You can try isometric back strengthening exercises if you want to strengthen your back muscles without putting much stress on your spinal muscles.
Isometric training is an effective way to elicit maximum contraction in muscles without changing their length.
It is a low-intense workout used for strengthening and rehabilitation purposes.
In this article, I’ve shared as many as sixteen isometric back exercises (with PDF) that will help you strengthen muscles, improve balance, and reduce low back pain.
These exercises increase strength and mobility throughout your upper, middle, and lower back and help you develop better posture.
Whether you’re an athlete, powerlifter, bodybuilder, or a typical fitness enthusiast, you can integrate isometric back exercises into your workout routine.
Isometric Exercises For Upper, Middle & Lower Back
- W Raises Hold
- Y Raises Hold
- T Raises Hold
- O Raises Hold
- Bird Dog
- Locust Pose
- The Bridge
- Bent-over Reverse Fly Hold
- Aqua man Hold
- Push up Plus Hold
1. W Raises Hold
- Lie on the floor with your face down and arms straight in front of you.
- Pull your elbows in until you feel the contraction in your back muscles
- Hold there for 5 to 10 seconds, then extend your arms back to the start.
You’ll feel the contraction in your back muscle when you hold.
You can lift your chest a few inches off the floor to engage your back muscles more efficiently.
2. Isometric Y Raise
- Start with lying on the floor on your stomach. Keep your arms straight in an alphabet “Y” shape in front of you.
- Slightly lift your chest and arms off the floor until you feel the contraction in your back.
- Contracting your back muscles, stay in this position for 10 to 15 seconds, then return to the start.
3. Iso T Raise
- Lying prone on the floor, keep your arms straight out to the sides.
- Lift your chest a few inches off the floor and raise your arms until your back muscles are fully engaged.
- Hold in that posture for 10 to 15 seconds to engage your back muscle, then return to the start.
4. Lying Prone O Raise Hold
- Lie prone on the mat with your face down and arms straight in front of you.
- Slightly lift your torso off the floor and bring your arms behind you until your hands meet each other just above your lower back.
- Hold in this posture for 10 seconds and then return to the start.
If your hands can’t meet behind you, no problem. Just bring your hands as close as possible.
Your back muscles activate when you isometrically hold your body in O raised position.
5. Bird Dog
The bird dog isometric hold engages your back and core muscles and helps you improve balance, stability, and posture.
It also strengthens low back and reduces pain, as suggested in a method (McGill Big 3) published by Dr. Stuart Mcgill.1Low Back Exercises: Stuart McGill’s Big Three – American Council of Exercise (ACE)
How to do:
- Get on all fours with your arms straight underneath your shoulder and knees in line with your hips.
- Keep your abdominal muscles tight and your spine as neutral as possible.
- Raise your right arm in front of you and the left leg behind you simultaneously until they are parallel to the ground.
- Hold in that position for up to 15 seconds and then return to the start.
- Repeat this movement on the opposite.
- Do two sets of 15 seconds each.
6. Locust Pose
- Lay down on your stomach on the mat with your legs straight behind you on and arms straight at your sides.
- Raise your chest, arms, and leg a few inches off the floor. Keep your arms straight. You can also hold your hands together above your lower chest.
- Hold in this position for a couple of 10 to 15 seconds and then return to the floor.
- Keep your arms straight throughout the movement.
- Repeat this movement a couple of times.
- Focus on engaging your back muscles during the movement.
7. Isometric Bridge
- Lay down on your back on the mat.
- Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your arms straight at your sides.
- Brace your abdominal muscles and tighten your glutes.
- Raise your hips off the floor until your knees, chest, and shoulder are in line.
- Pause in the above position for 10 seconds before you lower your hips on the floor.
8. Bent-over Reverse Fly Hold
- Sit on a flat bench with your feet flat on the ground.
- Keeping your back straight, slightly bend your torso forward.
- Now, raise your arms straight to the sides, look forward and hold in this position for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Once the 10 seconds is over, return to the start.
- Do two sets of five repetitions each.
9. Aqua Man Hold
- Lie prone on the mat and keep your arms straight in front of you.
- Keeping your lower body engaged, raise your right arm and left leg a few centimeters off the floor.
- Hold for 10 seconds in that position before you return to the start.
You’ll feel the contraction in your hamstring, gluteus, and lower back throughout the movement.
10. Pushup Plus
The pushup plus hold works effectively for serrates anterior and upper trap muscles –research published by the Journal of Athletic Training demonstrated.2 Serratus Anterior and Upper Trapezius Electromyographic Analysis of the Push-Up Plus Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – Journal of Athletic Traininig
So, it can be a good movement for your upper back.
Steps to do it:
- Sit on your knees and place your hands on the floor with your arms straight underneath your shoulder.
- Kick your legs behind and get into the “up” position of the pushup.
- Complete one pushup and raise your upper traps and shoulder blades once you return from the down position.
- Hold in this position for five to ten seconds before you go for another rep.
Isometric Exercises For Back with Equipment
- Towel Pull Hold
- Pullup Hold
- Inverted Row Hold
- Single Arm Dumbbell Isometric Row
- Isometric Seated Cable Row
- Chin up Hold
1. Towel Pull Hold
- Lie prone on the mat with your face facing the floor and arms straight in front of you.
- Grab the towel firmly with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Slightly lift your arms and chest off the floor and look forward. That’s the start.
- Pull the towel toward your chest until your back muscles are fully engaged. Hold in this position for 10 seconds, and then return your arms to the start.
- Repeat for the desired number of sets.
- You’ll feel the contraction in your back muscle when you hold.
2. Iso Pullup
The isometric pull-up engages the entire back muscles, from the latissimus dorsi and trapezius to the rhomboid and erector spine. It also bolsters the biceps and core muscles and helps develop a firm torso.
Steps to do it:
- Grab the pull-up bar with your hands two times wider than hip-width apart.
- Pull yourself higher until your chin is above the bar.
- Hold there for up to 10 seconds, then return to the start.
- Repeat a couple of times.
Make sure to keep your core tight and chest up to properly activate the back muscles.
3. Inverted Row Hold
- Get under the bar, grab it firmly with an overhand grip, and position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your body straight with your core and lower body tight.
- Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar.
- Hold in that position for 10 seconds, squeeze your back muscles, and then lower your body to the start.
4. Single-arm Isometric Row
- Place your left knee and left hand on a flat bench. While the right feet firmly stay on the ground beside the end of the bench.
- Grab the dumbbell with a neutral grip and hold your arm straight underneath your shoulder. That’s the start.
- Raise the dumbbell at your side until it reaches rib level.
- Hold in this position for 10 seconds, squeeze your back muscles, and then slowly lower it down into starting position.
- Do two sets of five reps each, each side.
5. Isometric Seated Cable Row
- Attach the D handles to the cable rowing machine.
- Sit on the bench with your legs in front of you, or keep your legs as you like.
- Grab the handles firmly, and pull the weight toward you until you feel your back muscles contract.
- Hold in that position for 10 seconds and then return to the start.
6. Isometric Chin-up
- Grab the bar with an underhand grip, hands slightly shorter than shoulder-width apart.
- Hang onto the bar by keeping your arms straight.
- Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.
- Hold in the “up” position for five to 10 seconds, then land your feet on the ground.
- You’ll feel your back and biceps contracted during the entire hold.
Benefits of Isometric Back Exercises
Doing isometric exercises for the back have multiple benefits, such as:
Reduce Lower Back Pain
A study published by the Journal Exercise of Rehabilitation suggested that isometric exercises effectively reduce lower back pain and enhance muscle activity.3 Rhyu HS, Park HK, Park JS, Park HS. The effects of isometric exercise types on pain and muscle activity in patients with low back pain. J Exerc Rehabil. 2015;11(4):211-214. Published 2015 Aug 30. doi:10.12965/jer.150224
So, if you want to provide stability to your back, minimize the risk of injuries, and make your back flexible, you can try the above isometric exercises.
The isometric exercises keep your muscles under constant tension, which helps increase muscular strength and endurance.
So, combining isometric workouts with dynamic exercises will help you develop a flexible and firm back.
You can improve your balance and stability with the help of isometric exercises. Most of the isometric back workouts require you to hold your body in an unstable position for a certain period, and doing that will improve your overall balance.
Isometric training is excellent for improving posture. The above exercises I’ve shared help strengthen back muscles, correct posture, and help you stand upright.
Do Isometric Exercises Build Muscle?
Isometric exercises increase muscle strength, improve stability, balance, and flexibility, and are good for rehab purposes, but they do not build or increase muscle mass.
You can try strength training for the back if you want to build muscle. If you work out at home with dumbbells, you can also do dumbbell back exercises to build and strengthen muscles.
Isometric Back Exercises PDF
Isometric training is helpful for strengthening and rehabilitation purposes.
It helps improve muscle stability, balance, and posture without putting much stress on your lumbar spine.
As you’ve seen, I have shared how you can do as many as sixteen isometric back exercises with and without equipment that will bolster your upper, middle, and lower back and improve posture.
You can incorporate some of them into your general workout routine, depending on your fitness level and goal.
However, you can consult a doctor before performing these exercises if you have a back injury.
Once you are done with the above exercises, you can try this ultimate isometric stretching workout routine to make your entire body flexible.
- 1Low Back Exercises: Stuart McGill’s Big Three – American Council of Exercise (ACE)
- 2Serratus Anterior and Upper Trapezius Electromyographic Analysis of the Push-Up Plus Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – Journal of Athletic Traininig
- 3Rhyu HS, Park HK, Park JS, Park HS. The effects of isometric exercise types on pain and muscle activity in patients with low back pain. J Exerc Rehabil. 2015;11(4):211-214. Published 2015 Aug 30. doi:10.12965/jer.150224