Isometric Stretching

Isometric Stretching

In this lesson you will learn how to apply an isometric stretch. Isometric stretching is one of the best methods to improve static passive flexibility and strength in stretched positions. Some athletes even believe that without isometric stretching exercises, it is impossible to tap your full potential of flexibility. Find more stretching advice, training methods and exercises at stretching main.


  • First off, let me explain how an isometric stretch works. Before you stretch a specific muscle isometrically, you have to apply a static stretch (static stretch = a stretch where no motion is involved). Now most, but not all muscle fibers are stretched. Then you contract the stretched muscle. The contraction shortens the muscle and therefore helps to stretch the rest of the muscle fibers. Even if it feels very uncomfortable to stretch further, the contraction will make it ok. You will hardly feel anything. Actually the contraction can even make the stretch more comfortable.
  • How to contract a muscle while stretched. The principle of isometric stretching (above) is simple. The problem is usually that people don't know how to stretch and contract a muscle at the same time. There are 4 ways to do this:
    1. Free isometric contraction:
      Just like if you were flexing you biceps to show off your guns. Let two opposing muscles work against each other (for example biceps and triceps or hamstrings and quadriceps). Or flex the entire leg, so that all leg muscles are contracted (this always works).
    2. Work against the weight of your body:
      For example when you do an isometric front split stretch. Move down as far as you can, hold the lowest position for a moment and then try lift you hands slowly from the floor, so that your leg muscles have to carry your weight.
    3. Press or bend:
      For example when you stretch your hamstring on a ladder wall. Press you heel down and bend your knee slightly. (0 to 3 degrees) Or do a " title="Hamstring Stretch">standing hamstring stretch with closed legs, hold your heels and try to lift you upper body as you pull your chest towards you shins with the strength of your arms.
    4. With a training partner:
      A partner can also help you build up resistance.


  • Always warm up before you apply isometric stretches (no isometric stretches in the warm up).
  • Don't hold isometric stretches for much longer than 15 seconds.
  • Do 3 to 5 isometric stretches per workout (max. 3 times per week).
  • Only apply isomeric stretches on big muscles. (not on the forearms or the triceps)
  • Rest at least 48 hours after a stretching workout with isometric stretches.
  • People who just recovered from an injury or have joint weaknesses and children under 13 years of age should not apply isometric stretches.
  • Isometric stretches should not be applied before competitions or in the morning.
  • Check the PNF lesson.