenge yourself and try to hold for a longer duration.

5. Bird-Dog Pose

Bird Dog Plank
Bird Dog Plank

The bird-dog pose strengthens your core, hips, and lower back muscle, as well as improves balance, posture, and muscle coordination.

Including this move in your isometric ab exercises list can be efficient for your fitness goal.

How to do it:

  1. Get on all fours with your arms underneath your shoulders and knees below your hips.
  2. Brace your core and keep your back as flat as possible.
  3. Keeping your shoulders and hips in the neutral position, raise your left arm straight In front of you and your right leg straight behind you until they are parallel to the floor. Your eyes should be looking downward.
  4. Hold in this position for 10 to 15 seconds, and make sure your core is engaged throughout the movement. Once you have done this, switch to another, and repeat twice.

6. Hollow Body Hold

If you want to feel the maximum abdominal muscle activation, consider doing a hollow body hold.

It improves functional core strength and spine stability as well as scales your fitness to perform various calisthenics abs exercises.

It is also suitable for all fitness enthusiasts, whether beginner or pro.

How to do it:

  1. Start with lying on the mat with your arms extended behind your head.
  2. Lift your legs and upper back off the floor, brace your core, and hold in this position for as long as possible.
  3. Return to the start once you can no longer hold more.
  4. Perform as many times as you like.

7. Leg Lifts Hold

A female doing a Leg Lift hold, an Isometric abdominal exercise.

The leg lift hold is another excellent way to stimulate core muscles.

In a study, a total of 18 healthy, physically active females completed three different abs exercise such as the plank, bilateral leg raise, and unilateral leg raise. The result showed that the bilateral leg raise exercise showed significantly greater activation in the abdominal muscles compared to the plank exercise.3Park DJ, Park SY. Which trunk exercise most effectively activates abdominal muscles? A comparative study of plank and isometric bilateral leg raise exercises. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2019;32(5):797-802. doi: 10.3233/BMR-181122. PMID: 30856100.

The best thing is it is suitable for all fitness enthusiasts. You can do it anywhere you like as it doesn’t require equipment.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight in the horizontal position.
  • Put your hands just below your buttock to support your lower back.
  • Raise your legs toward the ceiling until they are in the vertical position.
  • Squeeze your abs and hold for 5-15 seconds in the same position.
  • Lower your legs to the start and repeat two to three times.

8. Tabletop Hold

If you’re a beginner, the tabletop isometric hold is for you. It is a safe and effective way to strengthen and stabilize your core. This exercise is also known as dead bug hold.

How to do dead bug hold:

  • Start with lying on your back with your legs straight on the ground and feet together.
  • Lift your legs off the floor with your knees bent and above your hips. Heels are facing away.
  • Raise your arms straight over you, brace your core, and hold in this position for 5 to 15 seconds.
  • Return to the normal position and repeat two to three times.

9. Upward Facing Dog

A man doing the Upward Facing Dog pose, an isometric abdominal exercise.

The upward-facing dog focuses on the upper body muscles. It stretches out your spine and shoulders while strengthening your core muscles. It also improves balance and coordination and helps increase flexibility in your spine and joints.

How to do it:

  • Place your hands and knees on the floor with your wrists directly under your shoulders and palms flat on the floor. Make sure your knees are grounded and your feet are pointing away. That’s the start.
  • Rounding your spine, keep your chest up and look upward. You’ll feel the stretch in your abdominal muscles in this pose.
  • Hold there for five to 10 seconds and then return to the normal position.

10. Crouch Hover Plank

The crouch hover plank is another easy way to hit your abdominal muscles without moving your body anywhere.

Beginners can use this exercise to increase core strength for performing some challenging moves, such as V-sit or forearm plank.

To perform this move:

  • Get on all fours with your arms underneath your shoulder and knees below your hips.
  • Keep your arms straight and core tight, and lift your knees four to five inches off the ground.  
  • Hold in this position for as long as you can tolerate, and then return to the start.  
  • Do it two to three times.

11. Hanging L-Sit

A man doing a Hanging L-Sit on the pull-up bar.

Once you easily do the above exercises, challenge yourself with some advanced isometric abdominal exercises, such as hanging L-sit.

Hanging L-sit bolsters core muscles as well as improve your balance and coordination. It also stimulates latissimus dorsi and improves grip strength.

To do this exercise, you need access to a pull-up bar or something where you can hang on.

Here are the steps to do it on a pull-up bar:

  • Hang onto the pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise your legs until they are parallel to the ground so that your body forms an L shape.
  • Keeping your core engaged, hold in the position for as long as possible.
  • Lower your legs until you can no longer hold them.
  • Do it two to three times.
  • You can also do this L-sit on the parallel dip bar.

12. Boat Pose

A female doing Boat Pose, an isometric core exercise

Boat pose is a part of Yoga workout regime that requires you to sit in V-position. It strengthen many muscles simultaneously, including abs and obliques as well as enhnace your balance and flexibility.

How to do it: Sit in V-shape with your core tight and back straight for as long as you can endure. Repeat and repeat twice.

How to Integrate Isometric Ab Exercises into Core Workout Routine

You can combine isometric core exercises with dynamic ones to make a routine or design a separate one.

Below I’ve shared a couple of examples that can help you make an effective workout plan.

Routine 1 (Only Static Core Exercises)

Rounds: Two for beginners and Three for intermediates.

ExerciseDuration
Tabletop Hold10 seconds
Forearm Plank30 seconds
Crouch Hover Plank30 seconds
Side Plank15-sec/side
Leg Lifts Hold15 seconds
V-sit hold10 seconds
Bird-Dog Pose10-sec/side
Hollow Body Hold10 seconds
Upward Facing Dog10 seconds

Routine 2 (Dynamic and Static Core Workouts)

Rounds: Two for beginners and Three for intermediates

ExerciseDuration
Mountain Climbers15 seconds
Tabletop Hold10 seconds
Crossbody Mountain Climber15 seconds
Crunches15 seconds
Bird-Dog Pose10-sec/side
V-sit hold15 seconds
Leg Raises15 seconds
Hollow Body Hold10 seconds
Forearm Plank30 seconds

Isometric Abdominal Exercises PDF

Final Thoughts

Isometric training is a great way to bolster abdominal strength and sculpt core without lifting, crunching, or jumping.

It is a low-impact workout and requires you to keep your focused muscles in static position for a set period of time.

It is excellent for those who wants to strengthen abs without feeling out of breath.

However, isometric exercises only work on a specific muscle where you put your focus, and they are also not effective for increasing lifting or endurance performance.

So it’s best to integrate isometric exercises with other forms of workout to achieve better fitness and physique.

If you feel discomfort while doing isometric abdominal exercises, discontinue and consult your health provider before starting again.

References

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Author
Murshid Akram
I'm a certified personal trainer, fitness blogger, and nature lover. I always learn more about exercise science and human anatomy so that I can provide the best information possible. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.

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