The Best Chest Exercises: Isometric Chest Contraction

Man doing push ups

On the surface, isometric exercise would seem to promise something for nothing. Isometrics involve muscle contractions with no movement or weighted resistance. But the exercises can be effective in maintaining a muscle's strength. Opinions differ on the extent of isometric exercise's ability to build muscles, but isometrics can certainly be helpful to exercisers with either permanent or temporary limitations on their range of motion. The pectoral muscles in your chest offer a large target, so there are several ways to work them using isometric contractions.

Perform Isometric Pushups

Pushups are among the classic chest exercises you can transform into isometric contractions, and are recommended by and personal trainer Paul O'Brien. Assume a standard pushup position, balancing on your palms and toes with your body straight from your head to your feet. Lower your body slowly, as you would for a normal pushup, but stop about 1 inch from the floor. Hold the position for about 30 seconds. Push yourself up to about the halfway point and hold the position for another 30 seconds, and then rise just short of the starting position -- stop before you lock your elbows -- and perform a final 30-second hold. Perform all your motions slowly.

Open the Door to the Isometric Fly

Stand in a doorway to replicate the fly, another popular chest exercise that's normally performed with dumbbells or machines. Extend your hands away from your sides and position them about chest-high on either side of the doorway. Push both hands inward against the door frame, in the direction of the open door. Maintain the position for about 30 seconds, then release it slowly. O'Brien rates the door fly as one of the top three isometric chest exercises.

Put the Squeeze on Your Chest

The chest squeeze is an isometric original that targets your pecs but also works your shoulders and triceps. Either stand erect or sit up straight, and then place your palms together in front of your chest with your elbows bent at roughly 90 degrees. Press your hands together for 15 to 30 seconds while simultaneously tightening your chest muscles. Release the contraction slowly.

Focus on Safety

Speak with your doctor before you perform isometric exercises, particularly if you have high blood pressure, because isometric contractions can raise your blood pressure. Warm up with five to 10 minutes of light cardio activity, such as riding a stationary bike, to increase your core temperature before you do any isometric exercises. Don't hold your breath while you perform the isometric contractions.